We interviewed four Airbnb “superhosts”—and more than a dozen frequent rental guests—to determine the top 24 items to invest in for an overnight rental. The common theme we heard was that guests expect any rental to be as well-equipped as the typical hotel room. Having new, high-quality towels, a good mattress, a nice coffee setup, and more can make the difference between a happy guest and a meh review.
Whether you’re a brand-new Airbnb host or looking to improve your VRBO or HomeAway reviews, dressing up your rental with the right supplies is crucial to pleasing your guests and keeping your calendar filled with new visitors.
Everyone wants a great night’s sleep. That means a good mattress, soft sheets, new pillows, and quality bedding, even in a budget rental. Guests won’t be impressed if you offer the leftover pillows and sheets you don’t like using in your own home. If you’re going to splurge, focus on the bedroom first.
If you need a good guest bed, we recommend the Tuft & Needle foam mattress, which is comfortable, reasonably priced, and easy and affordable to have delivered. We researched 15 online mattress companies and slept on six top-rated mattresses, and we found the Tuft & Needle was the best option for a guest bedroom. As a primary mattress, it likely won’t fly for anyone who dislikes a particularly firm sleep surface. But we think it’s comfortable enough, especially if your guests will sleep on it for less than a week. It costs $200 to $300 less than our other picks from Leesa and Casper, comes with bed-in-a-box delivery and setup, and has a 1,000-pound weight tolerance. Airbnb host Libby Sentz bought a brand-new Tuft & Needle mattress for her basement rental in the Museum District in Richmond, Virginia, and it’s working out just fine. “People always comment on how nice it is,” she said.
You can’t predict what kind of pillow your guests will prefer, but you can make up your beds with versatile pillows likely to please the most people. After spending a combined 242 nights sleeping on 31 pillows and talking with a half-dozen sleep and industry experts, we concluded that the best pillow for most people is the Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow. Our testers found that the Xtreme Comforts was eminently moldable and supportive without being stiff or too firm. It was also the only pillow in our tests that suited a variety of sleep positions—side, back, and stomach (stomach-sleepers preferred the slim version). Getting a couple of both is smart. There’s an obvious reason hotels tend to make their beds with four pillows: Many people want to sleep with more than one.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $103.
Once you’ve invested in a new mattress and pillows, you’ll want to protect them from bugs and spills. After 17 hours interviewing entomologists, allergists, and exterminators, as well as researching and testing 17 mattress and pillow encasements, we’re confident that the Protect-A-Bed AllerZip Smooth Mattress Encasement and Pillow Protectors are the best for shielding your bed from bedbugs and dust mites, and they’ll block liquid spills, as well. Both have especially strong seams, come in many sizes to ensure a good fit, and will likely extend the life of your pillows and mattress.
For the typical rental room, Costco’s best-selling Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter is a comfortable choice that will keep guests warm without making them sweat. It’s a moderate weight and generous size, it won’t bleed feathers, and it otherwise matches the look, feel, and durability of many comforters costing $250 or more, as we found in our 120 hours of research and testing. If you prefer to avoid down and are looking for a reasonably priced pick, you’ll do well with Costco’s Sleep Better Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter. It was soft and warm for our testers but didn’t make them too hot, despite its heavier weight.
If you’re outfitting a more upscale rental, the Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter was our overall favorite in testing. It’s lighter and fluffier than the Costco down comforter (though it kept our testers just as warm), and at around $270 for a queen at this writing, it’s very reasonably priced. For maximum luxury, the cloudlike Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700 has 3 inches of loft, is made of ethical down, and should last for 30 years, more than twice as long as the typical down comforter.
Protect your rental’s comforter—and avoid laundering it more than absolutely necessary—by investing in a duvet cover. We spent 60 hours researching 17 duvet covers and testing six before concluding that the Brooklinen Classic Duvet Cover is as soft and comfortable as more expensive covers, while holding up better in the wash than much of the competition. The cover’s crisp feel and look reminded our testers of the bedding you might find at a nice hotel. If you want a less expensive option, we also like the IKEA Dvala. The fabric is slightly rougher than that of the Brooklinen cover, but compared with the cheaper covers we tried, it was lighter, softer, and generally more pleasant to sleep under.
