3 Reasons Roku Is the Go-To Streamer for Vacation Rental Owners – CNET

3 Reasons Roku Is the Go-To Streamer for Vacation Rental Owners – CNET


Make Roku the streaming standard if you own a vacation rental.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As a host of an Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeStay or other rental property, you’re probably busy making decisions on furnishings, amenities and booking schedules. But welcoming guests into your home isn’t just about offering bedding and soft towels — it’s about entertainment, too. Because not every guest spends their vacation sightseeing, it’s up to you to provide TV access. And if you’re not paying for cable, streaming TV is the best bet. 

Still, don’t be tempted to put your expensive Apple TV box in that cozy beachside cottage. Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV are options, but they’re not our favorite for your condo, either. CNET’s Editor’s Choice for streaming devices goes to Roku — it’s our top choice in general, but also for people with vacation rentals. With its affordable price, ease of use and one-of-a-kind guest mode, Roku can help you earn that super host status. Here’s why. 

1. Roku devices are inexpensive

First off, Roku smart TVs and streaming devices offer great value — a small Roku TV costs less than $200. If you want to splurge and create a more luxe experience for your guests, buy a larger Roku TV model. Our favorite is TCL, but Roku smart TV models are also available from other brands.

If you already have a TV, just add a Roku streaming device. The best pick is the Roku Express 4K Plus, which costs between $30 and $40 and has basically everything you need in a streamer. It’s the cheapest Roku with a remote that can also control any TV, meaning your guests don’t have to juggle clickers.

The most basic streaming device is the Roku Express, available for $25. Though it lacks 4K and the voice control feature of its siblings, it’s easy to install with an HDMI cable. The downside is that there is no TV control on the remote, so we think stepping up to the Express 4K Plus is worth it for your guests.

The $30 Roku Voice Remote Pro is also worth considering. It can be added to any Roku Streamer or TV and provides a few more guest-friendly perks, the coolest being the remote finder. If the remote gets lost — a potential scenario when there’s a steady stream of guests coming in and out — you can pinpoint its location by simply calling out to it. The Pro remote also has a headphone jack, so guests can watch their favorite shows or movies without disturbing others.


Roku TV and its handy voice remote.

Sarah Tew/CNET

2. Roku’s system is the easiest to use

Though Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast are also reasonably priced, Roku has them beat for simplicity. Roku devices operate smoothly and are a snap to set up, but the best part is the user-friendly, intuitive interface on the main screen. Guests of any age can easily navigate to apps by clicking icons for Hulu, Spotify, HBO Max, Apple TV Plus or Disney Plus

Roku’s simple grid of apps wins over the rest. Compared to Amazon’s clunky (and mildly infuriating) search process for Prime Video content, it’s a cinch to find titles or genres on a Roku. And Chromecast with Google TV has a home menu that focuses on the content rather than on the streaming apps themselves. 

3. Roku Guest Mode is a host’s best friend

Cue the drumroll. Hosts who don’t want to share their log-in credentials with visitors can activate “Guest Mode” (formerly known as Auto Sign Out Mode) on any Roku TV or streaming player. This feature allows guests to sign in to their own subscriptions for services like Netflix, Sling or Hulu. Guest Mode can be enabled for any Roku-linked device in any room of your rental property. Airbnb hosts on Reddit give it the thumbs-up. 

In order to set up this feature, you’ll need to add a PIN to your Roku account first and then launch it either directly on the device or from a remote location. Because the PIN is attached to your personal account, guests won’t be able to access your profile to watch content or make purchases.


Screenshot of Roku’s Guest Mode.

Kourtnee Jackson/CNET

Once guests click on Guest Mode, they’ll be prompted to enter a sign-off date, which means Roku will automatically log them out of the account when they leave. They also have the option to sign out manually any time before their departure date. In either case, their log-in credentials will be removed from the system.

The home screen has default channels such as Netflix and Prime Video, but guests can add channels or stream from their personal Roku library. If they forget to log out at the end of their stay, you can do it for them.

Because Roku devices are inexpensive, it may not hurt as much if your guest decides to snatch it when they leave. At least you can disable access from any location in the world. 

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