See the newer version of this post, “3 Easy Steps for Creating a Home User Guide.”
We once shivered though a cold night in one Paris apartment, because we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the heater. During a two-week stay in another apartment, we never did solve the mysteries of the fancy new induction stove. A user guide would have saved us grief and frustration in both situations.
Not only does a user guide help your guests settle in and enjoy their stay, it can keep you from being bombarded by emails or calls while you’re exploring the Galapagos or touring the lights of Paris.
Your user guide doesn’t have to be extensive – short and concise is better than long and wordy – as long as it includes all the critical items.
Think about questions your guests might have and things you want them to know. Then compile the answers into a clear, easy-to-use short-term guest user guide – a few stapled together sheets of paper, a folder, or a simple tabbed binder. Your guests might also appreciate getting the user guide by email so they can look it over before they arrive.
- A short welcome note with the home’s street address and telephone number (if there’s a landline) along with instructions for accessing the voicemail
- Your itinerary: where you will be while guests are in your home and instructions for reaching you, including email address(es) and cell phone number(s)
- The password or code for your security system, if any, and how to turn it and off
- The Wifi password and what to do if guests lose Internet access
- Phone numbers for the fire department, police, hospital, pharmacy, and poison control (not a bad idea to post this information prominently on the door of the fridge)
- Instructions for sorting the recycling, where to find the garbage cans, and where to put the garbage cans on pickup day
- Information about what to do and who to call if the power goes out, the plumbing backs up, the heater or water heater won’t go on, guests lose their keys, or something else serious happens
- Details about using the appliances, heater/air conditioner, TV, DVD player, cable box, sound system, barbecue, and other equipment, and where to find the manuals
- Cautions (“The toilet in the front bathroom backs up easily so flush often” “Please lock ALL the doors and windows when you leave the house”)
- Your home’s special quirks (“Please do not lock the door between the stairs and the back hall – we don’t have a key” “the drawer in the kitchen table falls out easily so be careful when you open it”)
- Departure instructions (“Please replace the toilet paper and cleaning supplies” “strip the beds and put the sheets in the washer for the cleaner” “leave us some milk, eggs, butter, and bread”)
- Where to shop: grocery stores, farmers’ markets, malls, bookstores, boutiques
- Where to play: parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, gyms, beaches, golf courses, tennis courts, hiking trails, ski slopes, and other recreational facilities
- Where to eat: names (and menus, if you have them) of good cafes and restaurants
- Where to go: local attractions, such as museums, art galleries, nature preserves, sports arenas, universities, and more
Have you ever prepared a user guide for short-term guests? Wished you had a guest user guide in a short-term rental or exchange home? Please share your tips in the Comments below or on our Facebook page.