The Best Time for Hotel Bookings: How to Save on Your Stay
You’re ready to book your hotel for a trip, but is there a “best” time to book to save money? Travel experts are stepping in so you can save.
There are all kinds of myths and legends about how to get the best deals on hotel reservations. Perhaps the most common belief is that when – the day or time of the week we book our trip – is the most important factor of all. But does timing really matter? And what are the best rules of thumb when it comes to getting the cheapest hotel booking possible, every time?
Timing is everything
Booking a hotel is NOT the same as booking flights. While a good rule of thumb for snagging a cheap plane ticket is to book on a Monday or Tuesday, the exact opposite is true for hotels.
“A general rule is to avoid booking hotels at the start of the week, say Monday to Wednesday, because that’s a peak time when people are planning their trips, so there’s a lot of demand,” says Samantha Brown, travel expert and two-time Emmy-winning host of “Places to Love” on PBS. There’s a pretty steadfast reason for that: “This demand drops towards the end of the week when hotels see they won’t fill their rooms, so they start lowering prices on Friday and Saturday, making those days the best moment”. to book a hotel.
Another difference between booking hotels and booking flights is flexibility. With many hotel chains, you don’t have to pay upfront like you do with a plane ticket, and you can cancel without penalty, Brown says. (Especially if you’re a rewards member.) Just make sure you know the cancellation policy before you book.
Can you book too far in advance?
How far in advance is too far in advance to make a reservation? “There’s a saying in travel adviser circles that ‘book early, book late’, which means it’s okay to book a room in advance as soon as you know you’re going. going somewhere, especially one that’s within your budget and has all the bells and whistles you want in a hotel,” says Brown.
But, you should continue to be on the lookout for better deals. These deals will usually start happening within two weeks of your trip. One of Brown’s favorite apps is Hotel Tonight. “I had to use the app multiple times to book a nice hotel due to canceled flights or last minute changes to travel plans. The rates are phenomenal, and for very nice hotels. I always think I’ll use it for my husband and I to have a spontaneous romantic weekend in New York – it never happens, but a girl can dream,” says Brown.
Nothing is certain
Support does not mean guarantees. It’s a myth that you’ll automatically save more money by booking your hotel stay early. “Most of the time you’ll save a lot more by booking last minute. It’s all about supply and demand,” says Colleen Carswell, a former hotel sales manager turned hotel solutions strategist.
Supply + Demand
Ultimately, the deal you get depends on supply and demand. Hotels need filled rooms to make money – on the room itself, on ancillary purchases, and through word of mouth and referrals. “In terms of the industry, their goal is simple: put your head to bed. If hotels still have rooms for sale for your stay dates, they’ll likely cut prices at the last minute in hopes of selling more of their ‘inventory,’” says Carswell.
However, supply and demand work both ways. Which means, “If the demand for hotel rooms is high and the supply of empty rooms is low, you’ll pay more,” says Carswell. This most often happens during holidays and when there are big events at the hotel or in the area. Think of things like festivals, marathons, political rallies, sporting events, etc.
To make it all work best for your stress level and budget, Carswell recommends BE-CALM: book early, check back at the last minute. “When booking early, be sure to triple check the cancellation policy so the date doesn’t come and go. Cancellation policies vary widely by hotel, brand, location, etc. Then , before the cancellation date, check again to see if you can find lower rates online,” says Carswell.
If you find a lower rate, great! “You can cancel your original booking and save money with the new one. If you can’t find a lower rate, that’s great too! You got the best deal possible because of your wise decision to BE QUIET,” says Carswell.
Many hotels have policies that allow you to get the best price plus additional perks like upgrades and late check-outs, if you book directly through the hotel rather than a third party. “Either look online or call the hotel you’re considering and find out if they have any incentives to book directly through them, like reStays’ Best Price Guarantee. If you find a better price, just let us know directly when booking and we’ll take care of the rest,” says Claudine Hart, Marketing Director of reStays Ottawa.
Be flexible when you can
The day of the week/time of day will not affect the price, but the dates of your trip will. “While your travel dates may be flexible, most hotel booking engines have calendars that display rates by date,” says Amaury Piedra, Managing Director, Caribe Royale Orlando Resort. (Don’t forget to book directly to take advantage of the best offers and the best cancellation conditions!)
If you have the flexibility, you can often find great deals on rooms during times when the hotel is less busy. “Keep price versus value in mind and check for hotel specials. Sometimes the best deals are in high value packages,” says Piedra.
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