What's a seasonal rate? Simply speaking, a seasonal or "event" rate are rates that differ from your base rate. It gives you the flexibility to offer different pricing for specific periods of time, such as peak, shoulder, and off-season. They can also be used for the weekends, holidays, or specific events in your market. It's a simple yet powerful way for you to earn more or fill up your calendar.
Where to start
Most vacation rental markets have at least three seasons: peak season, shoulder season, and off-season. However, some markets have up to six or seven distinct seasons, while others have just one year-round rate.
If you've rented your home for a while, you're likely all-too-familiar with the ebb and flow of your particular market. If you're fairly new to renting, a good starting point for determining the right rental seasons for your home is to research other vacation rental properties in your market.
Note: Make sure you understand your local laws and regulations as they can require you to have a specific minimum stay. If you have the flexibility, lower minimum stays make it easier for travelers to find availability at your property.
Setting specific rates for each of your market's rental seasons, as well as for major holiday weeks, will likely increase your overall occupancy and rental revenue. While there are no hard-and-fast rules for choosing rental seasons since every market is unique, here's a general overview of the three most common seasons and holiday pricing:
To ensure you’re earning the most during high and low seasons, it’s important to understand the seasonal cycles of your market — and how to adjust your rates based on demand or desired income.
Most vacation markets have a peak season of at least 10 to 12 weeks. Since this period is in such high demand, you can typically charge higher rates and have longer minimum stays.
- Typical rental rate: Your highest weekly rate
- Minimum stay: 1 week
The shoulder season tends to run right before and right after the peak season. These weeks can be a little bit harder to book than the peak season but it will be easier than the offseason. Your shoulder weeks may warrant a lower rental rate than your peak weeks (60 to 75% of the peak rate). For example, if you charge $1000/week during the peak season, you might charge $600 to $750/week during the shoulder season. Consider lowering your minimum stay during the shoulder season to fill up your availability.
- Typical rental rate: 60% to 75% of your peak-season rate
- Minimum stay: 1-3 nights
The off-season or slower season tends to be the time of year when the weather is less-than-ideal for your market's main outdoor attraction (skiing, beach, etc.). Travelers who vacation in your market during the slower season likely stay for either a few days (weekend getaways) or a few months (escaping the cold weather), so be sure to display your nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Your off-season rate is usually considerably lower than your peak or shoulder season rates.
- Typical rental rate: 25% to 30% of your peak season rate
- Minimum stay: 1-3 nights
Holidays and Special Events
Many travelers plan trips around major holidays to work around school calendars. The most popular weeks tend to be around Spring Break, national holidays, Christmas, and New Year's. Since these weeks are in such high demand, you should charge a bit more for them and require a longer minimum stay in many markets. Don't forget special events like major sporting events or business conferences and festivals that could be happening in your market.
For example, ski properties in Colorado can sometimes fetch up to 200% of their peak season rates for the weeks surrounding Christmas. However, the same properties couldn't charge such a high rate for the week of the Fourth of July. On the flip side, many beach properties charge up to 200% of their peak rate for the Fourth of July week, but only 25% to 30% of their peak rate for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Typical rental rate: 25% to 200% of your peak season rate
- Minimum stay: 3 nights to 1 week
Before setting your rates for the year, sketch out a rough calendar that includes:
- Major holiday weeks: In many markets, you can charge a little bit more for high-demand holiday weeks like Christmas, New Year's, or national holidays.
- Bank and other holidays: Don't forget other holidays like Valentine's Day (2/14), St. Patrick's Day (3/17), Mother's Day, and Father's Day. In many countries, bank holidays are also prime days for travelers to take quick 2-3 day getaways.
- School breaks: Check the school calendars for metro cities within driving distance of your home (or if you're in a fly market, where many of your travelers come from). Specifically, determine when the schools adjourn for the summer when they start up again in the fall, and any breaks of a week or longer (spring break, fall break, holidays, etc.)
- Annual events in your market: If your market hosts an annual event that brings hordes of tourists into town, be sure to take note of it. If the event is large enough, you may even be able to charge an inflated rate due to the scarcity of lodging available.
Setting the right rate
Depending on your market, travelers could be booking several months to even a year in advance of their travel date — so it’s important to have your rates set up at least 6-12 months in advance.
Keep in mind, this is just a starting point. You should always optimize your rates as your market changes.
More accuracy with MarketMaker
MarketMaker is a powerful tool you can use to see what traveler demand and availability is in your market. It's a great way to help you experiment with different rates and optimize your rates to the constantly changing market.