For vacation rental owners, or those who plan to buy one this year, the planets are aligned in your favor.
Crowds are coming from home and they are coming from abroad.
And they are looking for bargains.
If you want to compete, you'd better have the best vacation depot in town.
The Travel Industry Association forecasts foreign and domestic travel expenditures in the U.S. will be up about 6 percent in 2008, compared to last year.
Destination Hotels & Resorts says travel bargain hunters typically look to vacation homes for extra value.
And travel guru Ed Perkins agrees.
"Vacation rentals -- especially budget locations -- will continue to offer the best antidote to steadily climbing hotel rates. Fortunately, the Internet makes finding good rentals extremely easy, anywhere in the world," Perkins says.
Christine Karpinski, director of Owner Advocacy for vacation rental portal HomeAway.com, says when you sign on the dotted line for your vacation rental, it's likely already furnished and decorated, but that doesn't mean it's quite ready to go.
You'll have to remove some items but add others to strike a balance between personal convenience and guest comfort, she says.
Begin by touring your vacation home and removing valuables. Turn a lockable closet into a vault for safekeeping valuables, personal items and extra supplies. Clear the rest of the vacation rental of personal affects and clutter.
Then add items travelers expect to find in a vacation home, items that will give your guests the memories of convenience that will keep them coming back for more.
In the kitchen, convenience is king. Equip it with enough plates, glasses, and flatware for double the number of people that you sleep (consider adding disposable plates, drinking cups and utensils for guests on the go), a coffee pot, microwave, adequate cooking gear, and a dining room table that will seat the number your rental sleeps. If you sleep large numbers, have a fold-up table and chairs readily available for the kids.
You shouldn't buy a vacation rental if you can't afford to stock it with enough quality bedding. Your linen closet should include at least two sets of high-quality sheets for each bed, pillows with pillow protectors, extra blankets, and mattress pads. An alarm clock, alarm clock/radio and reading lamp is standard equipment on a bedside table in each bedroom.
Your living area should have comfortable seating for at least the number of people that you sleep, a TV large enough for guests to watch from across the room (27 inches or larger) with at least basic cable, a DVD player or at the very least a VCR, and movies, a couple decks of cards, board games, puzzles, best sellers, toys for the kids and other rainy day accouterments.
Renters expect the bathrooms to be spotless. They also demand quality towels. Provide at least 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and 4 washcloths per guest.
Karpinski says don't forget those extra touches.
Remember why renters choose to stay at a vacation home instead of a motel or some hotels. A washer and a dryer. High-speed Internet. An iron and ironing board. A hair dryer. Video game machine. When equipping your vacation rental property add extras guests typically don't get elsewhere and spruce the place up with flowers in vases, non-perishable food staples in the cupboards and a nice bottle of wine or sparkling water in the fridge.