Automating Check-In: 5 Options for Vacation Rental Owners

For many vacation rental owners and managers who run their properties remotely, the smaller details of renting – such as key handover, check-ins and check-outs – can cause headaches and stress. Even for those who prefer to attend to each and every guest personally, sometimes hiccups like flight delays, heavy traffic and bad weather occur. While these are no one’s fault, they can throw your plans out of line, and make you unable to greet your guests upon check-in.

Instead of letting this worry you, ensure you have a system in place to fine tune your check-in/check-out process and make things easier for you and your guests. Whatever the circumstances, there are a few paths you can follow. Read on to find out the different options you have for automating your vacation rental check-in.


Automating Check In Smart Lock

Something as simple as changing the way you secure your property can simplify your check-in processes tenfold. Here are a few things to think about for automated entry and seamless switchover.

Option #1: Lock box

Lock boxes have been around for years, and can be a great solution to automating your guests’ check-in. Simple combination key boxes can be found in most hardware stores, locksmiths or online, and are an inexpensive option for ensuring your guests get their keys (and access to your rental) no matter what time of day they arrive.

Lock boxes are a no-frills option that can be a real lifesaver in an emergency or unexpected check-in situation. Simply leave the keys inside and set the combination, and make sure you let your guests know the instructions for entering into the property.

This includes:

  • Where the lock box is located (many owners like to keep them hidden out of sight, for example, behind a wall)
  • How to use the lock box
  • What the combination is
  • How to return the keys for check-out

Most modern lock boxes should allow you to change the combination between guests, so you don’t have to worry about past renters remembering the code!

Option #2: Electronic locks

Another option for vacation rental owners who are looking to streamline check-in is the electronic lock. Electronic code locks can replace the deadbolt on your property’s front door and allows entry via a punch-in code. As with a lock box, electronic locks generally allow you to set multiple entry codes, so you can generate a unique code for each new guest.

On the whole, electronic locks are a bit more expensive than lock boxes, but you’ll have the added peace of mind knowing that guests won’t lose your house keys – saving you from any pricey midnight locksmith callouts!

Option #3: Smart lock

If lock boxes and electronic locks seem a bit old-fashioned to you, there is a new automated check-in alternative you’re going to love. Introducing: smart locks. These intelligent devices can replace electronic code locks, using an electronic system which only allows property access when it receives a wireless signal (often via Bluetooth or WiFi) from a verified smartphone.

Whether they replace the handle and bolt altogether like a code lock, or are simply installed above the property’s handle, smart locks allow you to manage exactly who is authorized to gain entry to your property at any particular time. That means you can remotely grant access to a guest a few hours before check-in to keep things really simple.

As well as many pros to using smart locks, there are also some disadvantages to installing them for your property. First, the assumption that all your renters will have smartphones. In reality, not having a smartphone doesn’t hinder guests too much – as doors can still be opened with a traditional key or by the owner remotely (also useful if the guest runs out of battery!). Though given there are around two billion smartphone users worldwide, and 72% of North Americans have smartphones, there shouldn’t be any problem!

Another downside to installing smart locks is that they can only be attached to one door of your property. Therefore if you have a locked gate at the front of your property, you’d have to buy and administer multiple smart locks so your guests could access all areas immediately upon check-in.

Option # 4: Safe key drop

Though this is not yet as common an option as the lock boxes or electric and smart locks, key drops are slowly but surely gaining a bit more attention with vacation rental owners – so much so that services are being created to meet this demand!

These services partner up vacation rental owners and managers with local spots like cafés and shops, providing a safe place close to home for key storage between guests, also giving guests the chance to explore the property’s neighborhood.


Automating Check In Property Manager

Other owners prefer automating their processes by hiring contractors or service providers to take over management of all kinds of issues related to their vacation rental. Here is what you can do!

Option #5: Hire an individual

For some ultra busy vacation rental owners, those who can’t install electronic lock systems to their home, or those that prefer to keep the personal touch of greeting upon arrival, the best way to automate the check-in process is to have someone else take care of it for them.

There are plenty of property managers in every destination who are always looking to expand their portfolio. Not only can a property manager take care of the administration of your property, but they can also be the friendly face that ensures that each and every check-in and key handover runs smoothly – even in the case of delays.

For full-time working hosts, hiring someone and externalizing that check-in process can really help free up your schedule and save you a lot of time, without having to compromise on the “human” aspect.

Option #6: Hire a company

We know what you’re thinking, why automate your check-in processes, and still have to take care of everything else? Lucky for you, the boom in the vacation rental industry has lead to a number of companies being created with just this purpose in mind, so busy owners: take note!

As well as managing key changeover and helping you to automate check-in, vacation rental concierge companies can also provide welcome tours of your home, carry out security checks and even attend to laundry and housekeeping between guests.

Concierge providers can be a great solution for multi-property owners, especially if they are currently juggling with managing all their rentals remotely. Hiring a company also has the added bonus that if anything happens during a guest’s stay, they’re the ones who will be responsible for fixing it using their contractors – you’ll just attend to the bill.

This is what our friends at Luckey had to add:

“Every home has a history and a unique design that makes it special. Of course, automated check-ins can save time and/or bring flexibility to your guests, but with a hosting team, you know that you’re offering more than just a place to stay. With a hosting team, your guests will benefit from a personalized service and customer support available 24/7. After all, there’s nothing that makes you feel more at home than a kind smile and a genuine desire to make sure you have a great stay.”

Whether you prefer to go keyless or have someone take care of all the administration for you, the method you choose for automating your vacation rental check-in will make guest changeover as easy as pie!

What do you think about this article?

4/5 - (17 votes)
Show Comments (5)
  1. Thanks for the narrative. I had just written this article ( ) and it touches on the problems Vacation Management Companies have with check-ins so your piece was very timely to me!! The only problem to Smart Locks, for me, is that without the initial walk through with the guest damage claims can be difficult. That said, for guests that have delayed flights into the wee hours of the night, the smart lock is a wonderful solution.

  2. Since the circumstances for all owners are different, I appreciated reading the pros and cons of all.
    I’m a very small operation and rent out the home I live in to renters. This has been very successful for me but it is a whole lot of work since I do it all myself. I love doing it all and like to present a near perfect environment for my guests so I’m not complaining. What I find works best for me is to meet and greet the guests myself. I go over important things about the house and pool, hand over the keys and tell them to please call me if needed, I’m only 10 minutes away. If a guests’ flight is arriving very late or delayed I will leave the key and tell them how to enter the home, I will then meet them the next day just to welcome them and go over the important issues. So far this has worked great for me. They like the personal contact with the owner.

  3. Great article! In few months there will be a new alternative to automated check-in for the vacation rentals. We are launching soon a new service, iKeyBnB, where hosts can drop off their keys in automatic machines in central places of the city that can be easily accessible by their guests upon their arrival. The machines will be 24/7 available! The service will start in few months from the city of Barcelona, stay tuned!

  4. There is also an another option which specially designed automated key management and payment systems as OkeySystems. We use it in Tallinn and are very happy with it.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ready to take more direct bookings?

No set up fees, no credit card details, no obligation. Try Lodgify free for 7 days.