Good-quality towels, a hair dryer, and a clean shower liner are the minimum that guests require in a rental bathroom. Guests may also want basic toiletries, just as they expect from a hotel room. “I’ve stayed at Airbnbs where there’s no shampoo and nothing to bathe with,” said superhost Nicole Policicchio, who rents her second home, a Mammoth, California, condo known on Airbnb and VRBO as John Muir’s Ace Hotel. Policicchio keeps her rental topped up with high-end toiletries, soaps, and sunscreen.
Soft, new, matching towels help make even the most basic bathroom feel inviting. We’ve consistently found that Target’s Fieldcrest Luxury Solid Towels outperform towels that are twice the price, and are nearly as soft as well. These towels absorb water quickly and dry faster than plusher ones, as we discovered in roughly 42 hours of research and testing. You can stock a bathroom with a set of four for around $50 currently. More than one set may make sense for hosts who see rapid turnover (“If you have clients back to back, you don’t have time to get to the fluff and fold,” said Airbnb superhost Nicole Policicchio), as may a darker-colored towel, which won’t reveal stains as readily. If you want even bigger, plusher, more colorful towels for a luxury rental, consider our upgrade pick from Towels by Gus, which was the softest of all the towels we tried this year and is available in a bigger bath-sheet size.
The CTC Lite comes with a diffuser attachment (for curly hair) and a concentrator (for making hair straight). The 9-foot cord means that the dryer will work even if the outlet is a little far from the mirror. The lettering on the buttons will hold up through daily use, and the buttons sit on the front of the handle, where they won’t poke your guest’s hand. The sleek black finish will make the CTC Lite look sophisticated even in a luxury rental.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $11.
After two hours of conducting research and testing four shower liners, we recommend the inexpensive Maytex Water Repellent Fabric Shower Curtain or Liner. It works as well as reusable polyester liners that cost twice the price, and it won’t attract that inevitable soap film the way plastic liners do. The Maytex liner is 100 percent polyester and machine washable. It comes in white, off-white, or black, and it hooks to your shower curtain rings through simple button-hole slits, a design that eliminates concerns about rusting that accompany the metal grommets generally found on shower curtains.
The typical person probably replaces a plastic shower curtain liner—we’re talking about the stiff, disposable sheet of plastic you can pick up at any drugstore or big-box place for $2 to $4—between every few weeks and every few months. Replacing that periodic purchase with a washable polyester liner saves money over the long run. A polyester liner also has the advantage of reduced smell. (Though we had never considered it, many online reviewers—and presumably some rental guests—are bothered by the smell from new plastic shower curtain liners.) Polyester liners are obviously softer to the touch than plastic liners, too. Like a plastic liner, they can be layered with a decorative, cloth shower curtain. But unlike a plastic liner, they look fine hanging solo.
The other curtains we considered were also 100 percent polyester, and came in plain white or a white-on-white stripe design. They were the Hotel Quality Mildew Resistant Washable Fabric Shower Curtain Liner from Kimberly-Carr Home Designs, the Fabric Shower Curtain Liner from Rue de Marseille, and the Heavy Duty Shower Curtain from Eforcurtain. If you need a wider or longer curtain than the standard 70 by 72 inches that our pick comes in, the Eforcurtain is available in the most sizes (and comes packaged with white plastic shower curtain rings). The Kimberly-Carr and Rue de Marseille curtains are nearly identical, with shiny white-on-white stripes. If either of those features appeals to you, those curtains are just as functional as our main pick, though more expensive.
Be sure to wash polyester curtains with cold water, ideally on a gentle cycle. The companies don’t recommend using bleach, which can degrade the material. Hang to dry or use low heat. Iron on low as needed. We hope to complete an extended review of decorative shower curtains and liner options in the future.
