Is It Cheaper To Book a Hotel Last Minute?

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In the pandemic era, travel plans are subject to change at a moment’s notice, depending upon potential exposure and the industry’s need to adapt to public health guidelines. Sometimes, you might not even know what your plans will be until the last minute. But is it going to cost you more money, or less, to book a hotel at the last minute?

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Experts have mixed opinions, but here are some considerations that should help you decide when and how to book your hotels.

Yes, It’s Cheaper, but…

The short answer is that yes, sometimes booking a hotel at the last minute can be cheaper depending upon certain conditions. CJ Gustafsen, CEO and founder of Bubba Booking, a marketplace for last-minute tours and activities, says, “It’s usually 20% to 40% cheaper to book hotels last minute, but this is largely dependent on how many nights you are staying for and the season.”

Make Your Money Work for You

He says that you’re likely to get a deal on one night last minute, but for a full week, that savings ebbs away and you might actually pay more, especially if it’s at a peak travel time or holiday.

He recommends checking out RedWeek, a website that offloads timeshare weeks people aren’t using.

Find Out: 35 Things Your Hotel Will Give You for Free

48 Hours to 15 Days Before Is the Sweet Spot

While booking hotels last minute is risky, “it can be a great way to score killer deals,” says Mitch Glass, a travel blogger who runs the Project Untethered travel blog. Rather than searching online, he recommends calling the hotel directly 48 hours before you want to check in. “Speak with a manager, ask if they have any last-minute deals on empty rooms and tell them you’re flexible.”

The travel search engine Kayak recommends between one to three days prior as the sweet spot for saving some cash on domestic hotels. For international hotels, six days prior, but you’ll want to have a backup plan.

Make Your Money Work for You

According to a NerdWallet study, however, 15 days prior might be the ideal time to book. According to their research, by booking just two weeks in advance, survey respondents saved more money 66% of the time compared to four months out.

Travel Prep: 10 Financial To-Dos Before Going on a Trip

Wait Until 4 p.m.

Another way to trick the system, says Mataf Symits, marketing director for ASO Mammoth, is waiting until 4 p.m. to call and book a hotel. He says you could save as much as 13% on a hotel this way. “Hotels want to maximize their occupancy rate if they are not meeting their deadlines.”

He also recommends checking with any organizations you might be a member of, such as the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Keep in Mind That These Are Unusual Times, and Flexibility Is Required

The fact is, the travel industry is “turned upside,” says Peter Lombard of Globe Guides. “Airlines and hotels no longer know what their cancellation rates will be. I do think they hedge that by charging a bit more ahead of time.”

Deals do exist at the last minute, says Kelie Fiala, a travel agent at vacationsplanned.com, but nothing is guaranteed. “If there is an event going on in the area you want to stay, then you’re most likely not going to find a deal. The best way to find a last-minute deal is to be flexible about when and where you’re going. If you care more about the deal, then I suggest shopping around on booking sites.”

Another recommendation is to work with a travel agent and ask them to alert you to a good deal, since agents often have access to this information.

More: 13 Insider Secrets From Travel Agents That Will Save You Money

Don’t Take Too Big of a Risk

While it may be possible to book a hotel more cheaply last minute, travel advisor Tiffany L. Layne cautions against it. “In the current climate, hotel availability has become extremely limited. I would never recommend to my clients to wait until the last minute to book anything. Any savings you get will be nominal and most likely you will miss out on exactly the preferred property you would want.”

Instead, she recommends taking advantage of booking promotions and exclusive perks.

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Last updated: Oct. 22, 2021 

About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

 

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