While guest expectations have led to a consistent ramping up of standards for vacation rentals, one standard that still falls under the “it depends” category for both hotels and vacation rentals is late checkout.
At a hotel you might be asked to call down on the day of checkout to arrange something, in part because it doesn’t really “cost” the hotel anything to extend a bit of courtesy to you, as long as they have rooms available for check in. Obviously, that’s not the case for STR. The next guests are often coming not long after the last guest leaves, and the cleaning crew only has a set time to get everything sparkling, because if that’s one thing that is always expected by vacation rental guests, it’s hotel-level cleanliness.
But there are a few strategies that STR hosts can use to deal with late checkout requests. Let’s take a look.
House Rules and Communication
Make sure that you clearly spell out when the checkout time is in your house rules and in your communications with guests try to find out what their checkout (and check in) times are as soon as possible.
Late Checkout Policy
The overwhelming majority of guests are fine with standard checkout and checkin times, usually sometime around 11am for checkout and sometime after 2 or 3pm for check in. But sometimes people have a business meeting or a late flight and they need just a bit more time.
If it’s a question of a couple hours, consider a late checkout fee. This can be 50% of the cost of a regular night, and you can capture a bit more revenue for just a slight shift in scheduling on your side. The two conditions necessary for this to work are your cleaning crew being able to come later and your incoming guest being willing to accept luggage storage instead of a check in (more on that in a sec). Often time guests will be understanding of a fellow guest’s late departure, as long as they have the ability to drop off their stuff and get out to see things.
If it’s a question of 4-5 hours encourage them to book an additional night (if it’s available, obviously). This will allow them to take their time instead of rushing to check out on time. This also makes sure you’re not having to account for all types of variables.
Don’t Offer It
But every vacation rental is different, and the situation may simply not allow for a variance in checkout time. If a guest is insistent on a late checkout time and if it’s reasonable for you, consider allowing them to cancel with no penalty. The last thing you want is for someone to promise you they will checkout on time, but then fail to do so and lead you into bigger problems.
Something along the lines of, “If you really need a late checkout, you’ll probably need to book elsewhere. We just aren’t set up to accommodate that. I’m happy to cancel your stay at no charge to you.” This professional handling will often be appreciated and may lead to the guest deciding to stay anyway or to choose you for a future stay because of the honest and pleasant way you handled the situation.
Offer Off-site Luggage Storage
Sometimes the only reason guests want a late checkout is the need to store luggage. This is an easy way for hosts to add a bit more revenue for a marginal amount of effort.
Speak with a neighbor or business in your area and ask if you can let guests store their luggage for a nominal fee that you split with them 50/50. They just need to be physically present during the window that the guests plan to pick up their luggage and have the luggage in a secure place.
This content originally appeared in our twice-monthly Guest Book newsletter.