Should You Charge an Early Check-In Fee For Your Airbnb or Vacation Rental?

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Most Airbnb hosts hope to have a fully-booked schedule as often as possible. Hopefully, they’ve planned their check-in and check-out times so that they have enough time in between to fully turn around their rental without too much stress.

Charge an Early Check-In Fee for Your Airbnb

But what happens when a guest wants to check-in early? Depending on the situation, this can cause issues for a host. Saying no might displease the guest, but saying yes means an extra time crunch on their part. Because of this, a lot of hosts charge guests for early check-in. 

So, should you charge an early check-in fee for your Airbnb or vacation rental?

Any extra fee that you set is completely up to you as the host. Many hosts do choose to implement an early check-in fee to counteract the stress and labor of turning over an Airbnb faster than usual. Be sure to remember how much you value your own time and effort when factoring in the possibility of an early check-in fee. 

There are many different methods to setting up and charging an early check-in fee on Airbnb. Keep reading below for more information!

When to Implement an Early Check-In Fee

It can be hard to know if and when to charge guests for early check-in. Airbnb hosting is designed to feel like staying at a friend’s place, and who charges their friends for a favor? However, remember that your time as a host is valuable and you should be fairly compensated for the extra effort required to have an Airbnb ready earlier than usual.

Some hosts have never had a guest try to come early, but others get the request constantly. I would say that if guests are requesting an early check-in frequently enough for it to cause issues, you should have an early check-in fee in place. 

You’ve probably already worked out how much time it takes you to clean, tidy, and replenish your Airbnb in between stays. Usually, it’s a span of 3 or 4 hours at the most, but some push it even shorter.

If your morning guests leave even a little bit late, it can throw off your schedule. The same is true for afternoon guests arriving early. I use self-check-in at my Airbnb, which lessens how much interaction I have with guests before they arrive. This can be an issue if they choose to arrive early and I’m not ready for them.

Self-check-in is an easy system when it works well and everyone understands it. However, I would recommend having a policy already put into place regarding early check-in if you do choose to use it. Guests should be aware of what time they can arrive and know that earlier arrivals (if allowed) will come with an additional fee and need to be discussed in advance. 

Even with a strict policy in place, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes exceptions will need to be made. A big one is weather events that guests might want to plan their travel around. For example, a blizzard in the forecast might have guests anxious about arriving later in the day. In cases like these, communicate that you can make an exception for extenuating circumstances. 

Charge an Early Check-In Fee for Your Airbnb

What to Charge for an Early Airbnb Check-In

The short answer is: it depends. If your Airbnb is in a higher-priced market, your early check-in fee will probably also be higher than those in lower-priced markets. 

There are a few different pricing models to consider in regard to early check-in fees. A flat fee for any check-in before the stated time is one way to go, but you still need to consider your turnaround time if you’re dealing with back-to-back stays. 

If your previous guest was out at 11 am and your new guest wants to check in at 11:30, that obviously won’t work. This is why I don’t typically recommend the flat fee model to people who have a lot of consecutive stays or are usually booked full. There just isn’t a lot of free time in the middle to work with, so an early check-in is usually inconvenient at any time.

A better option would be to charge hourly. This absolutely needs to be discussed with the guest in advance, and preferably not the morning of the stay! As we’ve mentioned, there is already a very tight window to work with. 

A lot of hosts have found that putting an hourly price on their check-in time will be enough to make most guests reconsider. If you and your guest discuss and agree upon a time, be sure to collect payment in advance (see below) so that you’re both clear on the terms and have less to worry about at the end of the stay.

A common complaint is that a guest will message asking if they can “just drop off some luggage”. More often than not, the guest actually wants to use the restroom, change clothes, sit down, and do a lot of other things that basically amount to checking in. It is important to be firm in specifying what constitutes checking in at your Airbnb to avoid people trying to be crafty.

Regarding dropping off luggage early: a lot of hosts don’t realize that this can be a liability on their part. If you’re on the premises when they drop off, it is assumed that you are now in charge of those belongings. Anything that goes missing (real or otherwise) could be blamed on you. For this reason, I don’t recommend allowing early luggage drop-offs. 

As far as pricing an early check-in fee, the amount varies quite a bit from host to host. A higher fee is much more of a deterrent if that’s what you’re after. A lower fee is fine if you don’t mind it, but remember that you’re putting a price on your own time, so be sure to charge fairly!

Make sure to check out our other article Airbnb Self Check-In Instructions here…>>

How to Put an Early Check-In Fee on Your Listings

Communicating with the guest in advance and collecting the early check-in fee via Airbnb is the simplest way to get it done. As the stay approaches, I always message my guests their check-in instructions along with exterior photos of the home, key codes, and other information including the time. If they’re going to ask to come early, this will be when they do. 

Clearly state your policy and how you’ll be charging them in the message after they ask to check in early. Once they agree, use the “request money” option on Airbnb to get the fee. This way, you have it in advance and don’t have to try to track them down after the fact. 

If you don’t do it in advance, you can still try to use the “request money” feature, but you run the risk of them declining and then losing out on that money. If you find yourself in this situation and you’re sure that you and the guest had an understanding, contact Airbnb support. 


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Clearing up Your Early Check In Policy with Guests

I cannot stress enough how important it is to message guests before a stay! Keeping in contact with them is not only a great hosting practice but will also give you the opportunity to detect any issues that might arise during the booking and solve them before it becomes a larger problem. 

Your rules should be clearly outlined in your listing description as well. If a guest knows that they’ll need an early check-in, they can see how much it will cost and what time they’ll be able to arrive without even having to ask.

Rental Recon Tip: Not getting the number of bookings you think you should be? Take a look at your listing from an outside perspective. The description is an important part of selling guests on your Airbnb, but the photos are what draws them in even before they’ve read about it. 

Some of my top Airbnb photo tips are to pick your main listing photo wisely, show each room from multiple angles, and include a clear exterior view of the property. The exterior photo will also come in handy at check-in time and will save you from having to answer frantic calls from guests who can’t find your house! 


Related Questions:

Should hosts charge guests for extra amenities?

In short, it depends on how you define “extra” amenities. An Airbnb by itself only needs a bed and some blankets, right? Well, not if you want good reviews!

My advice is that if you want to include something in your Airbnb, don’t charge for it. It can sometimes feel like you are being stingy to your guests if everything in the room has a price tag attached. A better idea is to include complimentary amenities but slightly raise your nightly price. Guests won’t notice but will appreciate the “free” stuff!

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