Limited edition branding recommends emphasizing your one-of-a-kind virtues -- family owned/operated, locally based/headquartered, and specialized in a property type or location -- to create a moat of defense from competing vacation rental offerings. Some activities DO scale (and can be automated or done en mass). But I keep coming back to the word "Unscalable" as not just a good thing (for independents) but perhaps the best thing!

What are our favorite Unscalable activities? To get things started...

Relationship building - being present as a human, phone calls, thoughtful emails, in-person check-ins
Old-fashioned gestures - hand-written notes, home-made food
Judgement calls - decision when something goes wrong or fall outside the protocol (ex. Robin Robin's latest post on Who is responsible when a guest's property is damaged)
Design - home decor with true personality (big box stores can help scale this to a degree)
Maintenance - fixing the inevitable when it breaks
Housekeeping - this is an instance in which protocol like Durk Johnson's "follow the wall" proceedure can expedite the process, but not scale it. Rocio Rocio's housekeeping checklist download great too.

I have a feeling our list (I will add your contributions to the top post) will start to look like a secret treasure map to vacation rental gold!
 
Hosting Families
Family and multi-generational travel are among the fastest-growing segments in the travel industry. (source: skift.com).
As a mother of 7, I feel welcomed when my children are welcomed!
l love hosting "the little" guests and creating a space where families can feel comfortable while making unforgettable memories.
As part of my standard welcome experience, we leave a "Welcome Adventure Bucket" for the children. I use a large sand toy bucket and fill it with a coloring book, crayons, snacks, and a printed scavenger treasure hunt map for them to use during their trip.
Simple - Scalable and sure to leave an unforgettable impression.
Here is a link to a site where you can download them for free.
Happy Travels!
 
Limited edition branding recommends emphasizing your one-of-a-kind virtues -- family owned/operated, locally based/headquartered, and specialized in a property type or location -- to create a moat of defense from competing vacation rental offerings. Some activities DO scale (and can be automated or done en mass). But I keep coming back to the word "Unscalable" as not just a good thing (for independents) but perhaps the best thing!

What are our favorite Unscalable activities? To get things started...

Relationship building - being present as a human, phone calls, thoughtful emails, in-person check-ins
Old-fashioned gestures - hand-written notes, home-made food
Judgement calls - decision when something goes wrong or fall outside the protocol (ex. Robin Robin's latest post on Who is responsible when a guest's property is damaged)
Design - home decor with true personality (big box stores can help scale this to a degree)
Maintenance - fixing the inevitable when it breaks
Housekeeping - this is an instance in which protocol like Durk Johnson's "follow the wall" proceedure can expedite the process, but not scale it. Rocio Rocio's housekeeping checklist download great too.

I have a feeling our list (I will add your contributions to the top post) will start to look like a secret treasure map to vacation rental gold!
The timing of this post is perfect for me. I just got a reservation from a lady that is writing a travel article about Georgetown for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. She said she loves to feature unique places and her research turned up me and she was very interested in the free tour of the farm!

Relationship building - The rental homes are on our family farm. My home and our two sons and their families also have their homes on the farm - down the drive and around a curve from the rentals so guests have privacy. Most guests end up meeting various members of the family as they are walking their dogs or hiking about the farm and visiting the animals or river. In reviews, so many comment on the friendliness of the family and how they were made to feel welcome and a part of the family. They all meet me, but it is special when they Also meet and interact with other family members. Everyone is willing to visit and answer questions.

I give personal tours of the farm to all guests that would like one - 95% do. That time spent together helps build really strong, lasting relationships. many of our visitors have never been on a farm before and they are intrigued by the equipment and animals. I show them where everything is, how to access the river, where the best fishing is and fossils are, hiking areas, etc. We talk about the birds and wildlife we see and I enjoy telling them interesting facts about them. Did you know the Snowy Egret has black legs and yellow toes? Know what he does with his toes? He fishes with them by standing in the water and wiggling them - they look like worms!

Old-fashioned gestures - I have baked and hand delivered over 1,000 batches of homemade muffins to guests over the years. This has developed into a niche in itself. Almost every review mentions the delicious muffins! I need to do better on my handwritten notes!

Judgement calls - I am so glad that I can personally make these calls. I tend to side with the guest, even though I don't have to because of my rental agreement. I have fully refunded many guests due to Covid. Many have already re-booked.

Design - My mom was one of President Lyndon Johnson's favorite artists and both homes have a lot of representations of her beautiful work - mostly Texas landscapes and a few western paintings. She taught me to paint and there are also several of my paintings in the homes. I furnished them through an upscale thrift store I have volunteered at for 17 years.

