Why is their vacation rental already booked for summer and mine isn’t yet? What’s the secret behind my 6-bedroom property booking faster than my 2-bedroom rental? When will my guests start booking for the holidays? How long should I wait to raise or lower my rates?
Learning more about guests’ booking habits specific to your rentals will provide the answers you seek. As a vacation rental owner, understanding the typical booking windows — the lengths between the dates reservations are made and the dates guests arrive — for your properties throughout the year is essential to pricing strategically and maximizing revenue. Knowing when a guest will most likely book can help you determine when to adjust rates for a steady occupancy flow — a key in successful property management.
Not to mention, staying on top of typical booking windows can give you more peace of mind when your property hasn’t booked for certain dates yet. Instead of worrying something may be wrong, you’ll feel more secure by having a better grasp of the average booking habits for your properties and realize there are expected timeframes guests will make reservations. How do you predict booking lead times for your vacation rentals? If the time of year plays a part (and it certainly does), the number of bedrooms takes the leading role. Looking at your property’s bedroom count is the first step towards understanding booking windows, followed by annual averages and fluctuating trends.
What Is a Booking Window?
The time period between when a guest books and when they check in to your vacation rental is a booking window. Why is it important to understand the ins and outs of reservation lead times? By studying the average booking windows for your properties, it’s easier to tell when guests will typically book throughout the year. And if you can predict when reservations will pour in, you can set your rates accordingly to capitalize on demand.
For example, if you know your 1-bedroom rental typically books for Valentine’s Day 45 days before check-in, you can stimulate reservations for specific dates around that timeframe with dynamic pricing. Keeping rates on the higher side before, competitive during, and slowly lowered after peak booking time (around 45 days before Valentine’s Day) can help increase overall revenue and occupancy simultaneously.
How Does Bedroom Count Influence Booking Windows?
It’s no surprise vacation rental booking windows aren’t consistent across the board. For one thing, seasons and holidays can affect when guests book since these are prime times (depending on where your vacation rental is located) that push guests to book sooner due to higher demand. Yet, while the time of year guests plan to go on vacation matters, the number of bedrooms (a factor that rarely changes) can have an even greater influence on how far in advance guests will book. Why? A simple way to understand the effect of a property’s bedroom count on booking windows is by thinking like a guest!
A couple, a few friends, or a small family will presumably lean towards a 1-2 bedroom property. Small groups or larger families tend to opt for 3-5 bedroom rentals when they go on vacation. And family reunions, church retreats, wedding parties, and other large group gatherings will probably require a 6+ bedroom property.
Now, consider what it takes to prepare for a vacation. Guests will most likely need to ask for time off from work; party members could be spread across states or even countries; and some appointments may need to be rescheduled. As a fellow vacationer, you know planning takes time… And a higher number of people that need to coordinate schedules means a greater amount of time to get things settled.
With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why vacation rentals with a lower bedroom count typically have smaller booking windows. And in comparison, properties with many bedrooms have larger booking windows. While a couple or a family may spring for a last-minute stay, big groups need more time to get everything together and reserve their vacation rentals farther in advance.
Average Booking Windows by Property Size with Cabins for YOU
Let’s jump into the typical booking windows by property size for vacation rentals managed by Cabins for YOU, a family owned and operated vacation rental management company based in the Great Smoky Mountains. Keep in mind these results are from 2019. Recent trends show reservation lead times decreasing over the last few years, especially shrinking in 2020 with unexpected events. In other words, the annual averages below are predicted to grow even smaller, regardless of property size. Still, they are helpful to understand basic guest booking patterns in relation to bedroom count and time of year in the Smokies. Furthermore, having a basic understanding of your property’s potential booking windows can help you monitor the flow of reservations and act accordingly and swiftly to adjust prices when needed to help your property book better and sooner.