To many people, the appeal of an Airbnb-type rental is that it offers more flexibility than a hotel, such as the ability to cook for yourself (or at least to enjoy a glass of wine plus cheese and crackers) or to start your day with breakfast without going to a restaurant. Supplying some small kitchen appliances and glassware will ensure guests have all they need for basic meal prep.
For a drip coffee maker, we suggest the Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Coffee Maker (46201), which is our favorite budget coffee machine. It brews decent coffee, even from cheap preground beans, and its removable water reservoir makes it very easy to fill. If you want to offer a single-serving system, we like the system from Nespresso. The machine uses coffee pods, so it has some of the convenience of a Keurig, but it produces coffee that’s much better tasting. The pods are expensive—about 70¢ a shot (it works out to about $50 a pound)—so you may want to factor that into the cost of your rental. You can recycle the pods through Nespresso’s prepaid pod-recycling program.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $146.
Even if you’re simply renting a room, where guests won’t have access to a kitchen, a mini fridge provides the equivalent to what they’d find in the average motel room. The Danby Designer DCR044A2 is our recommendation for a cheap, compact fridge. Most mini fridges work just fine, but this one has the best interior layout, with ample space for all kinds of foods and beverages. It has a full-width freezer compartment, individual can holsters, movable glass shelves, and an affordable asking price, to boot. If you have your sights set on something even smaller, the Midea WHS-65L is the best cube-shaped mini fridge you can get. As with standing mini fridges, cube fridges all work more or less the same, but this one is a bit cheaper. It’s small enough to fit under a desk, but it has enough space to hold some lunches or a few dozen canned drinks.
What sets all of them apart is their so-simple-it’s-brilliant interface. In contrast to some competitors’ mystifying icon-based controls, every GE button is clearly labeled, from “Time Cook” to “Add 30 Seconds” to “Power Level” to “Popcorn,” “Defrost,” and “Reheat.” Your guests won’t need to read a manual to get these microwaves to work, since they’re intuitive to operate and handle every cooking task well.
After dozens of hours researching and testing toasters, we recommend the simple, inexpensive Oster TSSTTRJBBG1 Jelly Bean Toaster. In our tests this two-slot model evenly browned bread, bagels, and frozen waffles as well as models twice the price. We particularly liked the easy-to-use controls, which stayed cool to the touch even after multiple batches. This model features wide slots that can fit thick, hand-cut bagels without your needing to force them down. The Oster’s rounded, compact size makes it perfect for kitchens with limited counter space, too.
If you need something more capable than a two-slot toaster, we suggest the Panasonic FlashXpress. We love it for its strong baking performance, compact size, reasonable price, and ability to quickly heat leftovers and frozen snacks. It cooked toast and other foods to an even, lovely golden-brown better than most other models we tried, and its toast-shade settings were among the most accurate we tested.
Whether your guests are enjoying a fine vintage or a supermarket special, chances are, they’ll want some glasses handy for a toast. Although you don’t need to supply them with fine crystal stemware, the Libbey Signature Kentfield Estate All-Purpose Wine Glasses will showcase most wines well. These inexpensive, well-balanced glasses have thinly pulled walls and thin rims, a rarity in this price range. The Libbey glasses are perfect for rentals because they’re durable and dishwasher-safe. And since they’re so affordable and easy to replace, you won’t be heartbroken if they break. If you want more elegant everyday glasses, we recommend several options in our full guide to wine glasses.
Many rental spaces are located in basements or outbuildings that may have specific heating and access issues. Offering your guests easy ways to unlock the rental, control the temperature, and stay connected to the Internet (and streaming services) will keep guests happy—and help you avoid having to field a lot of unnecessary complaints!
If you prefer to forgo actual keys, have a clientele that will appreciate accessing your space from their phone, or even want the lights, music, and AC to kick on when your guests arrive, you should choose a smart lock like the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock 2nd Gen with the optional Kevo Plus upgrade (a separate in-app purchase) or the Schlage Sense, both of which we feature in our smart lock guide. Or if you’re more of a low-cost, low-tech, low-worry kind of host, a fake rock could be your friend; our favorite is the Hide-a-Key Fake Rock.
