The Pros and Cons of Accepting Last-Minute Booking Requests

Josh SchukmanSeptember 6, 2023

The Pros and Cons of Accepting Last-Minute Booking Requests

Most of us love seeing our booking calendars fill up weeks (and even months) in advance. But renters don’t always operate this way. 

Sometimes spontaneity adds to the thrill of travel. Sometimes an adventurer makes a last-minute decision to ditch the hotels for an RV rental. And sometimes folks just get a wild hair to rent a camper and roll out. 

In fact, our renter data shows that one in seven RV booking requests are made within three days of departure!

This post breaks out the pros and cons of flash booking requests. We’ll also show you how to set up your hosting dashboard to either open it for these bookings or shut them off. 

What Are Last-Minute Bookings?

These are bookings that occur within a few days of trip departure. We even see lots of same-day booking requests where the renter wants to leave the same day they rent an RV. 

Unfortunately, those same-day requests are a large driver of host cancellations. But they don’t have to be! We have settings right in your host dashboard so you can capture same-day/last-minute requests if you want to and avoid them if you don’t.  

Before you decide to flip the off switch though, bear in mind that same-day bookings make up nearly 20% of annual revenue for many of the hosts that accept them. That’s a big chunk to leave on the table!

How to Turn Last Minute Bookings On (or Off) in Your Host Dashboard

The primary lever to pull here is our INSTAbook feature. One of the biggest reasons we see hosts canceling on last-minute bookings is because they didn’t realize how their INSTAbook was set and therefore weren’t prepared for the booking. 

Don’t let this be you.

It’s no skin off our nose if last-minute and same-day bookings aren’t the fit for your business — but cancellations aren’t good for anyone (and you can get penalized for too many of them).

That’s why it’s really important to make sure your INSTAbook is set the way you want. Here’s how to do it:

-In the classic host dashboard, INSTAbook appears in the ‘pricing’ tab for each listing you want to adjust. Check out this short screencast to see how to change that setting:

-In our new host dashboard, the INSTAbook settings appear in the ‘policies’ tab. Check out this screenshot to see where to adjust that:

Last-Minute Bookings = An Opportunity To Grow Your Business

Instant gratification is the name of the game for most travelers. That’s why many renters will skip over your rig if they can’t instantly book it. 

And a sizable chunk of these renters are last-minute planners. If you don’t have your INSTAbook settings ready to take last-minute and same-day bookings, you’re likely missing out on revenue. 

We even pulled a bunch of data on this and found that last-minute bookings make up nearly 20% of annual revenue for many of the hosts that accept them.  

That said, we understand that not every RV owner is interested in or able to accept last-minute bookings. 

We’re calling this out to get you noodling on whether or not short-notice bookings are right for you. Because if there were a few things you could adjust in your business to start accepting them, it’d likely result in higher revenues for you. 

For example, if you usually only clean your rig before each booking, why not start cleaning it immediately after a trip return? That way it’s ready to roll for any quick requests.

And if you’re worried a same-day booker might want to pick your rig up while you’re at work — you could always have someone on standby (spouse, friend, ect.) who could help you with the key exchange. 

Are INSTAbook-ers Verified Drivers?

All Outdoorsy renters who use INSTAbook will be presented with the same driver verification process as those who request to book manually. If you turn on INSTAbook and set it to accept last-minute bookings, you’ll want to confirm that your renter is verified before completing the key exchange.

Driver verification is important for many reasons – chief among them being that verification is a requirement for the trip to be covered by Outdoorsy’s episodic insurance.

If you have a stated policy in your listing that all drivers must be verified (which you almost always should!) and a last-minute booker can’t get verified ahead of their trip, you can cancel without penalty.

The Pros of Accepting Same-Day/Last-Minute Bookings

  • Tap into an untapped source of revenue
  • Fill empty space on your booking calendar
  • Option to increase your nightly price for last minute bookings (by adjusting your nightly price up for short-notice windows on your calendar)
  • You’ll eliminate the risk of a host cancellation  penalty if you’re prepared to accept last-minute bookings
  • Meet a new segment of fun and spontaneous renters 

The Cons of Accepting Same-Day/Last-Minute Bookings

  • Less time to vet renters
  • Possibility of longer key exchanges (more to explain in person rather than via messages)
  • Figuring out last-minute logistics can be tricky (but it gets smoother the more you do it)
  • Might not always fit your work schedule
  • Renters might instant book a rig that’s bigger than their experience (but this can be partly addressed with a detailed listing description)

The decision whether or not to accept last-minute bookings is one that’ll vary from host to host. It depends on how your business is set up, how many rigs you have, your comfort level, who you might have helping you, and more. 

The key thing is that you have your INSTAbook settings dialed into your business preparedness so you don’t risk a host cancellation. The tips above will help you execute on whichever direction you chose. 

Josh and his wife traveled around the country in an '88 Airstream for 4+ years of full-time RVing. They made an unexpected pitstop in Montana in 2020 and haven't left since. That's because they got hooked on the glamping resort they run by Glacier National Park. Fittingly, they keep up their RVing love by renting out vintage Airstreams and other retro RVs to travelers hitting Montana.

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