Amazon Alexa in Vacation Rentals
Provide Ambient Sleep Sounds to Help Guests Sleep Better
By Dana Young
As a vacation rental owner or manager, you may have begun exploring the use of Amazon Alexa at your property. I’ve had many VR pros reach out and ask, “How can I leverage an Amazon Echo at my vacation rental?”. This series of guides is intended to help with that question, and provide actionable information that will help you improve your guest’s experience.
In this guide, we are going to focus on providing a range of background ambient sounds using an Amazon Echo with Alexa. You will find a description of the value proposition for guests and owner/managers, exactly what you need in order to deliver that value, and setup instructions, including specific resources to take advantage of.
If you are like me, sometimes it is hard to get a good night’s sleep when you are away from home. It becomes especially tough if there are distracting noises like traffic outside or maybe a snoring companion. As you read this, a situation you’ve been in may immediately flash to mind. Bunking with others in one room while on vacation can often be a recipe for a short night’s sleep. Loud birds outside a window, wind chimes or commotion on a busy street outside are other common offenders. Inevitably, there are also either night owls or early risers in your group that may carve into a good night’s sleep from either end.
Earplugs are always an option, but may not be enough or they may have been forgotten at home. Some people turn to house fans to create a white noise barrier. In the early days of renting the Lodge at Palmer Lake, we provided fans in each room just for this purpose. Unfortunately they only lasted a season or two before they stopped working. More modern solutions include electronic devices that generate white noise. You can spend $20-$130 each on these. A better alternative is a white noise generator app for your smartphone. Savvy guests may have already equipped themselves with one prior to their stay at your vacation rental but many likely won’t be aware of this option.
A great alternative that you can give your guests is to have Alexa generate that white noise. In addition to all the other use cases for Alexa, if you are providing Echos in bedrooms, adding this capability is a no-brainer. Your guests can play quality ambient sounds to help them sleep peacefully or block out that unwanted noise. There is even the option to have Alexa provide a short story at the beginning of the ambient noise. These sleep-inducing stories can help them relax before drifting off. The sounds will continue after the story. The story-telling feature may be a particularly good fit for groups with small children.
What You Will Need
To enable ambient sounds, you’ll need any device within the Amazon Echo family of products, as well as a free add-on capability called a Skill. There are a number of ambient sound generating skills that Alexa has. If you are unfamiliar with the platform, Alexa skills are like apps. You can enable and disable skills, using the Alexa app or a web browser, in the same way that you install and uninstall apps on your smartphone or tablet. Skills are voice-driven Alexa capabilities. The skill I recommend for ambient noise is called Sleep and Relaxation Sounds. In total, it includes over 125 high quality sounds to choose from. While there is the option to purchase additional sounds, your guests will likely find a choice they like from among the free options.
Free options include Heartbeat, Ocean, Rain, Relax, Babbling Brook, Thunderstorm, White Noise, Rainforest, Fireplace, Wind, Music Box, Forest Birds, Airplane, Train Ride, Oscillating Fan, Grandfather Clock, City Sounds, Crickets, Frogs, Vacuum, Beautiful Dream, Brown Noise, City Rain, Heavy Rain, Jungle Night, Mountain Lake, Sleep Little Babies, Small Lake, Swiss Massage, Wind Chimes, Underwater, Box Fan, Rain On Tin Roof, Forest Night, Distant Thunder, Waterfall, Distant Train, Cat Purring, Car Ride, Fountain, Cicadas, Coqui Frogs, Native American Flute, Whales, Rain on Tent, Pink Noise, Campfire, Ocean Villa (Sleep Story).
As you can see, there are a lot of options. Whether it is via the sound of rain or a cat purring, guests will be able to find an option to help them sleep better, relax quickly, or get their baby to go to sleep faster!
You will want to set up the Echo(s) in your vacation rental property with a separate Amazon account that is specific to that property. If you have more than one Echo at your property, use that same account for all the devices at that location. Details for how to do that (including a great trick to simplify the process) as well as the reasons why it should be done are described here.
Once you have a separate account for the Echo(s) at your vacation rental property, you can follow the basic Echo setup instructions here. There are options for either downloading the Alexa app for IOS / Android, or using the app from your PC’s browser via https://alexa.amazon.com.
Making this skill available to your guests on Alexa is easy:
- Go to alexa.amazon.com or open the Alexa app on your iOS or Android device.
- Next, click Skills in the left menu.
- In the Search bar, type ‘Sleep and Relaxation Sounds’ and select it.
- Click the Enable button.
All your guests have to say is "Alexa open Sleep Sounds". Then, to play a sound they say "Play Thunderstorm" or "Play Rain". To get a list of sounds, they can say "List Sounds". By default, the sounds will loop automatically and play until they say "Alexa, Stop". To limit the time that the sound will play, first play the sound using one of the above methods and then say "Alexa, set a sleep timer for 2 hours" or whatever time limit they would like.