1-2 Bedroom Vacation Rentals
The start of 2019 shows guests booking 1-2 bedroom properties around 30 days in advance, with a 10-15 day increase moving into spring. Summertime peaks with June reservations made a few months before, and July through August stays had a little less reservation lead time between 43-50 days out. Fall is another peak season with guests booking as far as 73 days in advance for October. Thanksgiving and Christmas also pull in earlier reservations around 8-9 weeks before arrival.
3-5 Bedroom Vacation Rentals
January leads 2019 with guests booking up to 56 days out from their arrival date, with about a 2 week dip into February. Spring picks back up with a steady increase up to 7 weeks out, and summer kicks up to about 16.5 weeks out in June, decreasing to around 11-13 weeks for July and August stays. September falls (pun intended) back to around 7 weeks out, with October increasing to reservations made 12-13 weeks out. Not surprisingly, guests booked 3-5 bedroom properties around 100 days (a little over 14 weeks) for holiday stays in November and December.
6+ Bedroom Vacation Rentals
Larger properties ranging from 6-16 bedrooms booked between 100-200 days (14-28.5 weeks) in advance throughout 2019. While January remains consistent with smaller properties on the lower end of booking windows, February (when lovebirds make last-minute plans) saw a significant jump in comparison. Spring hovers between 14-16 weeks, and reservations made for June make a huge leap — up to 28.5 weeks in advance! Consistent with smaller properties, July and August bookings are made closer to arrival than June, up to almost 23 weeks out. October takes a different turn with bookings only about 18 weeks out. And as with other properties, November peaks with larger booking windows, 25-26 weeks in advance, while December (a time more families travel) falls behind with smaller booking windows, about 21 weeks out.
What We’ve Seen Affect Booking Windows
In the past, we have seen significant events affect booking windows. These have included the financial crash of 2009/2010, the 2016 Gatlinburg fires, and COVID-19. There is no predicting possible substantial influences in the future, and these could also strongly affect booking windows.
Strategic Management Company
By taking the number of bedrooms a property has into consideration when comparing vacation rental booking windows, understanding why some of your properties may not have booked yet, even for a popular season, becomes less mysterious. Of course, you need to plan strategically in order to capitalize on peak booking times and keep your property competitive throughout the year. And while pricing appropriately is important, you also need to make sure maintenance, housekeeping, and inspections are planned out properly for peak and last-minute arrival times as well.
It can take a lot of time and effort to stay on top of booking window research for your properties as well as fluctuating industry trends. Not to mention, coordinating staff or cleaning and inspecting yourself adds to your workload. Sure, you could opt to keep things the way they have always been and lose potential profits — OR — you can make the changes necessary to maximize your revenue. If creating and implementing new strategies for your properties sounds daunting, consider working with an experienced property management company that prides itself in honesty, hard work, and rewarding results — aka Cabins for YOU.
Why Cabins for YOU?
• We stay up to date on booking window research for more than 450 properties — daily.
• Regular meetings are held with our Traffic and Advertising Manager who ensures each property performs at their peak by thoroughly analyzing data reports that tell us what we need to know in order to price and market strategically.
• We coordinate with a full maintenance, housekeeping, and inspections staff who are trained to handle an influx of arrivals.
• Keyless entry is added to all properties on our program, which makes check-in easier both ways (another tool for quick arrivals).
• A personal Owner Relations representative will be assigned to you, so you can stay in the loop as much as you like!
• Guests can reserve your properties without a hassle via our up-to-date website that offers an enhanced booking process by computer or mobile device.
• A fully operational call center handles communication with guests via phone, email, and messaging so guests feel connected and heard.
• Surveys are sent out post stay to help improve the guest experience and foster positive reviews.
Understanding how bedroom count influences booking windows for your vacation rentals throughout the year will greatly help maximize revenue. Lean on Cabins for YOU to take care of the daily research needed to market and price strategically as well as care for your properties and keep them ready for any last-minute stays. Our many years of experience combined with proper analysis of booking window data practically guarantees optimal results — no matter the number of bedrooms!