A Simple Guide to Minimum Length of Stay Restrictions

If you are a vacation rental host or property manager, an advance setting like Minimum Length of Stay Restrictions gives you more control over your vacation rental. This prevents travelers from booking a stay that is shorter than your preference. When applied correctly, it can also increase the occupancy of your rental and bring in more revenue. 

What is the Minimum Length of Stay Restriction? 

Vacation rental owners and property managers commonly use the Minimum length of stay restrictions to manage their bookings for different seasons and booking windows. It is an advanced feature that helps property managers optimize their occupancy. 

Property Managers usually extend a minimum length of stay during high-demand seasons. This helps them make up for low occupancy during low-demand seasons.  For instance, during a week-long festival in the vicinity, property managers would likely mandate booking their vacation rental for a minimum period of 7 days. It is because, during that period, guests are more likely to book their rental for the entire week.

Keeping a minimum length of stay restriction of 7 days will not only prevent orphan days during the week but also because they don’t want their rental to be unoccupied during high-demand days when they can get more revenue. If they don’t mandate a 7-day stay restriction then their rental can get booked for 4 days during a time when the demand is for 7 days causing them to deal with an empty rental for the remaining 3 days. With minimum night restrictions, property managers can regulate reservations and ensure that their property is occupied during high-demand periods.

Since it is an advanced feature, it is advisable that you first gain complete knowledge of your market and have a clear understanding of what kind of bookings you want to get before using the minimum length of stay restrictions. 

If you set a longer minimum night restriction when the ongoing market trend is for shorter stays then you will lose out on bookings. This can seem intimidating at first. However, if you know how to anticipate the needs of your guests and make the most of the opportunities provided by the market, then using this strategy can prove to be the most profitable. 

Getting Started with Minimum Length of Stay Restriction for your vacation rental 

Minimum night restrictions are used to increase your vacation rental’s occupancy rate. It is important to understand when to mandate longer stays and when to let your guests decide if they prefer a longer length of stay. 

Now, the guests require more flexibility, and they go to service providers who offer them that flexibility. Complicated policies and restrictions like an extended minimum length of stay requirements are usually an inconvenience that they don’t prefer. So, they move on to vacation rentals that give them the least hassle and most services. 

Also, if you don’t have a solid minimum length of stay restrictions strategy in place, your online visibility is directly affected. If a guest is searching for vacation rentals for a period not aligned with your stay restrictions, your property will be filtered out by booking channels and cost you valuable direct bookings in the long run. 

However, if you don’t have any minimum night restrictions, there are more chances of one-night bookings or shorter bookings that will increase gaps in your calendar and your maintenance cost will go up. This will also open your vacation rentals to more parties (and more complaints from your neighbors). It’ll require more cost and effort to maintain your rental for your next guests. Although you can cover these costs by charging your guests an Airbnb cleaning fee while booking but that doesn’t mean less work for you. Who wants to clean the house and refill complimentary toiletries every day?  

Therefore, it is wise to have minimum night restrictions but only after knowing the ongoing trends in the market. How do you do that? You get yourself a subscription to software like PriceLabs, where you can completely customize your strategy for different demand days and optimize your occupancy. Continue reading till the end to understand how PriceLabs helps you understand the market trends in your neighborhood. Start with a one-month free subscription, and check out our pricing plans you’ll be hooked. 

Continue reading to know different minimum stay strategies and how you can customize them on PriceLabs.

Minimum Length of Stay Restriction Strategies

Let’s understand the various strategies used by vacation rental owners and property managers to set their minimum length of stay restrictions in order to maximize their occupancy. The first thing you need to understand about this strategy is that it can’t remain constant. You have to consistently check the trends in the market and update your restrictions accordingly. Below are a few commonly used strategies:

Short Minimum Stays (3 to 7 days):

If you have a bigger property like a 3 bedroom apartment or villa, then you should consider keeping a longer minimum stay of 3 to 7 days because people usually book bigger properties for a longer period. Also, by mandating a longer minimum length of stay, you can make sure you are not spending too much on the upkeep of the property, which tends to be more for bigger listings. This would also discourage people from booking your property for parties and one-day events. 

Another reason why you might consider keeping a longer minimum stay is when you are situated in a market that predominantly has longer minimum stays. For example, markets like Florida and the outer banks of North Carolina predominantly have a seven-night minimum stay. In this case, you can allow a comparatively lower minimum stay, for instance, of five days. By allowing greater flexibility, you will be in a position to charge more for your properties. 

