Thanksgiving Decoration Ideas for Your Short-Term Guest Rental

Running a short-term guest rental or vacation rental can be a very rewarding way to use your investment property. Any home or apartment can become a guest rental. All you need is furnishings, amenities, and an eye for attractive decor. There are always travelers looking for a better-than-hotel place to stay and your furnished homes could be perfect. This is especially true around the holidays when families are coming together from all over the country.

  • Tuesday, November 26, 2019

  Matt Angerer


Running a short-term guest rental or vacation rental can be a very rewarding way to use your investment property. Any home or apartment can become a guest rental. All you need is furnishings, amenities, and an eye for attractive decor. There are always travelers looking for a better-than-hotel place to stay and your furnished homes could be perfect. This is especially true around the holidays when families are coming together from all over the country.

The recent vacation rental craze has even made it possible for families to enjoy holidays together in a beautifully furnished home instead of hosting at a personal residence. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, you can boost your bookings and make families feel truly welcome by decorating for the upcoming holiday. How, exactly, should you alter your decor to welcome Thanksgiving guests in your short-term rental? We've got you covered with some great ideas for durable Thanksgiving decorations.

Color Scheme: Warm Autumn Colors

The color is what matters most in making a house feel like a holiday-decorated home. Thanksgiving is all about warm autumn colors. Reds, oranges, golds, yellows, and dark brown mixed elegantly are what make decor feel like Thanksgiving. You want the home to burst with these colors as accents and primary focal points as guests enter the home. Every room should have something that feels festive and wonderful in the warm autumn colors.

Using actual autumn leaves is a great place to start but there are so many options for creating your pools of Thanksgiving colors. Many hosts change the linens, set out special decorative pieces, and perhaps change the art on the walls as well. The key is to make the entire home feel of 'Thanksgiving' to welcome families who are either staying to visit relatives or hosting the traditional dinner in your short-term rental.

Dried Flower Arrangements

One of the best ways to bring color-pop, fragrance, and the appearance of autumn into a home is with dried flower arrangements. Fresh flowers wilt and drop petals as they age. But dried arrangements are created specifically for their long-term durability. Guests will love a beautiful autumn-colored dried arrangement as the table centerpiece, as decor on side-tables, and, in fact, in every room of the house.

A dried arrangement in each bedroom makes it feel more welcoming and festive, while a dried arrangement in the bathroom is both decorative and subtly odor-masking. A dried arrangement in the kitchen, perhaps above the sink or on the fridge, brings the festivities into the cooking zone as well. A dried wreath or arrangement on the door will feel festive the moment your guests arrive. Dried flowers look great, keep well, and are the essence of Thanksgiving decor.

Cornucopia of Fresh Fruit

One of the visual icons of Thanksgiving is the overflowing cornucopia or the Horn of Plenty. This is a horn-shaped wicker basket filled beyond capacity with fresh fruits and vegetables. As a vacation rental host, a delightful way to welcome your holiday guests is to leave out a cornucopia of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. Many hosts leave a few apples and oranges for their guests and your guests will be delighted to see your uniquely holiday-appropriate approach to providing them with fruit and decor at the same time.

Fall cornucopia on a White back ground — Stock Photo

A Fall arrangement in a cornucopia on a white background — Photo by miflippo

If you like leaving candy for guests, smaller cornucopias (perhaps in each bedroom) might contain a collection of chocolates and caramel sweets.

Lay Out the Dining Table Decor

Just in case your guests plan to host Thanksgiving from your short-term rental home, a wonderful touch is to lay out the dining table and feast supplies. Get a richly colored table cloth in red, orange, or dark brown and decorate it with elegant accents. Consider a table-runner down the center and perhaps wicker or cloth placemats for each chair you provide around the table. From there, you can add a few centerpieces or accent items down the center or completely lay out the table with dishes, flatware, and cloth napkins in decorative rings.

Or you can draw visual attention to your dish cabinet which includes all the lovely plates, napkins, and flatware that your guest family can use to lay out their own Thanksgiving table. Don't forget to include large cooking dishes and serving dishes, just in case. Roasting pans and pie dishes can really make life more wonderful for Thanksgiving guests.

Change the Bed Linens and Couch Throws

One of the easiest and most impactful ways you can decorate for Thanksgiving is by changing the linens used in the house. Make the beds with a new set of Thanksgiving-colored sheets and pillowcases, consider a rich dark brown for the sheets and orange, yellow, or red for the pillowcases. Add an autumn-themed top blanket and each bed will look just perfect for the occasion, really helping your guests get into the holiday mood.

In addition, consider changing out your couch-throw pillows and blankets for autumn colors. Pale yellow pillows and a red throw blanket, for example, can transform your couch into a cozy autumn-themed place to read or watch movies together as a family.