Everything, other than the artwork, from the curtains to the rugs on the floor came from The Caring Place. Every room is beautifully decorated and themed. I spent pennies on the dollar for the furnishings, and those dollars are going right back into my community, so I am shopping for good! it is a win-win-win situation. I highly recommend thrift stores for anyone looking to decorate a home - they get some really nice artwork and home decor that is priced MUCH lower than retail. A manager with Yonder that travels a lot and stays in vacation rentals has stayed at the farm twice, and he commented he loved seeing different artwork on the walls - "not the same Ikea artwork over and over". In addition to the family artwork, I have a lot of beautiful prints I got at the thrift store.

We have made the garage into a playroom for children, with a lot of toys for both boys and girls and a futon. Children love playing there and the parents appreciate having the space separate from the main living area.

Maintenance - I am fortunate that I live on the farm as well as my two grown sons. One of them can do anything, and the other is a great helper. Things do happen and it is always faster to be "Johnny-on-the-Spot" for repairs.

Housekeeping - I have a jewel of a housekeeper and I pay her well. She has become like one of the family. So many reviews comment on the cleanliness of the homes.

In February Carhartt filmed a commercial for their spring line at the farm. They were more interested in the unique qualities of the farm and land itself, rather than the home.

Being featured in a magazine article and having a national commercial filmed on the farm are thrilling events for me - they make my heart sing! They are the jam on the buttered bread.

I totally give credit for any successes I have had to Matt Landau Matt Landau and the IC community! Without you I would still be on Airbnb and Vrbo - thinking that was all there was. There are still so many things many of you have suggested that I want to do, now I just need to get with the program! I love the weekly digests and mid-week posts. They frequently remind me of something I intended to do, but had forgotten.
 
I can scarcely believe the idea of “a treasure map to vacation rental gold” came up since I started pondering this idea in a literal way several days ago and thought, “Wow, this would be FUN!!” It’s going to take me awhile to figure this out but for those who decide to accept the challenge there’s a treasure to be found at every step along the way because it’s all part of a big adventure and who doesn’t like a big adventure? To do or not to do, that’s up to the guest.

There will be a prize of some sort at the “end,” TBD but not a free week at Tropical Blessings. News reporters get “the inside scoop” so maybe treasure hunters end up with free ice cream cones from Scoops at Mongoose Junction or maybe $500 deducted from your next stay, whatever it is, I’ll figure it out. Years ago I went to a budget friendly wedding and at every place setting was a mini treasure chest filled with candy. Those can be found at a party supply store so the “bounty” could be snail mailed to a guest after their stay. Cost of treasure chest: $5 - $30. Amazon is a good source and seems to be much better than what orientaltrading.com offers. Depending on the quality someone might later choose to use the treasure box for trinkets or jewelry.

Everyone has heard “The signs are everywhere” so I thought, “Hmmm, I definitely could have fun with road signs here!” The hardest one would to locate would the one for St. John’s interstate highway.

Do you not agree that it’s a good idea to obey traffic signs? I want photo proof that you have located the following signs during your stay on St. John:

Drive left, Drink Right
Stop in the Name of Love
Thou Shalt Not Park Here

Do you agree that it’s a good idea to have connections? Okay, prove it. (Snap a pic of the sign at Connections in Cruz Bay where you can send faxes, send mail or packages, or check the message board.)

Connections are indeed good to have but who you know and what you know can make every difference so verify that you have encountered one of the following:

*Mr. Wonderful (lime green taxi van with incredibly creative paint job.)

* Miss Lucy (Miss Lucy’s in Coral Bay is fantastic for Sunday brunch in high season.)

* Mean Jean (friend of mine) became a legend in her own time. She’s about the most UNmean person on the planet but used to tend bar at Skinny Legs and gained local notoriety for dealing very well with rowdy bar customers. Today you can order a Mean Jean Sandwich at Sam and Jack’s Deli.

The positive symbolism of a starfish is multidimensional (divine love, regeneration, good luck) but if you take a photo of the Starfish Market sign you found a starfish, that works well enough for me.

It’s not always easy to find your peace, sometimes an uphill climb is required to do it. Show me a sign that tells me you understand this. (Click. Sign for Peace Hill, a very easy hike and the view from the top is spectacular.)

Some clues might be just right in front of you. My Dad gave me a beautiful print from Argentina that shows five couples doing the tango so proving that you understand the meaning of “It takes two to tango” should be very easy to prove. That print hangs on the wall of the great room.

