As an avid vacation rental user, I am keenly aware of the benefits of vacation homes—more space, a kitchen, and some privacy and solitude to name some of the main ones (the latter two became even more pertinent during the pandemic). But I’m also aware of the challenges they can present, not least of which is consistency. Whether the home is rented out by the owner or a management company, the furnishings, cleanliness, and customer service can sometimes be a bit of a gamble.
That is precisely what newcomer AvantStay is hoping to address with its fresh take on the vacation rental market.
One of the first things I noticed when I initially discovered AvantStay was that the design of all the homes looked kind of immaculate. The homes call to mind the way realtors professionally stage homes with great furniture and tasteful art and decor to lure potential buyers. Turns out, that’s exactly what AvantStay essentially does—it stages its homes, but instead of for would-be owners, it does so for travelers.
“We want it to be designed for hospitality, we don’t want it to be designed for living,” said AvantStay CEO Sean Breuner in a recent interview.
The spaces aren’t just professionally cleaned and outfitted for travelers, they are designed top to bottom specifically for them. AvantStay leases the homes it lists, taking over the properties entirely to convert them into full-time vacation rentals. Owners don’t live in these spaces, at least not while they are part of the AvantStay portfolio. AvantStay then hires professional designers to completely reimagine the homes with travelers in mind.
For instance, if a listing can sleep up to 12 people, well, the dining table needs to accommodate up to 12 people, not just 6 or 8. Homes also have premium bedding and towels that reflect what you would expect from an upscale hotel or resort. Mountain cabins are likely to have hot tubs, and homes are outfitted with grills and firepits to encourage relaxation and socialization among guests. There are disposable toiletries included (typically shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hand sanitizer). And AvantStay also likes to include fun and interactive games and features, such as pool tables, foosball, shuffleboard, and chess sets; swimming pools are also a focus for homes that are in warmer weather destinations.
Testing out AvantStay in Tahoe
During a recent stay at an AvantStay home in Lake Tahoe, California, our four-bedroom cabin (AvantStay gives each home a name, and this one is named Polaris) looked and felt polished and comfortable but without feeling so pristine to the point of being cold or unwelcoming. Finding that balance is probably among the more difficult challenges vacation rentals often face (I have found)—how to give them some personality and make them feel comfy and lived in, but not too lived in.
The carpets were definitely either new or freshly cleaned. The furnishings were all very mountain-cabin chic (a plaid-upholstered armchair here, a fake fur throw there, and colorful geometrical artwork in the kitchen I thought would go well in our own home); the bedding was amazingly soft. My two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son did their usual run around like maniacs to scout it out upon arrival and were instantly drawn to family-friendly features, such as the foosball table, bunk beds in one of the bedrooms upstairs, and a record player.
A focus on customer service and tech
AvantStay also touts its 24-hour customer service. We put it to the test when I couldn’t figure out the keypad lock upon trying to enter the Tahoe home around 8 p.m. at night, it being already dark and chilly out. An AvantStay rep was immediately available on the phone to help us troubleshoot getting inside and we were able to enter in a matter of minutes. All guests can also expect some kind of welcome amenity package, whether it’s a few snacks, some hand sanitizer, or local souvenirs to create an inviting start to your stay. There are also local contacts on the ground should you need someone to personally come and assist you with a problem or with added services you would like to request.
One thing I found lacking, however, was the ability to access reviews of the homes. When I asked Breuner about it, he noted that the majority of the homes are also listed on Airbnb, where you can find reviews of them if you are so inclined.
Technology is an area the company is investing heavily in as well. There is a corresponding app that users can download to have all their booking information in one place, which also allows guests to book add-ons such as a midstay cleaning service and prearrival grocery stocking—this is an area AvantStay hopes to grow as well. Depending on the destination, guests can book additional experiences that include a private chef, wine or beer tastings, sleigh rides, guided hikes, and more through the AvantStay concierge service.
Where AvantStay homes are located
AvantStay, which launched in 2017, has grown to more than 300 properties in destinations that include Big Bear, Coachella Valley, Lake Tahoe, Newport Beach, Paso Robles, San Diego, Sonoma, and Temecula in California; Scottsdale, Arizona; Bend, Oregon; Breckenridge, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Park City, Utah. The company just launched its first international market, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in March, followed by its first foray into Florida, a collection of beach homes in Destin. The plan is to launch in more than 60 new locations in 2021 with a focus on lake, mountain, beach, and desert destinations.
The company caters to a mix of families, groups of friends traveling together, and to travelers heading out on work-cations. (AvantStay puts a strong emphasis on supplying reliable Wi-Fi connection in all its homes, which is helpful if you need to log into a video call for school or work.)
Properties range from a two-bedroom pad in San Diego starting at $200 per night, to a sprawling 8,500-square-foot, eight-bedroom estate in Coachella Valley, complete with horse stables and a private lake, for $3,500 per night.
Vacation rentals are really and truly great for families and groups who benefit from a shared space with multiple bedrooms. For this busy working mother of two tiny tots, all the little luxurious extras in AvantStay homes allow for some of those wonderful moments of escape amid the mayhem of family travel—like finally getting to tuck into a sumptuous bed after a long day of sledding and playing in the snow.