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Vacation Rental Marketing Plan: How to decide WHAT to do and WHEN to do it

What's the number one mistake that I see with vacation rental marketing plans?

Aside from not having one at all, it's trying to do everything all at once.

And I've definitely been there. That's exactly what I did when I first got started five years ago.

So, if you have tried to do that too it's okay!

This post will breakdown the four assessments that you can do with your vacation rental business to see where your marketing should be focused and then where you can move to depending on where your business is at.

To start with, if you didn't see the last two blog posts that I posted you may want to start there.

In the first post, I provided a vacation rental marketing breakdown in the three core areas of marketing. To quickly summarize that breakdown, it is the OTAs, digital marketing, and traditional marketing.

Then in the next post, I really broke down vacation rental digital marketing, what goes into that, and what all of these different tactics really are. If you want to, you may want to first go back to those if you want to dive deeper into those first before assessing where to start.

In this post, I will breakdown the four key assessments that you can do with your business to really determine where you should be with your marketing plan.

The key here is that there is no one perfect plan that everyone should be doing. It is going to be very unique to your business and your goals, so I will cover how you can assess where to start depending on where you're at with these assessments.

Assessment #1: Experience

If you are just getting started, I always recommend that you really start with the OTAs (online travel agencies).

The reason I say this is because they are low hanging fruit. It's a lot easier to get bookings here than starting from scratch with your own marketing plan.

OTAs are essentially a marketplace, so they already have their own audience that is getting driven there by their own marketing efforts. What you do here is you really just focus on your marketing with your listing.

I have so many great videos here to help you dive into this deeper, if you're feeling that you're still at the place where you can grow more with the OTAs and work on your marketing there, then checkout some of those videos. Here's a link to my YouTube playlist on Airbnb & VRBO Host Tips which would be a great place to get you started in terms of optimizing your headline, photos, description, etc.

Now if you have some more experience, you've been on the OTAs for a little while, you feel that you really gotten that on autopilot then this could be a really great next step for you to work on your own marketing efforts and really start building out your own presence with a website, and an email, and social media, etc.

The reason this is so important for you to move onto this next step once you've kind of mastered the OTAs is because OTAs are essentially rented space and this means that we do not have control over the booking fees or the algorithms that are placing our listings.

So, it is great to have a longer term strategy that you have more control over and that's where your own marketing plan will come into play.

Assessment #2: Results and Occupancy Rate

What this refers to is are you actually getting results from the OTAs?

You may feel that you're experienced on the OTAs, you may feel comfortable working within these platforms, and you've been on them for a little while, but are you really getting the results and the occupancy rate that you should be getting?

If you're not sure here then head to AirDNA, enter in your market, and look at what the average occupancy rate is for your market and then compare that to your own.

That can be a really good starting point for you. But the reason that I say that it's important to evaluate this first is because when you divert your attention and say, "Okay, I'm ready to move on to my own marketing plan," you probably won't be spending as much time focused on your efforts on the OTAs.

You definitely want the OTAs to be on autopilot when you move on to the next phase because you still want to be able to rely on them to bring you bookings while you're building out your digital marketing presence because that is not going to happen overnight. That is going to take some time.

I will assure you that just because you launch a website you will not get bookings overnight (unfortunately!). It will take some time to get all of that going, so you want your OTAs to really still be carrying the heavy load while you're working on building out your marketing plan for more direct bookings in the future.

Keep that in mind for assessment number two, how are your results and occupancy rate looking?

Assessments #3: Size and Future Growth

Size and Future Growth is going to be really important to take into consideration when determining are you ready to move on to the next steps.

If you have one vacation rental that you are renting out, maybe part-time you use it yourself or even full-time and you are happy with the results you're seeing, it may make sense for you to just stick with the OTAs.

As long as you understand that it is rented space, there are going to be changes, and you can roll with the punches there, then it may make perfect sense for you to just stay over on OTAs and not worry about all this over stuff with digital marketing.

I will recommend though that if you are just going to stick with the OTAs, try to have at least two OTAs that you're utilizing so that you're not putting all of your eggs into one basket.

Now if you have a few properties and especially if you are looking to grow your portfolio, you will absolutely want to consider future proofing your business and taking more control over the consumer data and your marketing plan.

Future proofing your business refers to creating your own digital marketing plan so that you are not solely relying on the OTAs to bring you bookings.

This is something where if you are in this for the long run and this is a true business for you, 100% you want to think about your digital marketing plan, and you want to have a plan in place for the future so that you can start garnering more direct bookings for your business.

Assessment #4: Budget, Time and Resources

If you've decided that you do in fact want to move forward with a digital marketing plan and rely less on the OTAs, then you'll want to put a budget together to include things like a website, an email service provider, possibly advertising, and digital marketing tools.

This will all depend on what level you are going to do and if you're going to use a DIY website or if you are going to utilize a property management system that has a website, the costs will vary greatly. So, do your homework there and put together a budget that makes sense for your plans.

Then the next consideration of course would be your time and resources. Your time is very valuable, and you'll need to decide how long is this going to take you to do, and will you be doing it yourself or will be hiring out resources to help you put this plan together.

Take time and budget into consideration as you prepare for the next steps. While they are important considerations, I will say don't let that hold up back.

You can find a budget that works for you. It will definitely be worth it to create your own marketing plan, so that you can still utilize the OTAs but you're not solely relying on them.


If you're ready to rely less on the OTAs, these are the 4 assessments I recommend for your business as you decide if you're ready for the next steps to work towards a direct booking model.

If you own multiple vacation rentals and you're looking for additional support to help you get started with your digital marketing plan, reach out to us at

On the other hand, if you are just getting started and you're still really concentrating on getting the OTAs mastered, then I've got the perfect resource for you.

Be sure to check out my free online training. It's called Four Steps to Create a Profitable Vacation Rental, and I'll dive deep into the key areas you need to focus on to get your listing seen and booked!

Vacation Rental Class for Beginners

Let me know in the comments below, what does your current marketing plan look like, and do you have any questions?

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