Kati Wilkins knows that the littlest things can make the biggest difference and she has 200 five-star reviews to prove it.

Wilkins is the proprietor-hostess of Mermaid’s Lagoon, a popular home-based vacation rental located in Kill Devil Hills, and she is tuned in to what makes guests smile. “It is the teeny tiny touches,” she says, “it is the willingness to go that extra step. I am passionate about it.”

Wilkins, a professional photographer by trade, started her in-home Airbnb five years ago, beginning with a guest room.

“The rentals were really good,” Wilkins says, adding “that extra income gave us enough money to remodel to a two-bedroom rental suite, and then we were able to add an in-ground pool.” A second home is now in the works.

“We are making a bigger investment in our future in a lot of ways. We meet folks from all over the world. We have had guests from Iceland, Greenland, France… everyone we meet, we develop a personal connection.”

“We like to live like locals when we travel, so when you show up at Mermaid’s Lagoon, you get a friendly welcome. We help you bring your bags in, we tuck some flowers from the garden in your room. We set up the coffee pot, so all you have to do is press a button in the morning.”

Wilkins says she is “passionate” about providing guests with a memorable stay.

“We love to make new connections and we especially love that we have repeat customers.”

In addition to her collection of rave reviews, Wilkins is also an Airbnb super host and a community ambassador, “and I love to help other women bump up their rentals, too.”

Marsha Johnson understands the art of the little things, too. Her vacation rental, Sweet Dreams, is fairly new to the market and she has lists of amenities for her guests to enjoy. Well versed in what makes people happy, Johnson is a baker of cakes, mostly for the local wedding industry. Her experience with details has helped her fine tune her cozy yet luxurious vacation rental.

“We have lots of beach equipment for our guests, including chairs, umbrella, sand spike, coolers, corn hole game and bike. When you arrive, you will be greeted with a box of my famous Great Cakes! Key Lime Bliss cupcakes,” Johnson says.

If you have ever tasted her secret recipe, this should get you excited. If new to her taste experiences, know this is a huge perk.

Colington Island resident Amanda Hooper has two vacation rentals that keep her busy, one is in Kill Devil Hills, and the other is in Stumpy Point. Maintaining them is not for the feint of heart and Hooper spends a lot of time traveling to and fro, cleaning and upgrading her properties.

As an environmentally sensitive entrepreneur, little things, for her, are really big things when viewed with a global perspective.

“Our guests use a lot of bar soap, there are always leftover pieces. I found a place where I can ship the bits and they can be repurposed,” Hooper says. The company she works with is Clean the World, founded with the mission of reducing the waste while working to prevent hygiene-related illnesses.

Hooper says she willingly share her island love with her guests, including insider info on where to score the freshest local seafood. Hooper comes from a fishing family and is never far from the docks.

Little things are relative. When you rent the Sweet Pickle Shack from Brooke Mayo, one big ‘little’ thing you’d better have is a 4x4 vehicle to get you there.

Located in an ultra-private, off road spot on Corova Beach – the northernmost Outer Banks community, and is only accessible by the unpaved beach — this is one important little detail; you absolutely must have a four-wheel drive to get you there. Even if you need to rent one, it will be worth it. After a breathtaking drive ocean-side, you will find yourself in the perfect location for secluded walks, star gazing and bonfires with ‘smores. It is even highly likely that you will see wild horses grazing from one of the two decks. Remember, though, they are wild, so do not feed them or pet them.

Heavy on the quaint, Mayo’s three-bedroom, two-bath getaway is full of clever touches and two decks, one screened. Also a professional photographer, her attention to details can be found in every nook and cranny. There are lots of new touches this year, inside in out, and many of them are whimsical and colorful.

“The cute cottage is an easy walk to the ocean, or you can drive, if you have a lot of gear,” Mayo says. “We love to take our girls up there when it isn’t rented.”

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