Early Bird or Last-Minute Deal? The Timing Guide to Hotel Bookings

Hotel bookings can take up a huge chunk of your travel budget, and every traveler wants to find a good hotel at the best price. Believe it or not, the time when you book your hotel plays a huge role in how much you pay for it. Finding the best hotel deal is often a matter of figuring out the right time to book.

Once you get the timing right, you will be able to bring down your travel costs greatly.

Which Day of the Week?

According to travel aggregators such as Expedia and Kayak, the greatest number of people search for a hotel between Monday and Wednesday. The prices peak during the early part of the week for this reason, both for international and domestic bookings. After Wednesday, the number of people searching comes down by as much as 30%, with the lowest traffic being recorded on Fridays and Saturdays.

With lower traffic, the rates drop as well. So, your best bet is to book your hotel in the latter half of the week, especially on Friday.

When to Check in and Out?

Even the days that you stay at a hotel play a role in determining how much it will cost you. Weekends are the most popular time for people to travel. If your booking includes the weekend, be ready to pay close to the full price. However, if you make some changes to the days you plan to stay, you can cut down how much you spend.

Most weekend travelers check out on Sunday morning, making Sunday night stay at a hotel the cheapest night to stay. If you shift your trip days from Friday-Sunday to Saturday-Monday, your booking cost can go down considerably. If you avoid the weekend altogether, your stay can be even cheaper.

If you are keen to stick to a weekend getaway, you can try out another trick. Find a business hotel in the commercial part of the city. Business hotels have their cheapest rates during the weekends. You can also find the best deals on corporate hotels during the holiday season. Christmas and New Year’s break is the quietest period for business hotels, and therefore the cheapest time to stay. Keep in mind that the holiday season is the worst time to book any other hotel, so business hotels will be your best bet.

How Far in Advance?

Which day of the week you book and the days you plan to visit can only help you save up to a certain extent. However, there is another way to save on a hotel booking. Whether or not you can receive this discount depends on how much of a risk-taker you are.

While for many things in life, the early bird does get the worm, this is not always the case for hotels. In fact, the opposite can be true. It pays to live on the edge and be spontaneous. Last-minute bookings are the biggest way to save. If you are ready to take some risks, you can hit a jackpot if you wait until one or two days before your check-in date.

The closer it gets to check-in dates, the more eager hotels become to take on a guest. If a hotel still has empty rooms a day or two before your arrival, you may be able to find a very good deal. Rather than have canceled and empty rooms go unused, hotels are ready to cut their rates drastically. In fact, the ultimate last-minute deal which will fetch you the greatest savings is the afternoon of the day you plan to check-in.  

If you are willing to gamble, there are certain apps and websites can help you find heavily discounted rooms on the day you arrive.

If you are a traveler who likes to plan and have things sorted before you leave home, how far in advance should you book a hotel? How much is too early, and how late is too late?

Most travel experts recommend booking a hotel one month in advance. The worst time to book is two to three months before the dates of the visit, as this is when rooms are priced at their highest. The prices come down about a month ahead of the check-in, and then go up once again when the dates are closer.

One month in advance is the sweet spot for getting a good deal. Before you hit confirm, pick a handful of hotels that are within your price range. Track the prices over a couple of days, and then confirm your booking.

In case you are worried about your trip not happening due to a risky hotel booking, get trip cancellation insurance that allows you to cancel your trip for any reason. Note that a “cancel for any reason” insurance plan can be more expensive than a standard trip cancellation insurance plan.  

Loyalty and Flash Sales

If you use the same travel aggregator to book all of your trips, you might be able to benefit from their loyalty programs. You could receive a benefit like an extra discount, or a free night after a certain number of bookings. Many of these sites also have flash sales that expire within a few minutes or hours. Keeping tabs on one or two of these sites can pay off.

Make a Call

When you have found the best possible deal and you are about to confirm your booking, there is one last thing you can still do:

Call the hotel that you have chosen, and ask them if they can offer any benefits by booking with them directly. Hotels always prefer if you book with them directly, because they have to pay a 20 to 30% commission to travel aggregators.

Depending upon how much power the person you speak to has, you might be able to shave off a few more dollars from your booking costs, or they might offer you some extra perks if you book directly. Either way, it is definitely worth giving this a shot.

Before You Book, Remember:

  • Friday or Saturday is the best day for hotel bookings
  • Keep the weekend out of your travel days if possible
  • If you like risks, wait until the last few days to book. If not, one month in advance is your best bet.

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