How to get last-minute Airbnb bookings

Encourage even more quick getaways to your vacation rental

For decades, travel experts have dished out the same advice—book early. But today, in these post-COVID times, vacation rental guests are doing exactly the opposite.

Booking windows are shrinking and last-minute bookings are on the rise, as more and more travelers benefit from flexible working schedules. Spontaneous travel is also being buoyed by guests on a budget who are savvy—and patient—enough to hold out for a good deal.

The good news is that there are several ways to increase your Airbnb bookings—even those that are spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment.

What’s key: listing and promoting your vacation home in several places. Don’t simply rely on one channel to fill your calendar. At Vacasa, we list our vacation homes in several places online, from Airbnb to Vrbo to to Plus, we send out marketing emails, engage in social media marketing, and more.

Let’s dive into several strategies that can help drive last-minute Airbnb bookings and fill in the gaps in your calendar.

What’s considered a last-minute booking?

Last-minute bookings can mean different things to different homes in different markets. Though, generally it means the vacation home is booked very close to the start of the stay.

For instance, bookings made a month or a few weeks in advance in Hawaii or Costa Rica—which can require a longer flight— can be defined as last minute. While a last-minute stay in an urban market, such as Nashville or Seattle, can mean bookings made days (or even hours) in advance.

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Who books last minute?

Travelers who book on short notice tend to:

Love getting a deal

Many savvy travelers intentionally hold off on making travel plans so they can leverage discounts.

Prefer booking on mobile

Many apps offering discounted, unsold accommodations have popped up over the last several years catering exclusively to the last-minute market.

Embrace spontaneity

Hello, quick getaways. People have more flexibility than ever before, thanks to remote or hybrid working arrangements.

Enjoy taking several short trips

In our 2023 Summer Travel Trends Report, we found that 77% of travelers were planning trips that were 2 days or less.

The living room of a vacation rental in Idaho overlooking a lake.

How can I get last-minute bookings?

Vacancies happen, but your vacation home doesn’t have to sit empty. Here are strategies for Airbnb hosts and vacation homeowners to attract guests with narrow booking windows.

Reduce your minimum stay

Today’s travelers are flexible; your booking calendar could be too. Last-minute stays tend to be 1 to 3 nights, versus the traditional 1-week long vacations. Consider removing minimum stays to make your vacation home more attractive to these spontaneous travelers and encourage shorter stays.

Simplify the mobile booking experience

Smooth out your mobile user experience so guests can book a stay with the least amount of effort possible. This will also help prevent them from stopping midway through the transaction and booking someplace else. Some ways to do that:

  • Get rid of any unnecessary visual clutter and excessive copy
  • Minimize the number of steps it takes to book
  • Continue to test and collect feedback from users on how to improve their booking experience

At Vacasa, we’ve made booking a vacation home super simple. Our Vacasa app allows guests to easily search and book thousands of homes, see their trip details, have access to their vacation home guide, get digital lock codes, quickly access the Wifi, and more.

Adjust your rates

Pricing for last-minute bookings is critical. However, don’t just blindly slash your rate. Price your vacation rental to maximize both your bookings and your rental income.

This is where it helps to have a dynamic pricing tool. At Vacasa, our dynamic pricing automatically adjusts your home’s rates according to market conditions that drive or drop demand, such as:

  • Season
  • Holidays
  • Weather
  • Upcoming events
  • Competition

Offer discounts or incentives

Last-minute bookers are often looking for a discount. Consider offering a special to fill in those gaps in your calendar. The discount should:

  • Make sense for your bottomline. For example, the discounted rate should still cover your cleaning costs.
  • Encourage last-minute bookings
  • Make you stand out from the competition

Discounts aren’t the only incentives you can offer. You can get creative here. Create partnerships in your destination and offer tickets to a local show, festival, experience, or activity.

Airbnb makes it easy to create custom promotions to reduce your nightly rate as the vacant dates get closer. When you offer at least a 10% discount, Airbnb will automatically cross out your original rate and show the new rate—letting users know you’re offering a deal and encouraging them to book with you.

Send out marketing emails

If you’ve built an email list of your past guests, send out emails announcing your vacant dates and a special offer to book. Try to specifically target those guests who are within driving distance and more likely to take a spontaneous trip.

Target your drive market with social media ads

Facebook advertising can be powerful. They collect so many data points from users that you can place your vacation rental in front of a very targeted audience—including users who live within driving distance and have liked or visited other travel-related Facebook pages.

When building out your ad, use your most attractive exterior home image (our own Vacasa digital marketing team has found those images generally get the most clicks) and write strong copy to compel last-minute visitors to book.

The bedroom of a vacation rental in Laclede, Idaho with a farmhouse design.
An elegant living room with farm house modern design at a vacation rental in Laclede, Idaho.
The dining area and kitchen of an elegant lakefront vacation rental in Laclede, Idaho.

Turn on Airbnb’s Instant Book and Vrbo’s Instant Booking

When travelers are booking on short notice, they don’t have time to wait on you to approve their stay. Instead, they can use the search filter to only see homes with Airbnb’s Instant Book and Vrbo’s Instant Booking badges, allowing them to book and be confirmed on the spot. No back and forth communication needed.

List on websites catering to last-minute bookers

Look beyond your typical channels to fill those empty dates on your booking calendar. Today, there are several niche sites and mobile apps that specifically target last-minute travelers, such as Whimstay.

Perfect your last-minute turnovers

Last-minute travelers could arrive in just a few days or even less than 24 hours. You should already have a professional vacation rental housekeeping service that will clean your vacation home as soon as the previous guest checks out. That way, your home is cleaned, stocked, and ready to go—even on short notice.

At Vacasa, our housekeepers follow a 140-point cleaning checklist to make sure every home is thoroughly cleaned before the next arrival.

Update your vacation rental listing

Consider your vacation rental listing to be your biggest advertisement—an essential marketing tool that should constantly be improved and updated. Here’s how you can spur last-minute getaways:

Leverage local events

Research local festivals and events happening in the low season that would draw travelers to your area. From winter festivals to Oktoberfest celebrations, out-of-towners will be looking for a place to stay. Here are some ways you can leverage local events to draw in those last-minute bookings:

  • Mention upcoming local events in your profile listing and your distance from them.
  • Send out marketing emails with a calendar of events.
  • Post about upcoming local happenings on your social media channels (if an event has its own hashtag, make sure to use it so you’ll pop up in the search results for that hashtag).
  • Adjust your rates to match the demand, instead of discounting (again, this is where dynamic pricing for short-term rentals kicks in).

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Vacasa Seasonals Inc.
California DRE #02160171

Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc.
California DRE #01523013

Vacasa offers property management and other real estate services directly through Vacasa LLC and through Vacasa LLC's licensed subsidiaries. Click here for more information about Vacasa's licensed real estate brokerage/property manager in your state. Vacasa’s licensed real estate brokerages/property managers include: Vacasa Alabama LLC; Vacasa Arizona LLC; Vacasa of Arkansas LLC; Vacasa Colorado LLC (Micah Victory); Vacasa Delaware LLC, 302-541-8999; Vacasa Florida LLC; Vacasa Illinois LLC 481.014072, Micah Victory Managing Broker Lic# 471.021837; Vacasa Louisiana LLC, Dana MacCord, Principal Broker, ph 504.252.0155 (Licensed in LA); Vacasa Michigan LLC, 602-330-9934; Vacasa Missouri LLC, Vicki Lyn Brown, Designated Broker; Vacasa Nevada LLC; Vacasa New Hampshire LLC,45 NH-25, Meredith, NH 03253, Susan Scanlon, Broker of Record; Vacasa Minnesota, Broker: Micah Victory, license #40877637; Vacasa New Mexico LLC, 503-345-9399; Vacasa New York LLC, 888-433-0068, Susan Scanlon, Real Estate Broker; Vacasa North Carolina LLC; Vacasa Oregon LLC; Vacasa Pennsylvania LLC; Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc., California DRE #01523013, Mark Graham, California DRE #00700720; Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Texas, Debra Brock, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Washington, Robert Brush, Designated Broker); Vacasa Seasonals Inc., California DRE #02160171, Lisa Renee Stevens, California DRE #01485234; Vacasa South Carolina LLC; Vacasa South Dakota LLC; Vacasa Tennessee LLC; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Hawaii LLC, 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr. Ste. #2F17, Waikoloa, HI 96738; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Montana LLC, Terah M. Young, Licensed Property Manager; Vacasa Virginia LLC; Vacasa Wisconsin LLC; Vacasa Wyoming LLC. In Canada, this advertisement is provided by Vacasa Canada ULC, CPBC lic. number 75826, 172 Asher Rd. V1X 3H6 Kelowna, BC.