What should you have to bring to a holiday rental? Mine charged $1200 a night and didn't even provide sheets

I don't need to tell you what a roller coaster 2021 was. Along with countless others, I lost work and home schooled (again). A close relative died from leukemia and we spent the entire year renovating and launching an Airbnb.

As we limped towards year's end, I decided to book a beachside holiday house for a much-needed break. A newly renovated, newly-listed holiday shack. Our dates fell just outside peak holiday period which meant instead of paying $1200 a night (the advertised price in early January) it was just a few hundred dollars more to book for a whole week.

But before committing, something on the booking site stopped me in my tracks: "Sheets and towels are not provided at the property, you have the option to either hire or bring these with you."

This is a deal breaker. There was no way after the year we'd had that I wanted to do anything other than put groceries away and settle in for a gin and tonic on the deck when we arrived. Making beds, lugging linen and towels was a big, fat no.

I messaged the property owner direct on Instagram to clarify the linen situation, one I thought had all but disappeared in the '70s. The response was that if we wished to BYO linen we could but otherwise what we saw in the photos of the property would be provided. The owner said taking your own linen was a personal preference and some people preferred to BYO.

Relieved but puzzled (some people prefer to BYO linen?) I booked. A month later, another message arrived.

"We've had advice that some people accidentally take sheets and covers whilst they bring their own, so we've decided to just do a blanket approach where everyone brings their own sheets and covers."

I was prepared to cancel. But after more back and forth with the owner we came to an arrangement – linen would be provided as a one-off for us and the beds made up.

But distracted as I was about sheets and towels, I failed to read the fine print emailed by the holiday rental company until the morning of check-in. It stated:


"As our holiday properties are self-contained, you will need to bring dishwashing powder/ liquid, laundry powder/ liquid, cleaning products and bin liners, there will be one roll of toilet paper per toilet provided."

BYO linen is one thing but BYO everything bar the kitchen sink? Correct me if I'm wrong but I assume self-contained means, you know, self-contained. I've stayed at literally hundreds of holiday houses and reviewed scores of them and this is a first.

On arrival other things were amiss. There were no top sheets on the beds, the hot tub was putrid and there was no Wi-Fi, despite the property being advertised as a place where you could work (this meant we couldn't use the Smart TV either). We opted to use our own data but the 4G was so patchy my husband had to work from the local library.

There was not a single knife other than cutlery knives to be found.

Luckily the holiday property rental company jumped into action. They organised the spa to be cleaned, offered to reimburse me for purchasing a bread knife and apologised that the Wi-Fi wa incorrectly advertised on a separate Airbnb listing (not their own site).

But the BYO policy was perplexing (despite discovering there were actually enough supplies for our stay). The holiday rental company tells me that most guests surveyed from the 350 holiday properties they have on their books want to BYO linen. They don't mention guests' thoughts on bringing their own loo paper, washing and cleaning supplies.

Thinking I'm missing something I undertake my own survey of travel industry colleagues. The responses range from outrage to humour.

"This sounds like a great way to cut costs by not having to provide basic amenities or do laundry. What's next, bring your own furniture?"

Another colleague replies, "If I wanted to BYO linen I would go camping…" while another asks, "Doesn't the 'fully' in 'fully self-contained' mean that you arrive and everything is there?" Simone Scoppa, of rental accommodation site Stayz, says the days when travellers had to provide their own towels and bed linen when booking a holiday home had basically gone. In fact, she says, most renters demand essentials like high-speed internet (ranked by Stayz as a top-three must have) while pools and hot tubs are the most-searched-for amenities.

Scoppa says Stayz encourages hosts to make life as easy as possible for the traveller so they don't need to pack more things in the boot while at the same time advising travellers to look at each individual property page to see what the home does and does not include.

"If in doubt send a private message on the app/website," she suggests.

Meanwhile Airbnb's Australia country manager, Susan Wheeldon, says the Airbnb community is built on trust, with a review system that allows people to see what other travellers say about a potential guest, host or home. She said Airbnb has clear and strict policies to protect its community and the integrity of the review system.

"In addition to behaving in accordance with our community standards, hosts must meet standards that include listing cleanliness and accuracy. We require that all listing categorisations, features, and amenities detailed on the listing page at the time of booking accurately reflect those present at the listing from check-in to checkout."

For our holiday, we shrugged it off and focused on what we did have – a cute place in a great location - rather than a seemingly outdated policy that requires travellers to lug all that stuff with them. Stuff I believe should be provided.

But from now on this seasoned traveller vows to read the fine print, no matter how small.

Do you think holiday home hosts have unreasonable expectations of what guests should provide? Are you happy to BYO washing and cleaning products, toilet rolls and linen as well as make your own beds? Or do you think that should be included in the rental fee? Post your comments below.

See also: 'No respect!': Why should I have to clean an Airbnb before I leave?

See also: Yes, we will be travelling in 2022 - here's how to do it