One person’s comfy is another person’s chilly. Guests traveling from a different climate may have different norms, so a small space heater lets them control the temperature to their comfort level. We extensively tested 12 space heaters (and looked at dozens more) to find the best for small and large rooms. If the bedroom you’re heating is around 10 by 11 feet, we recommend the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat. It’s affordable, it heats quickly, and it’s small enough for you to easily move it between rooms.
For a larger space, such as a master bedroom or a living room, that you plan to warm for hours at a time, get the De’Longhi EW7507EB. This radiator-style unit efficiently, silently, and steadily puts out plenty of heat, and it can maintain a set temperature on a schedule with its built-in thermostat and timer. It continues to produce heat for a full hour after you turn it off. And because it runs nearly silently, it won’t disturb guests who are sensitive to noise.
If you want guests to be able to access their own content, such as their Netflix and HBO Go accounts, with a TV you already own, we recommend a Google Chromecast, which delivers content from a phone, tablet, or PC to any TV. It’s a better, more secure choice when a train of strangers is doing the watching. You should know, though, that the Chromecast platform doesn’t support video from Amazon, a shortcoming that caused us to eliminate it from top-pick contention in our review of the best media streamers.
Any rental space should be stocked with basic safety equipment: a fire extinguisher, a smoke detector, and a basic first-aid kit. Hopefully your guests won’t need these items, but it’s better to have them on hand just in case.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $67.
We believe the best smoke alarm is the First Alert SA511CN2-3ST Smoke Alarm with Voice Location. These come in a two-pack, and you can interconnect up to 12 of them so that when one goes off, they all go off. The alarms are equipped with a voice alert, and you can assign each one a location; if you do so, the alarm will indicate which room the hazard is coming from. In addition, voice alerts are proven to wake children better than tone alerts. The NFPA recommends having an alarm on each floor and one in each bedroom. As for carbon monoxide alarms, if you don’t already have some, First Alert offers the SCO501CN-3ST Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Voice Location, which has all the same features as our smoke alarm recommendation but adds a CO detector. For more information on smoke alarms, see our full guide.
Our informal surveys of Airbnb hosts—and guests—made clear that most people expect a vacation rental to have all the amenities they would find in a typical hotel room, such as drinking glasses, multiple small trash cans, and an iron and ironing board. (“People who have stayed here for weddings and conferences have mentioned appreciating the iron,” said Richmond, Virginia, Airbnb host Libby Sentz.) Guests will also appreciate basics like a reliable corkscrew, a cutting board, and maybe a portable burner and nonstick pan even in a one-room rental.
Small things make a difference in guest experience, said Airbnb superhosts like Nicole Policicchio. Her rental kitchen is stocked with pantry staples, and she’ll often leave beer or champagne in the fridge, depending on the profile of her guests. When Policicchio and her boyfriend bought their rental condo, the kitchen cabinets were stacked with dishware and glasses. But Policicchio wanted to start from scratch, with “really durable, beautiful, colorful” dishware and cooking tools, including a brand-new combo juicer and blender. “When you really do the math, the investment to do that and do it right is small in the grand scheme of things,” she told us.
Think through the guest experience at your rental, hosts advised. Sentz, who has a toddler and lives right above the apartment she rents, equips the space with a white noise machine. Before she became an Airbnb host, one LA renter had no ice cube trays in her one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles’s Los Feliz neighborhood (after an early guest pointed out the omission, the host, who prefers to remain anonymous since her landlord doesn’t know she Airbnbs, stocked up). Policicchio’s ad for her mountain condo touts the complex’s barbecue grills (we have picks for both charcoal and gas grills). If it’s rainy, guests will no doubt appreciate having one or two loaner umbrellas on hand. You could also consider offering outdoor equipment, like beach gear and bikes, to help guests enjoy your area with less hassle and expense. Those unexpected extras can make a visit to your area more fun—and likely memorable enough to warrant a five-star review.
Originally published: December 7, 2016