Whether you are planning to travel locally or abroad, the first and most important consideration you have to make is your accommodation. If you are traveling away from home, you have to find a hotel at your destination to accommodate you. But when is the best time to book a hotel? This article answers this and other related questions.
When Is the Best Time to Book a Hotel?
There isn’t a straight answer to this question because travelers have different preferences when it comes to booking hotels and hotel rates differ by destination. Also, several important factors determine when a traveler books their hotel, including the planned date of travel, travel season, cost of accommodation, available deals and discounts, location of the hotel, among others.
However, there are certain times of the year that are considered ideal for booking hotels, especially if you are looking for ways to save money on your travel and accommodation.
Different hotels across the world offer varied accommodation deals depending on the season, day of the week, and the services they offer. For example, booking hotels in the United States is cheapest on Fridays, while booking international hotels is cheapest on Thursdays.
However, hotels within the US are only cheaper on Fridays by a small margin of 2 percent, while international hotels can help you save about 6 percent of the average price. While these margins may seem insignificant, they can have a major effect on your travel budget if you are traveling on a tight budget. Last-minute bookings are routinely cheaper than bookings made in advance.
This is mainly because hotel managers would rather have all their rooms filled by guests by offering last-minute deals than to have empty rooms. Some hotels offer last-minute deals on their rooms, especially the ones that had already been booked and the guests canceled their booking at the last minute or didn’t show up.
However, this trick doesn’t work if you are booking a hotel close to or on the eve of an important holiday or event because the demand for hotel rooms tends to go up as the important day approaches.
If you are taking a fall and booking your hotel on the day of your stay, bear in mind that the prices usually go down as the day comes to an end. So, you are likely to get a better deal if you book your hotel room at 4 pm than someone who books the same hotel room at 8 am.
This is because hotels want to entice as many guests as possible to fill their empty rooms. So, if you are only staying at the hotel for one night and you dare to wait until 8 pm, you are likely to get yourself an amazing deal.
Do Hotel Prices Go Down Closer to the Date?
Unlike airfares, which tend to go up as the travel date approaches, hotel prices go down. As mentioned above, hotels always strive to maximize their occupancy rate. So, many of them will lower their rates to meet their expected targets. That’s why most hotels will drop their prices a few days before the check-in date or on the day of arrival.
Sam Shank, the CEO of HotelTonight, a website, an app that offers travelers last-minute deep hotel discounts, the long-held belief that hotels will sell out before the arrival date, causing the prices to go up, is a misconception. He further reveals that hotel prices tend to drop the longer you wait. According to him, same-day hotel rates are typically 10 percent less than when you book a day or two before.
Shank also reveals that, on the day of arrival, hotel prices keep dropping as the hotel owners rush against time to meet their expected target of occupancy. After 5 pm, most hotels start to lose hope of getting full occupancy. So, to fill as many rooms as possible, they end up giving super amazing deals to the last-minute guests.
Which Month Is the Cheapest to Book Hotels?
Although hotel rates around the world vary by day, the seasons also make a huge difference. The simple rule of thumb is to travel when other people aren’t. That’s the surest way to save money on your accommodation.
Hotels tend to lower their prices in the low season to stay in business and break even. Therefore, if it’s not a must you book your hotel in the peak season, you should wait until the demand for hotel rooms goes down.
However, these seasons don’t work the same in different countries. For instance, in the United States, it’s highly recommended to take city breaks over Christmas or midsummer when travel business and travelers are at a low. Most Americans spend their Christmas holidays indoors because it’s the start of the cold winter season. So, it is the best month to book a hotel because many hotels are almost empty in December.
But if you are planning to travel to Africa, the Christmas period is the busiest season for most hotels and therefore, the prices are very high. Therefore, this might not be the perfect time month to book a hotel in Africa if you are looking to save some money. Generally, the best time to book a hotel is the “shoulder season”—the time between the peak and off-peak seasons.
So, in most countries, the best time to find cheap hotels rates is between January and February when everyone is not planning to travel after the Christmas festivities. Hotel rates are impressively low at this time. In summer, you should wait until September when the schools are back in session. That’s when hotel rates are at their lowest.
According to Huffington Post, the average rate of hotels in Wailea, Hawaii, in the summer is about $542 per night but drops to about $403 during the shoulder season. It also reports that midsummer hotel rates in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, are about $181 per night, but they significantly drop to about $107 per night in the shoulder season.
But although hotel rates and seasons differ by destination, overall summer hotel rates are the highest while winter hotel rates are the lowest in the U.S.
How Far In Advance Should You Book a Hotel for the Best Deals?
New studies from hotel comparison sites show that in general, hotels should be booked not more than one month in advance to find the best. Contrary to popular belief, booking further in advance is largely more expensive because most hotels aren’t sure how many rooms will empty close to the check-in date.
Although some hotel rates increase closer to the check-in date, they usually don’t reach the same rate as 2-3 months in advance.
Approximately one month in advance is the cheapest time to book a hotel when normal savings are at their highest. The difference between booking two months in advance and booking on the day of departure is quite negligible, making last-minute booking a cost-effective option.
The truth is that booking a hotel in advance hardly pays off, with hotel prices at their highest and normal savings at their lowest over two months in advance.