When Your Guests Check-Out

Imagine this. You’ve had a wonderful vacation, it’s been restful and relaxing and the kids have been great. In fact, everything you had imagined. Now, it’s time to pack up and get everyone ready to leave, and you want this to go as smoothly as possible. Let’s not have any stress at the end of a perfect holiday.

But then you are faced with a cleaning checklist that threatens your damage deposit if you don’t get up at dawn to scrub, mop, dust, and vacuum. And that’s on top of feeding and organizing the kids to be ready for an 11am checkout (or sometimes earlier). You leave exhausted and worried that you might have missed something.

Creating a great first impression for your guests should be a primary goal but it’s important not to forget that last impressions count too. What you do to make sure the vacation ends well so your guests leave in the best frame of mind can have a huge impact on their vacation memories.

Leave ‘As-Found’

Traditionally, guests were asked to leave a property ‘as found’ meaningthey were required to do a complete clean of the property includingwashing floors, cleaning toilets and wash basins and vacuuming thoroughly.

This happened in the days when cottages were opened up at the beginning of the season and the owners didn’t go back until the end of the Labour Day weekend. They relied on their guests to clean up for the next family to arrive.

Happily this practice has been replaced with properties being checked between guests, but many owners still require a degree of self-cleaning to be carried out before their guests leave. They worry that by offering a cleaning service, the place will be left in such a poor condition they won’t have time to make it ready for their next guests.

In fact, the benefits of reducing the work-load for your guests on their last morning far outweighs the marginally cleaner property that is left for you.

  • Including a cleaning service within your rental rate allows your guests to leave in a better frame of mind and more likely to leave you a great review.
  • The property is usually left tidy because guests respect an owner who understands the stress of the last day of vacation. Of course there are exceptions but that is going to happen anyway.
  • You are confident your place has been cleaned thoroughly when you employ someone to do the job and provide them with guidelines.

Whether you include cleaning or not, clear guidelines are necessary so your guests know what they need to do before they leave.

Checkout List

Your guests need clear instruction on what they should do on their last day. A simple, short list should briefly describe how you want the property to be left and it is best to avoid lengthy lists that detail specific areas to be cleaned. Their last memory of your property should be a positive one.

This is a simple statement you could use:

A cleaning service is included in your rental rate; however, we would appreciate you leaving the cottage in a tidy state prior to departure as we may only have a short time before our next guests arrive. Therefore, prior to your departure, please complete the following checklist.

Amenity storage

If you don’t remind guests where things go, they will not put them away.

So, if you want boats left overturned with the paddles put in the garage, say so; if the life jackets and seat cushions need to be put away in a deck box, write it down. Don’t assume they will remember where they found anything!


It is reasonable to require that all kitchen surfaces are left clean with dishes washed or loaded into the dishwasher. Also request that all their food is removed from the refrigerator.


Describe what you would like guests to do with the bed linens. The best suggestion is to ask them to strip off the beds and leave the sheets/towels etc in the laundry room. That way you will know which beds have been used. If you want your guests to start a wash load that is fine; just remember to leave them some laundry detergent, particularly if you have a specific brand you would prefer to be used.

Thermostat settings & other reminders

If you want the heat turned down or the AC set on a specific temperature on departure, make this clear. You can also remind guests to turn off fans, lights, adjust hot tub temperature etc.


Be specific on how you want garbage to be handled to avoid bags being left outside for wildlife to explore, and don’t assume your guests know how they should separate recycling as every area has different procedures. Don’t leave anything to chance – supply appropriate bags and recycling bins and clear instructions on what you need your guests to do with their garbage prior to departure.

Locking up

This section of your check out list will cover how secure you want the property to be left. Do you want windows locked or just the doors? Where should the keys be left? If you leave this bit out, your guests may just leave the place unlocked.

Ask for feedback

The final section of your check out list can ask for feedback on their stay – ask a couple of questions like:

  • Did you break anything that we need to replace?
  • Was there anything that wasn’t working correctly?
  • Could we do anything to make your vacation experience better?

This is where you can also ask them to go to your CanadaStays listing and leave a review. If they are reminded before they leave, they will be more likely to do that as part of their last day routine. That way you get more reviews.

Lastly, give them a reason to book again. You could offer a discount code for a future low-season stay or an early booking deal for the following year if they reserve within a week of getting home. This gets them thinking about the next stay while the current one is still fresh in their minds.

So – the golden rules for check out:

Don’t leave it to chance – guide your guests to a comfortable departure

Don’t make it difficult for them – get them on their way with happy memories

Make them want to come back again!


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