Syncing Airbnb, Booking and Homeaway calendars – it’s free and easy with iCal

In a previous article I explained how you can avoid double bookings with a Channel manager – but there is another way – iCal.  It is free and easy and everyone should do it. Several readers have asked me for more detail.

Sync your calendars with each other using iCal

The big OTAs have set up a way to sync between each others’ calendars using the iCal standard.  If you have just one or a few vacation rental properties and you don’t want to pay for a channel manager, I strongly suggest you use iCal synching.  It updates all your calendars almost simultaneously so you can avoid double bookings and have an easier life.  You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.  It just takes a few minutes to set up.

How to set up iCal

The principle is to pass some code between the OTAs, as an example from Airbnb to Homeaway.  The Airbnb calendar is exported to Homeaway, and imported from within Homeaway, and then the reverse.  Sounds a bit confusing?  Fortunately there are a number of Youtube videos showing you exactly how to do it, step by step and easy. It takes under 5 minutes per calendar pair.

Sync Airbnb and Homeaway calendars, 3 mins – watch it here.   This clip from Homeaway is one of the best explanations and easiest to follow.

Sync Airbnb and Booking.com calendars, 2 mins – watch it here.

If you have Airbnb, Homeaway and Booking.com calendars, then by setting up synch for Airbnb/ Homeaway and Airbnb/ Booking.com, then Homeaway/Booking.com will automatically sync too.

How the OTA calendars work together

This diagram from the Homeaway clip shows how the synced calendars link up with each other.

Homeaway diagram showing how sync works

Homeaway diagram showing how sync works

As the diagram shows, you can also sync with a Google calendar, handy to share with your cleaner and easy to check on your smartphone.

Advantages of iCal syncing

With all your calendars syncing automatically, it is less work for you:

  • you are less likely to double book;
  • you can allow instant bookings with very low risk of double bookings.
  • The youtube videos make it easy to set up.

 

Limitations of iCal

  • It can take up to several hours for all the calendars to update each other, typically an hour delay for Airbnb
  • It doesn’t provide you with your own calendar on your own website, nor your own online booking facility, nor an update of rates – for these features you are best placed with a Channel manager like Update247 described in a previous post.

 

Why doesn’t everyone sync with iCal?

The OTAs have been slow to document the steps to set up iCal between themselves and other OTAs, and some of their documentation has been poor and even outdated.  That is why those simple Youtube videos above are so valuable.

Getting ahead of competitors

Fundamentally it’s the old story, it is a small mental barrier to do something new.  The good news is that iCal is another ‘Barrier to entry’ and if you use knowledge like this article to implement the change to iCal syncing, you are ahead of your competitors.

I’m disappointed it took me so long to get around to syncing my calendars when it is so simple, but that is what these articles are about, real life vacation rentals, warts and all.

This week might be the best week to sync your calendars too, if you haven’t already.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • amanda March 11, 2019, 10:57 am

    Hi Rex. Do you know of, or have an opinion on, Smartbnb – https://smartbnb.io/messaging? I am interested in it for the main purpose of automated emailing across Airbnb & Homeway however it appears there is the added benefit of blocking both calendars when a booking comes through. Keen to hear your thoughts. Many thanks, Amanda

    • Rex Brown March 11, 2019, 9:51 pm

      I hadn’t seen smartbnb before today, but had a look on the smartbnb website.
      It looks to be quite good for a business running almost exclusively on Airbnb, which some do. Users report handy automated messaging. However for someone running on the big 3- Airbnb, Homeaway and Booking, it could be a confusing extra, particularly if you need to have separate messaging for each platform.

      There is a useful thread here on airhostsforum.com where 7 different vendors outline the features of similar products. Includes
      Smartbnb, Superhosttools, Hostaway, Uplisting, Yourporterapp, Homebotty, Airgms.

      If any readers use any of these, let us know in this discussion.