To “Follow Your Dreams” is an excellent idea and there’s a small canvas print in the kitchen that says just that. Click.

During the heights of Covid Elaine Estern’s Coconut Coast Studio closed but during that long interim Elaine painted a beautiful mural on the long white wall in front of her studio and it spells out one word: HOPE. We all need hope and St. John is the perfect place to find it and proving that you did take only one click and that place takes only 2 minutes to walk to and you won’t be disappointed when you get there even if Elaine’s studio is closed. Frank Bay is right across the road and you can walk on the beach or watch the surf roll in.

The Caribbean is notable for pirates and a very well known one is Captain Morgan (1635-1688) who may have plundered as many as 400 ships during his career. Matt Landau Matt Landau is probably aware of his most impressive accomplishment, raiding Panama City with 30 ships and 1,200 men, yielding vast riches. Captain Henry Morgan was arrested and taken to England where he was knighted by the king. Captain Morgan was released and given the title of Deputy Governor in Jamaica where he lived out the rest of his days as a plantation owner.

How do you prove you know about Morgan? Two ways: 1) You take a picture of the restaurant sign for Morgan’s Mango and if you want to be extra nice to yourself make reservations for dinner there. I enjoy driving business to local establishments. 2) Just buy a bottle of Captain Morgan’s dark rum and I will tell you how to make a perfect Caribbean painkiller cocktail.

Is it possible to flunk out on a treasure hunt? Not possible on St. John and if you want to prove that you are “Livin’ the Dream,” that’s an easy one.

Bonus points will be given for a photo of any group of treasure hunters with permission given to me to use it.

The bottom line is that “Your treasure is where you heart is” and mine is on St. John. It’s sooooo good to be home again and I look forward to further flushing out this treasure hunt idea while on island. Game on!
 

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Bonus points will be given for a photo of any group of treasure hunters with permission given to me to use it.

The bottom line is that “Your treasure is where you heart is” and mine is on St. John. It’s sooooo good to be home again and I look forward to further flushing out this treasure hunt idea while on island. Game on!
Karla, you are really clever! I love your idea for a treasure hunt. Let us know what you end up with. I may swipe your idea and do one for the farm. I think families with children would especially enjoy it.
 
Karla, you are really clever! I love your idea for a treasure hunt. Let us know what you end up with. I may swipe your idea and do one for the farm. I think families with children would especially enjoy it.
SScurlock SScurlock I’m glad you love the idea, Ahoy Matey, steal away! I don’t think the treasure hunt will come to fruition quickly on my end so you will probably ready it up before I’m even close to done. I wish I could write off owner days as “research and development” but the IRS wouldn’t like that at all and I play by the rules, well at least “those” rules. 😉

I think kids would have a blast with the idea but certain “big kids” like us would enjoy it too. All we need to do is remember that “the child within” us very much alive. Unfortunately, some people can’t connect with that inner child unless they bought into the false belief that the bounty would be a freebie vacation at Tropical Blessings. Sorry folks, not ever with that one. If you haven’t lost your sense of playfulness, you are warmly invited to have even more fun than you anticipated.

Your place sounds so very special. Some of my very happiest memories are associated with a farm, a different sort of farm, my grandparent’s dairy farm. I’ll share a few old pics with you because dreams are made of memories, to have them and to hold them is what we’re all about. And Grandma in her wedding dress, I simply cannot resist that one. Dream on, for better or worse our hearts tend to be in the middle of all we do.
 

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Karla, you are really clever! I love your idea for a treasure hunt. Let us know what you end up with. I may swipe your idea and do one for the farm. I think families with children would especially enjoy it.
Karla Karla I love this as well. One of the homes in our portfolio has heart-shaped stones built into the exterior architecture, and I keep thinking that we need to come up with something for our guests who can find all the heart stones. :)
 
What a fun post! I'll see if I can add anything here. The caveat is that we own and operate an asset management company with now 25 very different homes owned by 25 very different owners, so some of what we do has to be automated and systemized, but we also take great pride in offering very personal service to both our owners and guests, so here is our list of unscalable behaviors and practices, or are they? 🤔

