Try this Secret Formula for Maximum Winter Airbnb Bookings

Even if you think you don't need it




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November 29, 2016
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Winter for many vacation rental properties is, unfortunately, the low to non-existent bookings season. Months of cold weather loom large on the horizon, and if your Airbnb or short-term property is not in a winter adventure destination like an Aspen or St. Moritz, the big ‘V’ for ‘Vacancy’ is here for a long, cold while.

It’s winter after all. People like to hunker down, stay at home, drink hot beverages.

There are two ways to think about this:

Scenario 1) You reason that “it is what it is” and accept the fact that vacation rental bookings are thin in winter and take a break from the hospitality business.


Scenario 2) You do the opposite and brainstorm how to attract guests when it’s darn cold outside.

If you find yourself in the latter group, this article is for you.

How to Fatten Wintertime Vacation Rental and Airbnb Bookings

Before I get into the how-to’s, let’s talk about the Danish concept ‘hygge.’ Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) has no direct English translation, but ‘cozy’ is its nearest English equivalent. From what I gather it’s something like ‘sitting curled up with a warm blanket by a fire with lots of candles, drinking wine and chatting with friends while it’s snowing outside, eating comfort foods on a wooden table with candles, staying in bed all morning while the rain patters outside, sipping tea out of good china, warm, clean socks and all things snuggly.’ Or something like that.

In essence, hygge is emotional and physical coziness in its simplest form.

Because the Danes are the happiest people in the world, this is a concept to pay attention to, especially when you think about applying it to your low season vacation rental. Anything that makes people happy is a potential lure to people booking your place. After all, it’s hard to resist a vacation rental that embraces companionship, warmth, belonging, simplicity, and contentment. Even if it’s snowing, raining or just awful outside, guests have hygge to fall back on.

Creating hygge is relatively simple and requires two steps.

  1. You have to stage for hygge in your promotional photos. Doing so requires you to photograph your vacation rental during the cold season, otherwise, it’s impossible to capture the cold-weather ‘coziness’ that hygge is all about.
  2. Secondly, you have to make sure the hygge you staged meets up to guests’ expectations. In other words, if you have a French press and two cups of inky black coffee in a kitchen photo, make sure you actually have the French press, coffee cups and inky black coffee beans in the kitchen. When expectations are met or exceeded, guests are more likely to book again.

Now that we’ve talked about the rules, let’s dive into this incredibly underused tactic and learn the ‘how-to’s’ of hygge creation….

hygge 1 chic retreat

1. Candles, candles and more candles (even if they’re faux)

Whether they’re the real thing or battery-powered, candles in your vacation rental and Airbnb photos are key for maximum hygge. They add a warm glow of ‘everything’s all right with the world’ to a room.

I recommend faux candles in vacation rentals for safety reasons.  Look for ones made of real wax for maximum authenticity. An automatic timer that comes on at a specified time of day and automatically shuts off after 6 to 8 hours ensures that guests will actually enjoy them. Some even come with a remote option for changing the brightness.

idaho cabin

This Idaho cabin I designed does not have a working fireplace. Instead, we staged the room with realistic looking faux candles. A glass of Pinot Noir completes the picture.


Good faux candles are made of real wax to give a more natural effect. Staggered heights are stunning in a fireplace and create instant ‘hygge.’

If you want to use real candles, I recommend enclosed glass candle holders to keep candles from tipping over.

vacation rental candle holders

These geometric enclosed candle holders reduce fire hazards while magnifying the effects of the warm, glowing flames. Image via Wedding of My Dreams

2. Stage the bedroom so people dream of hanging out in bed. All day.

Getting the bedroom to look ultra hygge is key. Here are three things to incorporate:

  • Warm and relaxed bedding, that says “we’re not uptight here, just luxurious and dreamy.” Embrace the artful, messy look. 
  • A book, wine glass, a cup of coffee or tea, or even a breakfast tray near or on the bed is the lure that draws potential guests in. Food and drink is a natural comfort item in winter.
  • A fluffy rug is vital.  A soft place to place one’s feet when getting in and out of bed is reassuring for people in a deep, primal way.

Soft linen bedding combined with a platter of “breakfast-in-bed” delicacies draws guests into booking your wintertime vacation rental. I mean, how can you say no to that? Image via DTSP.


This dreamy bedroom by Jersey Ice Cream Company is perfection. The bed is artfully messy, there’s a book on the bedside table and a nice little reading lamp. Why bother getting up in that room?


A messy bed with a view and a fireplace can’t be beat. I’m even willing to overlook the missing rug beside the bed because it’s otherwise so ‘hygge.’

3. Show off loads of books

I read somewhere that people read twice as many books in winter. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it certainly makes sense. After all, when it’s cold outside, people aren’t as likely to spend as much time outside and are more prone to inside activities like reading. And even if they don’t actually read all that much, they like to think they’ll do some reading (isn’t self-deception a wonderful thing?), so offer lots of fodder.

People read a lot more in winter than in activity-laden summer, so have a nice collection of books, both old and contemporary and take a nice photo to show them off. Room designed by Nathan Turner.

People read a lot more in winter than in activity-laden summer, so have a nice collection of books, both old and contemporary and take a nice photo to show them off. Room designed by Nathan Turner.

4. Photograph a tablescape with delectables

staging-airbnbIt’s a proven fact that people eat more in winter. Apparently, we’re biologically programmed to do so. By staging your dining table with delicious comfort food, you’ll get people’s taste buds watering and they’ll be more likely to book your vacation rental abode.

5. Show off your fireplace

Not everyone’s vacation rental is lucky enough to have a fireplace, but if you have one, show it off for hygge. Don’t forget to photograph it with a fire inside; merely gazing at the orange glow (even in a photo) calms people down and makes them dreamy (and more likely to book your place).

studio-padronDon’t have a working fireplace? Put in some candles instead and get the same effect.

6. Take some photos of people enjoying themselves outside

Hygge is all about spending time with family and friends, so get some photos of people having fun outside. Although guests will spend the most of their time inside, they will want to know it’s fun outdoors. Short strolls together, sometimes with a thermos of hot cider or mulled wine, in a winter landscape is very hygge.


danish coziness

A glimpse of your vacation rental in the background along with a photo of spontaneous fun reminds potential guests that the winter landscape is enjoyable. Image by MJB.

To sum it up….

I guarantee if you do all or even some of the above, your wintertime vacation rental bookings will improve; after all, how can people resist hygge? It’s all about happiness.

For more ideas on creating hygge, I highly recommend Signe Johansen’s book, ‘How to Hygge, The Secrets of Nordic Living.’

secrets-of-nordic-living-hyggeHave your own version of hygge? Share away, we’d love to know your secrets!




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