The best time to book a hotel room
Booking your hotel can be daunting in the age of the internet. When the cost seems to fluctuate daily - sometimes even hourly - how can you be sure you’re getting the best deal?
Does it pay to book last-minute, or does the early bird get the worm? Should you use a comparison site, or go direct?
We’re here to demystify the booking process, explain how the price of hotel rooms is set, and show you how to make sure you get the best possible rate.
Why do prices change so much?
Things didn’t use to be like this. Depending on the destination, holiday-makers could feel quietly confident that the rate they were given was purely based on the timing of their stay. Coming in the busy season? Pay a little more. Off-season? Pay a little less.
But it’s not that simple anymore.
According to research conducted by TripRebel, eight out of ten hotels will change their room rates in the 30 days leading up to a booking. Of those eight hotels, three will drop their prices, and five will increase them.
This is because empty rooms mean empty cash registers for hotel managers. By lowering the prices as the time draws nearer, they hope to attract last-minute bargain-hunters and keep their bedrooms occupied.
What’s more, many hotels will keep a close eye on their competitors, and will make constant adjustments to undercut them wherever they can.
The catch 22 is that they don’t want all of us to leave our bookings until the last-minute in hopes of getting a better deal, otherwise nobody would book in advance. This is why hotel pricing is intentionally confusing.
Those of us that are happy to pay more for the reassurance of knowing our hotel is booked will do so, while those of us that prefer to wait it out in hopes of a favourable price change will take that risk.
For hotel managers, it’s the best possible result. For the rest of us… not so much. If we leave booking too late, we run the risk of the best hotels getting booked up and having to compromise. If we book too early, we could well be paying over the odds. It’s a tough situation that can really take the fun out of travel planning.
So what can you do?
All of the above means that there isn’t really a ‘best’ time to book, and there’s no winning formula to always make sure you get the most desireable rate.
There are, however, a few things you can do to help tip the balance in your favour.
- Book a room that includes free cancellation. Not all hotels offer this service, but if you find one that does, it can remove a lot of the worry. Just book your cancellable room well in advance, then keep an eye out for better deals nearer your travel date. If something better becomes available, you’ll have no trouble switching your booking and potentially saving a bundle.
- Book directly with the hotel. Price comparison sites make money through commission paid by the hotel. Because of this, many hotels prefer to cut out the middle-man and deal directly with customers, and will pass the saving on to you. By speaking directly to staff at the hotel, you also tap into their knowledge of their rooms in a way that large comparison sites can’t possibly offer. You might be able to get a room with a much better view at no extra cost, simply by asking for it. When calling a hotel, always make sure to call a number including a local area code, or you may end up connected to a call-center at another booking website.
- Search with flexible dates. This option won’t be available to everyone, especially if you’ve already booked your flights by the time you come to look for a hotel. However, if you can be flexible with your dates it vastly increases your chances of finding a great deal.
- See how much choice there is. Try searching for hotels in your destination and date range, and if you see lots of available rooms, that’s a good indication that prices could drop further if you wait a little longer. Once you’re within the 30 day threshold of your holiday, you may see discounts appear as hotels try to fill up their rooms - but don’t wait too long, or you could miss out on a room entirely!
The good news
Now you're ready to book a room - why not book your parking too?
Book Heathrow airport parking with Good To Go, and unwind from the moment you reach the airport.
Whether you're jetting away on a city break or following the sun to the beach get ready to travel with our expert tips and guides.
Preparing for your holiday should be exciting, not stressful.