Whenever I plan a trip somewhere, it feels 'official' once I book the flights, train tickets or rental car, but I’m never quite sure when to book a hotel. Should I do it as far ahead of time as possible to secure the best deal? Or should I wait until I’m actually at the destination and try my luck at Hotels Tonight or another last-minute site? As it turns out, there may actually be a 'right' time to book your accommodation in order to get the best price.
After analysing millions of hotel prices, they came to the conclusion that you’re going to want to book one to two weeks in advance if you’re travelling within the United States to a larger city with a lot of business travellers, like New York City, Boston or Chicago.
In places like this, the hotel prices only fluctuate a little three to six months before you check in. The real price drops happen in the 12 weeks before you travel.
So why not book then? According to the study, the best prices are often available at the last minute in these cities. The problem is that it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the exact type of room you prefer: the closer you book to your check-in date, the more likely the hotel is to be booked, so you may not end up in your top-choice room.
If you’re only interested in the hotel and don’t care what kind of room you get, booking last-minute is probably your best bet in these cities.
If you do happen to book early and then see the price drop, there is a way you could potentially get the cheaper rate, as long as your original reservation has a free cancellation option.
This service is called Pruvo. To take advantage of it, book your hotel as usual, then forward your confirmation letter to [email protected]. From that point on, Pruvo will track prices for that reservation. If price drops, they’ll email to let you know. You then have to cancel your original reservation and rebook it at the lower rate. It’s a little more work, but can end up saving you a lot of money.
Smaller cities and vacation destinations
If you’re heading off on vacation to a smaller city, weekend getaway or the beach, you’re going to want to book your hotel sooner rather than later.
In this case, the prices are lowest around three months in advance of check-in and are likely to increase after that—especially for those who wait until the last minute.
If graphs are your thing, here are a few from Hopper that illustrate these hotel-booking trends:
For bigger cities:
And for smaller cities: