How to Handle Late Arriving Vacation Rental Guests

Nov 30, 2017 | Guest Experience

Just like hotels, most vacation rental owners set an arrival time or windows that their guests are expected to keep. Of course, we can’t always plan on late flights, emergencies, getting lost, or other events out of our control, and inevitably there will be a guest who arrives much later than anticipated.
If you’ve been in this position, you likely had a few options:

1 Wait for the guest to arrive, regardless of how late it is
2 Leave and come back when they’ve arrived
3 Hide a key somewhere safe and tell the guest where to find it

None of these are ideal, but when you manage your own property you probably don’t have much of a choice. Even if you’ve hired a professional vacation rental management company to handle guest check-ins they’ll have to select one of those options (hopefully not the last one!). We know from experience and guest reviews that the entire stay is better enjoyed when there’s someone on site to initiate the guest’s entrance to the property. And that is the second, and probably last, way vacation rentals are like hotels.

Unfortunately, late arriving guests are always going to be a part of the vacation rental industry. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can prepare yourself for a late arriving guest to reduce the amount of time spent waiting around.
How to prepare for late arriving guests

Create clear arrival times at booking:
For most guests, knowing they have a window to arrive at the property (say, 3 to 7pm) is plenty. But it also prompts any guest with a late flight or who won’t be able to get on the road until after work to ask about the late check-in policy. The downside is you’ll have to make an exception to the window in order to keep the booking, but the upside is this guest will probably be grateful and express his gratitude in a review – he may even turn into a repeat guest because of your flexibility.

2 Get flight details:
A quick check on a flight tracker app will help you keep tabs on when your guest will actually arrive. Flight details are especially important during major holidays and when guests are flying from an area experiencing extreme weather (hello, East Coast!).

3 Make initial communications via cell phone:
If the first time you’re contacting the guest is to ask why they’re two hours late, you may not get a response. Calling or texting before the guest begins traveling opens the line of communication and helps you both stay in contact through unexpected troubles. A simple “have safe travels and looking forward to meeting you!” can go a long way. Plus, it’s smart to make sure the main contact number is functioning before it’s urgent. It’s also a great way to subliminally encourage the guest to go straight to the property – knowing there’s someone waiting to let them in (which is decidedly not how hotels work) will likely prevent them from taking the scenic route or stopping by the grocery store.

All of these points can be boiled down to one simple strategy: communication. Communicate early and often with your guests; you’ll be surprised how far this simple effort will go in establishing trust, friendship, and general goodwill between you and your guests.

Ryan Danz is the founder of Air Concierge, a vacation rental property management organization designed to improve the vacation and short-term rental home experience for property owners and their guests. Ryan is also a California licensed attorney, well-versed in the tax matters surrounding short-term rental properties and offers his insight to his clients.


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