Decorative Turkeys Throughout

Of course, everyone loves the turkey theme. Turkeys are a fun and kitschy way to add Thanksgiving festivities to any decorations. Napkin-holder turkeys, wood-carved turkeys, turkeys on the kitchen dishtowels, little potpourri turkeys in the bedrooms; your options are limitless. We highly suggest that you go on an adventure to find turkey and otherwise autumn-themed decoration items in antique stores, thrift stores, e-Bay, and other places where you can find wonderful second-hand or homemade decorations.

One fun approach is to hide your turkeys and invite your guests to have fun trying to find every turkey you've nestled into the home decor as well as the few prominent turkeys that win a smile as your guests walk in for the first time.

Little Thanksgiving Touches that Look Great

Once your primary Thanksgiving decoration changes have been made, a few little touches can really make a difference in how your guests feel in every corner of your short-term rental house. Let's take a look at a collection of traditional options that can really make your rental feel like a Thanksgiving paradise in every corner and on every surface.

Wicker Baskets and Wood Crates

Storage is an important part of vacation rentals, whether you're storing handy home essentials or just piles of decorative fun. For Thanksgiving, switching out your boxes and cloth containers for wicker and wood is a wonderful touch. Break out your basket collection (or get a basket collection) and find ways to use woven wicker all over the house. Put the shampoos in the bathroom in a little basket, or a pile of gourds in the living room, or a basket of dried flowers on the dining table.

Colorful Gourds

Colorful dried gourds are an essential part of Thanksgiving decor. Pumpkins tend to feature prominently, surrounded by the vivid reds and greens of squash and other gourds. A basket or glass bowl of gourds can be festive. A decoratively stacked pile of gourds on the table or outside the front door are a great accent piece. Gourds represent food bounty, without tempting anyone to try and eat one.

Soft Lamps and Tealight Candles

Soft lights are another more subtle element of Thanksgiving decor. Warm lamps shining through amber glass allow for relaxing mood lighting that many families love. If you're confident about safety, you can also include some beautiful candle arrangements as well. Tealights in holders that ensure safety can add that wonderful flickering glow to a Thanksgiving evening or you can use electric battery-powered candles instead.

Autumn Leaves

Any decor featuring autumn leaves is on the right track, and you don't have to use real crumbly leaves either. Most craft stores have cloth leaves and some of the most beautiful autumn accents are fake leaves on wire that you can wind around anything from your centerpiece to your door knocker or string around the room to add a spray of color to the entire home.

Autumn Fun in the Backyard

If your short-term guest rental has a backyard (that's not already covered in snow) then a few backyard decorations are a great idea as well. You can bet any children in the family will spend some time running around outside and you can provide even more fun with a little extra decoration. 

Hay Bales

Hay bales are a wonderful tradition of Thanksgiving decor, especially for outdoor gatherings. A few stacked hay bales can become loads of fun for young children to jump and climb on and they are surprisingly low-cost to order delivered to the home.


Feel like doing a little arts and crafts? Build a scarecrow for the backyard to the amusement and delight of your guests. While you may not have any corn to protect, a scarecrow is a lot of fun and a great icon of the season.

Leaf Piles

Finally, if there are dry leaves in your yard, you might consider leaving them to be jumped in. Ask your landscaping team to leave a pile of raked leaves, if they're dry,  and leave it up to your guests to have a jump or two if it tickles their fancy.

Food Love

Finally, we all know that during Thanksgiving, food counts as decoration. If you are one of the many hosts who enjoys leaving a few treats for your vacation rental guests when they come to stay, then a few thoughtful food items can make an incredible difference.

Leave a Pie

The one thing everyone loves about Thanksgiving is the pies. Apple pie, berry pie, pumpkin pie, they are all amazing. Consider leaving your guests one beautifully made pie on the kitchen counter to welcome them to your rental home. Tie a ribbon around the pie dish and leave the pie server out with plates as an open invitation to splurge on their first night. The pie will be beautiful and the happiness you create will be even more wonderful.

Stock the Pantry with Non-Perishable Fixin's

And as a final thoughtful gesture, consider stocking the pantry with a few non-perishable feast fixin's. Potato flakes, gravy mix, stuffing mix, canned cranberry, and other things often featured in a Thanksgiving feast can be a pleasant surprise. Especially if something was forgotten or if your guest-family needs to bring a potluck dish to a larger nearby family gathering.

Decorating Your Short-Term Rental for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to host short-term rental guests because it is a time when families come together to enjoy a holiday. Whether your guests will be having their Thanksgiving in your vacation rental home or they are staying to join family nearby, you can make the holiday so much more enjoyable with festive Thanksgiving-themed decorations that really make every moment feel like a holiday celebration. For more great rental home insights, contact us today!

About the author

Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America. 

Read more articles from Matt Angerer

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