What is iCal? iCalendar (also called iCal for short) is a digital file format that allows calendar meeting information – such as bookings in your vacation rental, your daughter’s birthday, doctors appointments, etc – to be shared between different calendar applications. iCal is supported by many products including Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and now many of the Vacation rental websites that you use.
iCal is used in the vacation rentals industry as a way to sync bookings between rental calendars of various Online Travel Agencies (e.g. Vrbo, Booking.com, AirBnB etc) and systems. This means that a booking you receive on one website will automatically appear on the other sites, so you won’t risk receiving a double booking.
This is an important feature to ensure that availability for a property is up-to-date in the vacation rental calendar across different channels, allowing you to use the Instant Booking option that many guests prefer. You can read about why this is important in this article – 2017 Vacation Rental Industry trends: What you need to know to beat the competition.
Whilst dedicated Vacation Rental Calendar software does exist, it’s usually complex and unnecessary. By using Your.Rentals, you can manage your properties through the channel manager and keep your calendars synchronised. Your.Rentals lets you do this with just one account, but other vacation rental management software might require you to create an account on each website.
Whilst many names exist for the process of synchronising your rental calendar, we call it Calendar Sync. Property calendars in Your.Rentals support both iCal import and iCal export – this is sometimes called a 2-way sync. This means that you are able to “synchronise” your calendars in Your.Rentals with those you have for the same property in Booking.com, and any OTAs or calendar software that support iCal.
It’s important to note that the providers of your calendars and the import and export functions all have different policies about how they import/export bookings, and how often they do this. Your.Rentals calendars import bookings from other calendars hourly, and provide exports of blocked dates for new bookings made in Your.Rentals in real time.
Your Calendar Strategy
To take advantage of the benefits of using calendar sync, having a good calendar strategy is important. Otherwise it may feel like you are faced with a big bowl of spaghetti and trying to connect all the ends! There are two main approaches to your calendar strategy.
Let’s assume that you have the following calendars for each of your properties:
- Google Calendar (the one you add manual bookings to)
- Your.Rentals (which distributes your property to all enabled channels)
Here are the 2 calendar strategies that you could use:
1. Manage 2-way connections between ALL of the sites and calendars you use.
With this approach, you should make a list of the 4 calendars that you use. You should find the “export iCal URL” for each of the calendars above, and add these as an “iCal import” to each of the other calendars. When a booking is added in any of your calendars, it will be imported to the other calendars. Each of your calendars would be “importing” 3 other calendars.
Your calendar sync relationships will look like this:
If you use this approach, you need to remember if you add a new site or calendar for the property, to import it to the existing calendars, and import each of those calendars back to the new calendar.
IMPORTANT! If you synchronise bookings from other calendars to a website, and only import that calendar to Your.Rentals – only the bookings created in that website will be synchronised to Your.Rentals. In the example below, the imported bookings from Vrbo will not be provided in the iCal export from Airbnb – and therefore will be missing in Your.Rentals and Google Calendar. Similarly, the bookings created in Google Calendar will not be exported to Airbnb or Vrbo. And the bookings created in Your.Rentals will not be exported to Vrbo.
For this reason, you must ensure that you establish a direct relationship between ALL calendars as shown in first the graphic above – OR, use the 2nd strategy with one central calendar (for example: Google Calendar) as defined in the section below.
2. Maintain one primary calendar and ensure all other calendars update to this.
You can also choose to delegate one calendar as your primary calendar (the one that you edit directly yourself), and then synchronise all other calendars against this one.
Depending upon how reliable your primary calendar is and how often it imports bookings from your secondary calendars, this may mean there is a noticeable delay between a booking being added in one of your secondary calendars, and the other secondary calendars being updated. However the simplicity in this approach most likely outweighs this.
Your calendar sync relationships will look like this:
Please note that for the channels you manage through the Your.Rentals channel manager, you only need to keep your Your.Rentals calendar up-to-date and we’ll ensure the availability is correct in all channels via Your.Rentals.
Are you ready to get started with Calendar Sync? Great! Choose an approach above, plan carefully and test that the bookings you see in one calendar are mirrored in your other calendars. Bear in mind that depending upon the calendar import policies of each calendar provider, it can take up to several hours for your bookings to be synchronised.
For help and advice on using Calendar Sync to manage your vacation rental calendar, check out our collection of help articles here.