Longer minimum stays are also used in seasonal markets like beach towns, mountains, etc to make up for the low bookings recorded during low-demand seasons.

In other instances, some property managers choose to opt for the strategy of longer lengths of stay at lower rates. In that case, they mandate a longer length of stay but at a comparatively lower rate than the market to attract more bookings. 

Short minimum stays (1 to 2 days):

Properties situated in urban markets usually prefer to keep their minimum length of stay restrictions limited to a 1 day period. This is especially common for studio apartments and 1 bedroom apartments. In general, a 1-day minimum length of stay period is used for weekdays. It is because urban markets are not seasonal markets and seldom get longer bookings that are usually prevalent in seasonal markets during high-demand seasons. 

These properties use a 2-day minimum length of stay during weekends. Bigger listings and properties in seasonal markets choose a shorter minimum stay of 2 days during low demand season. 

Depending on your market, a shorter minimum stay is usually preferred by:

  1. Business travelers
  2. Travelers looking for a short break 
  3. Groups looking for a place to party
  4. People looking for a staycation or a weekend getaway 

Mid-Term Minimum Stay (30 days+) 

Property managers and vacation rental owners sometimes prefer to decrease their per-night rates to encourage mid-length stays. This is to increase their occupancy during low-demand seasons. In that case, they make it mandatory to book their properties for a minimum of 30 days. 

Mid-Term Stays are also used by property owners in markets where the government has put a cap on short-term stays. For example, in Charleston, the government allows a listing to operate as a short-term rental for only 144 days in a year. For the rest of the time, it is mandatory for them to take bookings for at least 30 days. In this case, managers choose to make their properties available for short-term rental during high demand season and set a minimum length of stay restriction of 30 days during low demand season. 

Orphan Day Bookings 

Orphan days are the gaps between two bookings that are shorter than the minimum length of stay mandated by the property manager. Due to this, they will be unbookable because they don’t meet the requirement for minimum night restrictions. You can make the one or two nights gap or orphan days bookable by setting separate minimum night settings for these orphan days, 

You can specify that any of the minimum nights’ rules be overridden if the default minimum nights rule is longer than an orphan gap in bookings.  

Adjacent Day Bookings 

These settings allow you to take shorter bookings when they don’t create a gap night. This will allow you to avoid orphan days in the future. There are two options available under this setting as well: 

  1. Adjacent bookings BEFORE an existing booking/block: These settings are useful to specify what kind of bookings you’re comfortable taking before another existing booking/blocked date. For example, a 2-night booking is okay to take if it starts two nights before an existing unavailable date (thus resulting in no gap days).
  2. Adjacent bookings AFTER an existing booking/block: These settings are restricted to the day after an existing booking – you can specify if you are okay with a shorter booking after an existing reservation as long as it doesn’t create a gap.

7. Last-Minute bookings 

Guests are most likely to book for shorter durations when booking at the last minute, so having the same restrictions as far-out bookings is not advisable. You will learn more about how to decide the minimum length of stay according to the booking window in this article. 

Let me give you an example to better understand this strategy. In the image used below, we have set the next seven days to have a 1-night minimum requirement for weekdays and 2-nights for weekends. This can greatly increase the chances of getting last-minute bookings that tend to be shorter. You can specify up to 3 last-minute min-night rules.

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8. Far-Out Bookings 

When guests are booking vacation rentals quite in advance, they usually plan to stay for a longer period. This is useful for filling up your calendar with longer bookings far out and allows a regular 2 or the 3-night minimum in the main booking window (depending on your location).

Using this strategy, you can specify a minimum night’s length and specify how many days far out this should become active. For example, if your guest is booking your property 6 months in advance, they have to book the property for at least 7 days. 

How do you set Minimum Length of Stay Restrictions on PriceLabs? 

Now that you understand how to use different strategies according to your market let’s talk about how you can set minimum stay restrictions. With PriceLabs, you can set up rules for applying default minimum night requirements, and apply special minimum night rules for last-minute bookings, orphan-day / gap-day bookings, and far-out bookings. 

