Industry Info
April 18, 2024

Vacation Rental Software - A Buyers Guide

Understanding Vacation Rental software and the RentalWise platform.

Are you thinking of trying a software to manage your vacation rentals or are you looking to switch things up with your current solution? This guide is to give you the lowdown on what's out there and to give you notes on what to keep in mind when making your choice.

Types of software There's a ton of software options on the market, and they all have the same stated goal: to make you more money and save you time. Before diving into the specifics, let's take a quick look at the main categories.

Property Management Systems (PMS) These systems are all about reducing the amount of manual work that goes into dealing with availability, rates, content, guests, and reporting. The concept has been around for ages, and many of the older, more complex solutions were originally designed for hotels.

The most important thing for a PMS is to have all the details about your properties and reservations. This is crucial for improving efficiency. Your software needs to know who's coming, when, how many guests, how much they're paying, and if they have any special needs or want to buy extra services.

If you're on the hunt for a PMS, think about how your staff works, how you communicate with them and your guests, how big your team is, and how big your property portfolio is now and in the future. It's totally possible to manage up to 10 rentals manually, but if you want to grow your portfolio, an automatic system will make your life a lot easier.

Another key factor to consider is where your reservations are coming from. If you get all your bookings by phone or direct email, most solutions will work for you since you'll still need to enter the data manually. But if you're getting bookings from big players like Airbnb, Expedia,, Homeaway, or VRBO, it's important to make sure the information is automatically gathered and shared. And that's where the next category comes in.

Channel Managers A channel manager allows you to manage all your sales channels in one place. Many PMS's connect to an external channel manager that you pay for separately. Some channel managers work as stand-alone solutions, while others have added PMS functionality.

A good channel manager will make sure your availability and rates are correct across all channels, depending on their connections to those channels. The best ones have 2-way API connections, which means all information about the reservations and guests will be in one place. An alternative option is relying on calendar imports or iCal. But keep in mind that iCal has some downsides depending on the frequency of your bookings.

When evaluating software options, here are some questions to ask the provider:

  • Does the platform automatically import property data and reservations or do I need to enter them manually?

  • Are you a Channel Manager, PMS, or both?

  • Do you have API connections to my channels?

  • How does the pricing work? Per-property? Additional fees?

  • How good is the customer service?

  • How do you handle payments?

  • How often do you synchronize the calendar data?

  • How can I manage my own website?

Additionally, it's important to consider your own needs and goals. Think about where your reservations are coming from, how much time you're willing to spend on manual data entry, and your plans for expansion. And don't forget to consider how you'll handle double-bookings.

So, whether you're just starting out or looking to switch things up, this guide has got you covered. With the right software, managing your vacation rentals can be a breeze!

Looking for help getting your vacation rentals started on a robust PMS with free connections to the biggest channels like Airbnb, and VRBO. RentalWise may be the solution you're looking for with a robust PMS & Channel Manager, Booking Engine and Website Generator.

See RentalWise in Action

Enjoy our centralized property management system to manage calendars, bookings, rates and payments for all your properties.