Listing your properties on multiple channels is a great way to get more bookings. But doing so means you’ll need to keep all your calendars in sync. Here’s what you need to know about vacation rental calendar synchronization.
3 Ways to Keep Your Vacation Rental Calendars in Sync
There are 3 main ways to keep all your short-term rental calendars in sync. You might also end up using some combination of these.
- Manually Updating – Time consuming and difficult to manage if you’re using Instant Book, but ensures no double bookings.
- Using iCal – Easy to set up, free, supported by all the major listing sites, but has a possible time delay of up to a few hours.
- Using a Channel Manager – Real-time syncing, convenient, and requires a paid subscription to a vacation rental management software (see our favorite channel managers).
Let’s take a look at each of these options in more detail.
Updating Your Calendars Manually
If you are manually approving each booking (rather than using Instant Book), you can simply go into your other calendars and block the dates before approving a new booking.
This is a time consuming process, especially if you are getting frequent bookings and listing on several channels. But if this fits in your workflow, this is an option you can consider to prevent double bookings.
Syncing with iCal
iCalendar (or shortened, iCal) is a standard file type (usually .ics) that allows users to store and exchange calendaring and scheduling information (e.g. vacation rental bookings). It was created to “provide the definition of a common format for openly exchanging calendaring and scheduling information across the Internet.” (Wikipedia)
The iCal format is widely used and supported by many different products, including Google Calendar, Apple/iOS/iCloud Calendar (formerly called iCal, which is admittedly confusing), and Microsoft Outlook.
In the vacation rental industry, all the major listing sites and OTAs use the iCal format, including: Airbnb, Booking.com, Homeaway (VRBO, Stayz), Expedia, Tripadvisor (FlipKey, HolidayLettings, HouseTrip, VacationRentals), CanadaStays, Homestay, Agoda, 9Flats, Wimdu, and many others.
How to Use iCal to Sync Vacation Rental Calendars
To sync your vacation rental iCal calendars, you simply need to export and import the calendars into each other. For example, if you want to sync Airbnb and Booking.com, you’d import your Airbnb calendar into Booking.com, and vice versa.
This creates a 2-way sync between the platforms. Here are some Airbnb iCal sync tutorials we put together:
And here are the iCal calendar import/export instructions from some of the major listing sites:
- Airbnb iCal instructions
- VRBO/Homeaway iCal instructions
- Booking.com iCal instructions
- Tripadvisor iCal instructions
So if you want to connect Booking.com and VRBO, simply read each platform’s instructions for how to import and export iCal calendars.
If you’re taking direct bookings on your website, your booking software or plugin should have instructions for how to import/export iCal calendars to keep your website in sync with listing sites.
Syncing Multiple Listing Sites
If you are only listing on two sites, then you just this process is very straightforward. If you’re listing on 3 or more, there are two approaches you can take.
1: Connect All Calendars to Each Other
Make a list of each of your calendars, and go down setting up a 2-way connection between each one.
2: Sync All Calendars to a Master Calendar
Choose one calendar (e.g. Airbnb) to be your master calendar, and sync all other calendars with this one. This is also the approach used by channel managers, which allow you seamlessly sync multiple channels from one convenient dashboard.
The Issue With Relying on iCal Sync
While iCal is very convenient, it also has a major drawback. It can take several hours for your calendars to update. It’s up to each individual platform how often their calendars sync, but it usually takes at least 1 to 2 hours.
This leaves the possibility of double bookings. Fortunately, depending on how frequently you get bookings, the chance that two guests book the same dates on different platforms within a few hours of each other may be quite low.
But if you want to take further steps to prevent double bookings, you can either manually refresh your calendars when you receive a booking, or use a channel manager.
Using a Vacation Rental Channel Manager
The most convenient way to sync your vacation rental calendars is to use a channel manager. A channel manager is software that enables you to automatically distribute your property listings across multiple booking channels. Depending on the platform, this means you can sync calendar availability, rates, and other property details.
Investing in vacation rental management software is one of the best ways to manage and scale your business. Here are a few platforms we recommend if you’re interested in using a channel manager:
If you want more information on choosing a channel manager, check out our guide to the best vacation rental channel managers.