How “Not” to Decorate Vacation Homes for the Holidays

a box of leaves with coffee on it and blanket next to it

Ah, yes, the holiday season. Many people enjoy sweater weather and warm touches at home. The holiday season reminds many of us of happy family memories that we hold dear to our hearts. Decorating vacation homes for the holidays shows a form of celebration. However, it can also border on the boundaries of classy and tacky. (Some guests may also not celebrate common American holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.) Instead take the roundabout route — appeal the guests’ senses with seasonal decorations. 

A lot of the same symbols and scents show up every holiday season, but you don’t want to go overboard here. With a few small touches here and there throughout the vacation home, you’ll create a memorable experience for your guests. You also won’t need to worry about notifying guests in listings of blatant holiday decorations or upsetting guests who have different beliefs. You can create a timeless feel that will make them feel right at home. Plus, you’re also going a more cost-efficient route with the following subtle touches!

Give them a Seasonal Sight for Sore Eyes 

After a long week (or year) of working, many look forward to spending a vacation with their loved ones. They may be visiting extended family members, escaping the cold winter season, or experiencing new things in a different location. Start off their experience at your accommodation with touches that appeal to the eyes. 

  • Switch out the wall decorations: The first thing your guests will see is the front door, and it’s the best place to represent the seasons. If you normally have a wreath on the front door, intertwine fake fall leaves and tiny pumpkins in it for fall. For December, you can intertwine snowflakes, holly, etc in it. In the vacation home itself, you can switch out normal paintings and photos with scenic landscapes that represent the seasons. Alternatively, you could hang up pieces that display fall or winter quotes written in calligraphy. 
  • Hang up twinkling lights: With the sun going down earlier, you can offer another source of light for people to enjoy. If you have a porch or a patio, you can hang up white battery-powered or solar-powered lights, especially if you have a hot tub or pool. Another option is to hang up lights inside the house in a few common areas (an alternative to lamps), especially if it’s extra chilly outside. People can really feel like they’re experiencing the season indoors with lights! 
  • Display seasonal flowers: You can go the route of fresh flowers, but they require upkeep and may die quickly. Once you’ve bought fake flowers, however, you can reuse and display them every year during the holiday season. They’ll make the vacation home feel more homey. For fall display bouquets that remind them of cornucopias and the harvest season: orange roses, orange lilies, yellow poms, and red asters. In December, poinsettias are the most common flowers or red roses with white calla lilies. 

Come up Smelling like…Seasonal Scents

The nose knows the seasonal scents! However, many people have scent sensitivities, so ix-nay plug-in fresheners and cheap sprays. And candles may be a fire hazard. You want to use natural scents that remind them of the seasons. 

  • Heat up scents in the oven: A little goes a long way with this one, and it’s an effective and easy way to warm up the house with a seasonal scent. All you (or your vendors) need to do is put a teaspoon or two of a spice or an essential oil in the oven at 300 degrees for an hour. Cinnamon or pumpkin spice in the fall and peppermint or vanilla in the winter. Voila! The scent will instantly remind guests of happier times. 
  • Swap out the soaps: Again, you don’t want to go with synthetic fragrances from cheap mall stores. You can find many bar or liquid soaps made with natural ingredients and essential oils. The range of scents you’ll find that represent the seasons are endless. From apples and cinnamon to candy canes and evergreen, natural soaps are always available hot off the press. 
  • Add touches of natural potpourri: If you’d like to try something new and be in more control of how the vacation home smells, you can even make your own natural potpourri. It’s actually really easy. Once you have some dried flowers, add in oils and mix-ins, and bake them for two hours at 200 degrees. You can do mix-ins of cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, mint, pine cones, cedar bark, etc. 

Grant them the Magic Touch of the Seasons

Appealing to touch during the holiday season is more of an abstract idea. However, it’s totally doable. During the colder months, people want to feel different textures that remind them of fall and winter.

  • Rotate the toss pillows: If you have normal toss pillows, you can rotate them out with more seasonal symbols and colors. Your guests may like to hold the pillows while watching their favorite shows or movies. For autumn, try to find toss pillows made from flannel or tweed. In the winter months, look for soft and velvety or light and fluffy. 
  • Change up the blankets: If you have blankets in a trunk, the holiday season is the time of year to display them on the foots of beds and the backs of couches. Your guests don’t want to go fishing for blankets in the cold seasons. In the autumn, place a couple throw blankets in a basket. In the winter, maybe offer them a heated blanket or a quilt to use. 
  • Add seasonal accent pieces: So, again a little more abstract, but it evokes the sense of touch. Here you can add fake pumpkins in a few spots or cornucopia centerpieces in the autumn season to represent the harvest season. In the wintertime, you can display an upright sled or skis in the corner or add centerpieces of fake bells or snowflakes. 

Let them Savor the Flavors…of the Holiday Season

Many of the same flavors come out every season at our favorite local restaurants and shops. People adore that extra touch of hospitality when you offer them free treats for their stay. They’ll be tickled with seasonal joy! 

  • Showcase seasonal coffee, tea, or cocoa flavors: If you have a Keurig or a kettle, you can showcase seasonal flavored coffee pods and tea bags. For autumn, many love the tastes of maple pecan, chai, and apple cider, and pumpkin spice. For winter, peppermint and vanilla. Don’t forget to leave out some apple cider or cocoa flavors and marshmallows for the kids. They want a warm beverage too!
  • Offer seasonal fruits: With seasonal fruits in the kitchen or dining area, you’ll add warm touches reminiscent of the holiday season. Of course, apples go well in the autumn and plums in the wintertime. If you want to add an even fancier touch, display some pomegranates in December! 
  • Leave out seasonal candies: Here’s another way to make your guests giddy with delight. Little candy treats! With some butterscotches or caramels in the autumn and peppermints or dark chocolate in the winter, you’ll make them feel right at home. Of course, you’ll want to make sure everything is wrapped and packaged. 

Now you know how “not” to decorate vacation homes for the holidays! You may feel, however, like Martha Stewart after adding these seasonal touches that appeal to the senses. Be sure to contact your guests in advance and see if they have any allergies or other holiday/non-holiday expectations to plan accordingly. The last sense, hearing, is more of a personal choice. With a smart home concierge, guests can play their own song choices from their smartphone. By appealing to the other four senses, however, you’ll for sure give your guests a hospitable and memorable experience for the season! 

Would you like more bookings for the holidays? I can help you with that. Contact me here to learn more!

P.S. If your vacation rental caters to weddings, check out this DIY Wine & Cork Decor blog!

Published by Sydney Lutz Agency

I'm Sydney, an expert vacation rental copywriter. I write optimized listings, value-packed blogs, and exceptional web copy to help you attract your target occupants and expand your business. Email me at to learn more and set up a free consultation.

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