This Is the Worst Time to Book a Hotel Room
Well, if you're looking to save as much money as possible.
There you are, planning your next dreamy vacation. It's a few months away, and you've already booked your flights, you've planned your daily activities, and you've even gone ahead and reserved a table at some trendy restaurants. So, naturally, a deeply educated and frugal traveler such as yourself goes right ahead and books your hotel room, as well. (Sounds reasonable!) But here's the thing: If you're looking to get that hotel room at the best available price, you've just made a crucial and common error.
You've booked way too early.
Now, if the idea of booking "too early" seems counterintuitive, remember that the world of hotel pricing is vastly more complicated than most of us are aware of. "Hotel prices actually behave differently than most people think," says Kevin O'Leary, Senior Analyst at Priceline. "Unlike airline prices [that rise the closer you're booking to the travel date], hotel rates typically decline as the customer gets closer to check-in, as the hotel is looking to fill any empty rooms. There are usually more beds available than customers, which causes prices to come down to entice customers to book."
In other words, early birds pay full price, and—if savings are on your mind—booking a hotel room far in advance is indeed the worst time to do it.
So when, exactly, should you book your hotel room?
Good question. According to Priceline data O'Leary shared, hotel rates decrease the most within one week of your check-in date, with Sunday specifically being the cheapest day to book a room. "In comparing the average nightly price of booking three days before check-in versus six weeks before check-in, a customer can save roughly $30 per night," he says. The cost plummets even more when booking day-of, meaning you could potentially pocket up to $100.
If you're booking at the last-minute, what should you do?
First rule of thumb for a last-minute trip: avoid booking the day before you'd be arriving at the hotel. HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank tells HuffPost, "On average, same-day hotel rates are 10 percent less than booking the day before." In fact, the best deals can actually be found mere hours before checking in for the evening. Room rates "typically drop dramatically around 4 p.m.," Shank says. "If you book at 8 p.m., you can usually save another 5 to 10 percent."
Of course, booking at the last second is a gamble. On the one hand, you could score the lowest amount offered for a hotel room, while on the other, you might end up without a room at all if they have no vacancies!
Our advice: You're best off booking as soon as you see a price you're comfortable spending, and use basic common sense. However, if you're really worried about missing out on a deal, consider booking a rate with a flexible cancellation policy. That way, you can back out if you find a better bargain.
For most hotels, however, room rates aren't static throughout the year. Seasonality certainly comes into play—unsurprisingly, prices are highest during peak season and lowest during the off-season—while weekends are almost always more expensive than weeknights. So good luck—and happy travels!