Last Minute Bookings and How To Increase Them!

Did you know that around half of customers book a cottage at the last minute?

By last minute, this means guests book around three to four weeks before their arrival date at certain times of year.

This can be both a pleasure and a pain if you are a holiday cottage owner as this can be an unpredictable and yet welcome income.

Autumn and Winter Breaks


With the popular Summer months behind us, cottage owners can often feel wary of the Autumn and Winter months.

Hectic months give away to quieter ones and this can cause stress on your cash flow.

There are peak times during these seasons: half terms in October and February, Christmas and New Year.

Yet outside of these popular holiday dates, how do you attract those at times lucrative last-minute bookings?

Filling the Gaps Without Losing Money

The trick is to fill those gaps without making a loss of income.

Most holiday accommodation providers will consider a discount if that’s doable for them.

However sometimes an empty property is better if a discount simply makes zero money for the owner … It can be a tricky balancing act!

Therefore, what might be a better strategy to offer shoulder month tariffs which are still profitable, or maybe have 3 nights for the price of 2 promotions.

If you have a social media campaign, email marketing or both, then any gaps you have can be filled by making customers, subscribers or followers aware that your fabulous cottage is available on certain, low season dates.

The obvious way to promote any gaps for last minute bookings is via your own website, or via our website if you’ve got your property listed with us.

If you have your own website, how about adding a page that is called ‘last minute availability’?


Having its own page ensures potential guests see it straight away in your site navigation if they land on your homepage.

If you offer a welcome hamper (see our blog here) for weekly stays, is it worth tempting guests with a welcome hamper for a last minute stay?

Adding this type of ‘value’ or incentive to a booking can often clinch the deal.

If you charge for pets, it might attract a dog-owning couple or family for a quick staycation if you dropped the dog charge.

Who Goes for Last Minute Bookings?

Last minute bookings tend to come from guests who don’t have the restrictions of work and/or children.

You might also have regular guests who like a last-minute getaway staycation.

Perhaps a little discount for your regulars would help fill stubborn calendar gaps?

Other guests could be those who want an additional break even though they’ve already had a holiday abroad.

What About Your Listings?

If your cottage is listed on Airbnb, Vrbo, and other platforms, remember to update your availability on these, and promote any gaps you might have.

There are listings that specialise in last minute bookings too, and a search online will give you several options.

If you are listed on other sites, then be sure to update these too with any last minute gaps or potential deals.

If you have a Google My Business account, remember to promote your cottage on there with regular posts. You will need to post within Google’s guidelines, but Google posts can be very effective.

Some social media platforms, such as Facebook, have Facebook groups on which property owners can post about gaps.

These types of groups have rules about posting, so stick to them.

You might also need to monitor the post in case anyone is interested.

Panic Mode with Last Minute Bookings

One of the main worries with a last-minute booking is, once its booked, the turnaround time.

Most seasoned holiday venue owners will be able to add a buffer to their online bookings.

So, for example no-one can book with less than 12 hours’ notice.

This is a very short lead time, however if the property has been cleaned and maybe needs just a quick spruce up, then by and large this can be done.

Some last-minute bookings arrive later than usually so use this to your advantage in terms of the lead in time.

Where cottage owners become unstuck is if the cottage needs a thorough clean before arrival.

This is not only stressful, it is also leaving yourself wide open to less thorough cleaning and therefore complaints.

If you get a complaint or a bad review, find out more here.

Other Ways to Fill Those Gaps

Some guests simply want a last minute getaway and will look forward to spending quality time in your cottage.

Other guests, though, are more demanding and while you can’t always tell from a booking what a guest will be like, the best way to handle this is offer the same incentives for both types.

This could be:

A later check out, particularly if you have a gap in bookings after they’ve left.

An earlier check in if the property is ready.


If you don’t already do so, send potential guests a list of restaurants and pubs … can you book a table for them if there’s availability?

If your guests are very flexible on dates, can you offer them one or two nights more for a reduced price?

Think about the local attractions and venues. Do you know any of them well enough to ask for a ticket or similar for a discounted price, which your guest then uses?

Or you could offer experiences for your guest. Check out some great suggestions here.

Consider putting your name down on theatre lists for any last-minute tickets or cancellations … you could offer this with a cottage stay if the dates coincide.

What About Group Stays?

Some cottage owners will quake at the thought, while others will welcome group bookings with open arms.

There is no right or wrong approach to this.

If your property is suitable for a group stay then this can be in your favour for last minute bookings.

Yet you can protect yourself from the downsides.

Charge a refundable damage deposit and explain clearly how this works.

Any damage at all either reported or not will mean the deposit is either not returned or returned only in part.

Ensure your Terms and Conditions are crystal clear.

When Is It NOT Worth Filling the Gap?

Tempting though it might be to offer a substantial discount in order to get heads on beds, there is a point when little or no profit is made.

Any guest at any time can leave the cottage in a terrible state and if you’ve lowered your price to attract a guest then it’s just a no-win situation.

If you have a three-night gap in a four or five star cottage, then if you’ve adjusted your tariffs to reflect the time of year, then you might find the nights fill themselves, even if the tariff is lower than at peak times.

With finances being squeezed on all fronts at the moment, competitive pricing from the start shows you understand your product and your ideal customer.

About Vista Retreats

At our luxury holiday let management company, we are dedicated to providing exceptional service to property owners and their guests.

Experience luxury like never before with our carefully curated holiday let portfolio in North Yorkshire. Our stunning, sought-after locations provide dreamy, desirable escapes with a unique personal touch. Each holiday home boasts incredible scenery, seamlessly combined with guaranteed privacy, stunning interiors, and bespoke service, creating the ultimate luxurious private retreat.

Find out more here.