Are Hotels Cheaper Last Minute?

Have you ever wondered if you could save money on your hotel bookings by waiting until the last minute? Well, you’re not alone – many travelers have been looking for ways to get the best deal when it comes to their hotel stays. So, is it possible to get a better rate by booking late?

Whether you just tend to overlook the accommodation part of planning a trip or you procrastinate on purpose, we’ll take a look if the last-minute hotel bookings are the way to go.

How much can I save booking last-minute?

a man holding money

You may have seen some hotels offering steep discounts for last-minute bookings and thought, “I could save money by booking late!” But is that the case? Yes and no. Hotel prices are highly dynamic, which means they can change from day to day and even hour to hour.

Though indeed, you can sometimes get lucky and find great last-minute deals, they are not as much of a bargain as you thought! On average, the rooms are only 13% less expensive than if you had booked four months in advance. It’s worth mentioning that this varies from hotel to hotel and room type to room type, but still – it’s typically not a significant amount of money.

That said, you may still be able to get some savings if you wait until the last minute as hotels often need to fill their vacant rooms. When occupancy is lower than expected, prices tend to drop to attract more guests. So, if you’re willing to take a chance and don’t mind being flexible with your accommodations, waiting until the last minute when booking hotel rooms may be worth it if you’re looking to save a few bucks.

International vs. Domestic Hotels

world map with a miniature airplane

Whether you’re going to a nearby city or an exotic destination, you’ll find that hotel prices in different countries can vary greatly. But when it comes to last-minute bookings, what’s the difference between international versus domestic hotels?

International hotels tend to have more flexibility when it comes to rates as they often sell rooms at discounted prices during the slow season. This means that you’re more likely to find a better deal if you book last minute. On the other hand, domestic hotels tend to have fixed rates with limited discounts unless they are running special promotions or deals.

But if you put them side by side, there’s minimal price difference based on last-minute savings. For example, if you book a hotel in Rome, you may save up to 12.7% on booking last minute at a domestic hotel and 13.5% on booking late at an international one.

When is the best time to book a hotel?

a man booking a hotel through his mobile phone

Generally speaking, the best time to book a hotel is 15 days before your trip. At that time, hotels have a good idea of how many bookings they’ll make and are more likely to offer discounted rates. Also, it is still early enough to find a large selection of rooms available at competitive prices.

Booking more than 21 days ahead is not recommended especially in popular destinations. Prices tend to be higher. That’s not to say that you won’t find any deals, but you’ll have fewer options to choose from and the discounts may be smaller.

So, what does this mean? When it comes to hotel bookings, you don’t have to wait until the last minute to get a good deal. You just need to find the sweet spot between too early and too late when prices are still competitive and there is plenty of availability.

You can even hop around different booking sites to compare different deals. For example, fancy hotels might offer discounts on only the larger suites, and budget hotels might have a good deal when you check in on arrival day.

Try monitoring the room rates several weeks before your trip and book when you get the best rate. As long as you have some flexibility with dates, this strategy can help you save some bucks on your hotel stays!

Why you may not want to book last-minute

a woman booking a hotel through her laptop

Let’s say you’re going on a trip to a city that you’ve never been to before, and you decide to book your room last minute. That sounds like a great money-saving move, right?

Not necessarily. When it comes to hotels, the cheapest isn’t always the best option. Even if you did get a good deal, there are still some risks associated with last-minute bookings such as:

No cancellation

Most hotels require full or half payment at the time of booking and don’t offer refunds for last-minute cancellations. So, if something comes up and you need to cancel your trip, you may lose all the money that you paid for the hotel room.

Because it was booked so close to the date of arrival, it is also unlikely that you’ll be able to re-sell the room for a later date. If you do need to cancel your trip at the last minute, make sure you are aware of any cancellation policies before booking your hotel room.

You might not save that much

As we said, last-minute hotel bookings are not guaranteed to save you money. At least, not a lot. The discounted rates may be lower than usual, but they still might not beat the prices offered by other booking sites or hotels.

Also, in hot spots such as tourist destinations, there may not be much flexibility when it comes to availability and prices. So, even if you book late, you might still get charged a premium price for the room because of the demand.

The price might actually be much higher (during peak season)

During peak season, the demand for hotel rooms is usually very high. To maximize their occupancy rates, hotels tend to increase their room rates drastically during those times. Luxury hotels and popular locations are more likely to do this.

For example, in the summer months, hotels in popular beach locations can charge 40% more than they do during other times of the year. So if you book your hotel room last minute during peak season, chances are you will end up paying a lot more for it.

The same applies to special events such as conferences or festivals – so make sure you check the dates and prices ahead of time.

Hotels can be cheaper if you book late – but that doesn’t mean you should always wait until the last minute. A good rule of thumb is to do some research and compare prices at least a few weeks before your trip. That way, you can get the best deals without risking last-minute cancellations or having to pay too much for the room. With a bit of planning, you’ll be sure to find a great deal on your hotel stay!

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Article by Alice

Hey I'm Alice. Based in San Diego where I write about my personal experiences but also well researched content pieces for curious travelers.