Relationship building - we personally call each of our guests who stay with us, and we personally welcome and walk our guests through our large 6 bedroom home to be sure they understand all the nuances of the home.
Old-fashioned gestures - we will be implementing handwritten notes in welcome gifts by the end of this year. We are only 18 months old, so we are always seeking and finding ways to improve...always.
Judgment calls - we love being able to make judgment calls when we find the one-off situations that require exceptions to the rule whether it be cancellation policies, shipping a left-behind item, taking care of damages for the occasional guest, or providing a special something per an owner's request, like a live orchid for each guest's stay. I feel like that is part of the beauty of running your own small business and what really sets us apart from what I affectionately call the "big box" management companies.
Design - this is where my heart lies, and I, like SScurlock SScurlock find great pleasure in sustainable and unique design. I love shopping my local Habitat for Humanity Restore. (In fairness, the Restore in Park City, UT is like no other. When billionaires are pushing out the millionaires, you're bound to score some nice things.) I know how to repair and reupholster almost any piece of furniture, so that helps. I also shop a local business that buys the furniture from the local luxury resorts when they make a design change. I have found some amazing furniture, artwork, and accessories this way. In addition, my family is quite artistic, so I will commission family to provide art when I feel it is appropriate. The idea of practicing sustainable design and staging habits is very important to me and our company. I do; however, love IKEA for small accessories, textiles, and the occasional rug.
Maintenance - we provide an all-inclusive asset management program to our owner partners, so we are happy to fix things as needed. I even use my sewing skills to make repairs to textiles in the homes rather than just discarding and replacing them.
Housekeeping - we have been very careful to partner with some of the best and most experienced housekeepers in Park City. They are exceptional at their craft, and when the occasional human error occurs, they are quick to respond and make it right. It should be noted that we charge a bit more for cleaning than some others, and when asked by guests about the charge, we are quick to respond that we take great pride in knowing that we pay our cleaners a living wage for the hard work they do for us. Without experienced and skilled cleaners, we would not have a business.
 
SScurlock SScurlock I’m glad you love the idea, Ahoy Matey, steal away! I don’t think the treasure hunt will come to fruition quickly on my end so you will probably ready it up before I’m even close to done. I wish I could write off owner days as “research and development” but the IRS wouldn’t like that at all and I play by the rules, well at least “those” rules. 😉

I think kids would have a blast with the idea but certain “big kids” like us would enjoy it too. All we need to do is remember that “the child within” us very much alive. Unfortunately, some people can’t connect with that inner child unless they bought into the false belief that the bounty would be a freebie vacation at Tropical Blessings. Sorry folks, not ever with that one. If you haven’t lost your sense of playfulness, you are warmly invited to have even more fun than you anticipated.

Your place sounds so very special. Some of my very happiest memories are associated with a farm, a different sort of farm, my grandparent’s dairy farm. I’ll share a few old pics with you because dreams are made of memories, to have them and to hold them is what we’re all about. And Grandma in her wedding dress, I simply cannot resist that one. Dream on, for better or worse our hearts tend to be in the middle of all we do.
Was your grandmother married in the ‘20’s? She is beautiful and reminds me of Clara Bow. Some of my best childhood memories are also of visiting my grandparent’s farm. You have such quirky names for things/roads/people in your area that would make treasure hunt so much fun.

The city of Georgetown put together a fun scavenger type hunt. They had a sheet of paper with a fun location in each grid of things to see and do around town. I don’t believe it had a prize, but was just a fun way to see the town.
 
Karla Karla I love this as well. One of the homes in our portfolio has heart-shaped stones built into the exterior architecture, and I keep thinking that we need to come up with something for our guests who can find all the heart stones. :)
HeatherB HeatherB I love the imagery of the heart shaped stones and the implicit irony therein since no real heart is made of stone. Where do you go with this, what questions might you want to ask? If you can’t find your own heart how can you recognize the heart of another? I think you’re in for a field day with a philosophical exploration of hearts and a lot of fun with word play! Matt Landau Matt Landau has referenced a “universal voice” speaking as one. How many hearts are needed to create a universal heart? The answer(s) to that question probe the depths of the heart of the matter when it comes to what we try to do and why we do it. You have some great material to work with that architecture as a starting point. The more hearts you find, the more hearts you win. Since we’re not talking cardiology how might you describe a human heart? Loving? Warm? Kind? Generous? Where might someone find the key to another’s heart? You can offer mysterious clues. May the fun begin, let your imagination take on fire!
 
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The timing of this post is perfect for me. I just got a reservation from a lady that is writing a travel article about Georgetown for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. She said she loves to feature unique places and her research turned up me and she was very interested in the free tour of the farm!

Relationship building - The rental homes are on our family farm. My home and our two sons and their families also have their homes on the farm - down the drive and around a curve from the rentals so guests have privacy. Most guests end up meeting various members of the family as they are walking their dogs or hiking about the farm and visiting the animals or river. In reviews, so many comment on the friendliness of the family and how they were made to feel welcome and a part of the family. They all meet me, but it is special when they Also meet and interact with other family members. Everyone is willing to visit and answer questions.

I give personal tours of the farm to all guests that would like one - 95% do. That time spent together helps build really strong, lasting relationships. many of our visitors have never been on a farm before and they are intrigued by the equipment and animals. I show them where everything is, how to access the river, where the best fishing is and fossils are, hiking areas, etc. We talk about the birds and wildlife we see and I enjoy telling them interesting facts about them. Did you know the Snowy Egret has black legs and yellow toes? Know what he does with his toes? He fishes with them by standing in the water and wiggling them - they look like worms!

Old-fashioned gestures - I have baked and hand delivered over 1,000 batches of homemade muffins to guests over the years. This has developed into a niche in itself. Almost every review mentions the delicious muffins! I need to do better on my handwritten notes!

Judgement calls - I am so glad that I can personally make these calls. I tend to side with the guest, even though I don't have to because of my rental agreement. I have fully refunded many guests due to Covid. Many have already re-booked.

Design - My mom was one of President Lyndon Johnson's favorite artists and both homes have a lot of representations of her beautiful work - mostly Texas landscapes and a few western paintings. She taught me to paint and there are also several of my paintings in the homes. I furnished them through an upscale thrift store I have volunteered at for 17 years.

Everything, other than the artwork, from the curtains to the rugs on the floor came from The Caring Place. Every room is beautifully decorated and themed. I spent pennies on the dollar for the furnishings, and those dollars are going right back into my community, so I am shopping for good! it is a win-win-win situation. I highly recommend thrift stores for anyone looking to decorate a home - they get some really nice artwork and home decor that is priced MUCH lower than retail. A manager with Yonder that travels a lot and stays in vacation rentals has stayed at the farm twice, and he commented he loved seeing different artwork on the walls - "not the same Ikea artwork over and over". In addition to the family artwork, I have a lot of beautiful prints I got at the thrift store.

We have made the garage into a playroom for children, with a lot of toys for both boys and girls and a futon. Children love playing there and the parents appreciate having the space separate from the main living area.

Maintenance - I am fortunate that I live on the farm as well as my two grown sons. One of them can do anything, and the other is a great helper. Things do happen and it is always faster to be "Johnny-on-the-Spot" for repairs.

Housekeeping - I have a jewel of a housekeeper and I pay her well. She has become like one of the family. So many reviews comment on the cleanliness of the homes.

In February Carhartt filmed a commercial for their spring line at the farm. They were more interested in the unique qualities of the farm and land itself, rather than the home.

Being featured in a magazine article and having a national commercial filmed on the farm are thrilling events for me - they make my heart sing! They are the jam on the buttered bread.

I totally give credit for any successes I have had to Matt Landau Matt Landau and the IC community! Without you I would still be on Airbnb and Vrbo - thinking that was all there was. There are still so many things many of you have suggested that I want to do, now I just need to get with the program! I love the weekly digests and mid-week posts. They frequently remind me of something I intended to do, but had forgotten.
Meeting you and seeing your property is on my bucket list! I've enjoyed following your journey through the years!
 
Burns night in Steamboat.

- Impromptu celebration of the poetry of Rabbie Burns (Rober Burns) the famous Scottish Poet this winter
- with staff that love to hang out together
- with special guest Matt Landau and his best friend Adam
- cocktails
- haggis
- whisky
- highland dancing
- spontaneous unpronounceable poetry
 
Limited edition branding recommends emphasizing your one-of-a-kind virtues -- family owned/operated, locally based/headquartered, and specialized in a property type or location -- to create a moat of defense from competing vacation rental offerings. Some activities DO scale (and can be automated or done en mass). But I keep coming back to the word "Unscalable" as not just a good thing (for independents) but perhaps the best thing!

What are our favorite Unscalable activities? To get things started...

Relationship building - being present as a human, phone calls, thoughtful emails, in-person check-ins
Old-fashioned gestures - hand-written notes, home-made food
Judgement calls - decision when something goes wrong or fall outside the protocol (ex. Robin Robin's latest post on Who is responsible when a guest's property is damaged)
Design - home decor with true personality (big box stores can help scale this to a degree)
Maintenance - fixing the inevitable when it breaks
Housekeeping - this is an instance in which protocol like Durk Johnson's "follow the wall" proceedure can expedite the process, but not scale it. Rocio Rocio's housekeeping checklist download great too.

I have a feeling our list (I will add your contributions to the top post) will start to look like a secret treasure map to vacation rental gold!
Matt - are you able to reshare Rocio's housekeeping checklist again?
 
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