  1. Go to the “Edit” button on the Customizations panel when reviewing prices for a listing.
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  1. Next, head to the “Stay Restrictions” tab.
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  1. Once you toggle on the “Minimum Stay Update” option, a larger menu will open up. 
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You will see six options available to you. Each option will help you set minimum night restrictions for different kinds of demand. Below I have listed the options and how to use each one of them:

Select a minimum-stay profile: 

There are two sub-options available here:

  1. If you have an appropriate min-stay profile saved on your account, you can use that profile instead of entering all the fields again (more on min-stay profiles later in this article!). This option is more useful for those who already have profiles made on PriceLabs. If you are new, you will use the second option. 
  2. With this option, you can enter custom values. Here, you can choose the custom option and fill in the fields below as desired.

Default Min Stay Rule: This is the default setting. It is applied to any dates that don’t have one of the special rules that can be applied as an exception (as I mentioned earlier, you can set different restrictions for different dates). 

Minimum Stay for Last Minute Bookings: This option allows you to set minimum stay restrictions when the guest is booking your rental at the last minute. 

Minimum Stay for Far-Out Bookings: Minimum Stay for Far-Out bookings allows you to specify the minimum night’s length and how far out this should be active. You can specify up to 3 last min-night rules (you can anticipate all the likely scenarios and have rules or that, how cool is that!). 

Minimum Stay for Orphan Bookings: You get a few different options in the drop-down menu (each of these is activated only if the min-stay setting needs to be reduced to accommodate a booking):

  1. Length of Gap: For any gap of the length specified in the box (in the example above, gaps between 1 and 4 days), we will set the minimum to be the same as the length of the gap. If you are using a value-based default minimum stay, this will change the daily rates of the orphan period to meet your required booking value.
  2. (Length of Gap – 1): For any gap of the length specified in the box (in the example above, gaps between 1 and 4 days), we will set the minimum stay to be one night shorter than the length of the gap. This is useful because it might be hard to fill a 4-day gap with an exactly 4-night booking, but somewhat easier to find a 3-night booking, although it will leave a 1-day gap open (giving you enough time to clean and prepare the rental for the next guest). 

Note that 1-day gaps will stay at a 1-night minimum. If you are using a valued-based default minimum length of stay restrictions, then the daily rates for orphan periods are adjusted so that the shortest stay allowed meets the required minimum booking value. 

Minimum Stay for Adjacent Bookings: These settings allow you to take shorter bookings when they don’t create a gap night. This will allow you to avoid orphan days in the future. Note that these settings rely on the start date that is used for min-stay restrictions. 

By now, you understand how to apply different restrictions for different circumstances in a way that you can make the most of high-demand dates without leaving any orphan days. Now, we’ll talk about how you can use PriceLabs Market Dashboards to understand how guests are booking according to the lead time. This will help you decide how many night restrictions you want to apply according to the booking window. 

The Length of Stay and Lead Time Section

The Length of Stay by Stay Date graph shows the typical duration of bookings made for any given date in the past number of days selected. You can hover over the graph to see details on stay length and average nightly rate for a specific date. The chart below shows that most of the bookings made were for short-duration stays (less than seven days), with the most popular stay length being 3-4 days.

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In the above graph, you can see that the most common length of stay is 3-4 days and most of the bookings are made 1-2 months in advance. So, you can set a minimum night restriction for 3 days for the bookings made 60 days in advance. This will help you get all the potential bookings.

The Length of Stay and Booking Window Trends graph is more commonly used to see the booking trends for future dates. In this graph, you can see that there is a big spike in 7-14 day length of stay in June. You can alter your minimum stay strategy to mandate a 7 day length of stay for those dates when people are usually booking for 7-14 days and get longer bookings. 

Similarly, you can track the booking trends for all dates, identify which dates are getting higher bookings, and adjust your minimum night restrictions accordingly. 

Conclusion 

Now you know why we call Minimum Nights Restrictions an “’advance setting”. Reading and understanding all this must be exhausting, but if you have come this far, then you know everything you need to know about minimum night restrictions. 

You can now set the right settings for orphan days, adjacent days, far-out bookings, and last-minute bookings. The different length of stay helps you prevent unwanted group parties and short-term guests from booking your rental during the high-demand season. It can also help you increase your occupancy during low-demand seasons by adjusting the length of stay requirements to cater to shorter stays. You can also get mid-term bookings by increasing the stay requirements to 30 days. 

Remember, setting these customizations is not a one-time thing, and you need to stay on top of booking trends to be able to use this strategy beneficially and not lose out on bookings instead. 

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