When Is the Best Time to Book a Hotel? Here’s What Travel Experts Say
These insider tips and tricks will teach you the best time to book a hotel to get the best value for your travel dollar
Getting the cheapest airfare and knowing the best time to buy flights is only one part of planning a getaway. Equally important for a successful trip: locating a great, and affordable, place to stay. That’s why finding the most competitive deals on accommodations and hotel rewards programs—whether for all-inclusive resorts on a beach, affordable mini vacations in the mountains or family-friendly vacations at the country’s best theme parks—is a critical part of travel planning.
Just as it pays to know the best time to buy anything and the cheapest days to do anything, it’s also crucial to know when to book your hotel room (down to the day and time) if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. That’s especially important today, with signs of inflation all around us.
“Significant factors, including jet fuel prices, fewer flights scheduled and two years of pent-up travel demand” have all combined to drive up travel prices, according to Hayley Berg, an economist with the travel site Hopper. That’s reason enough to get strategic with your travel planning, waiting until the best time to book a hotel before you make your reservation. Read on for insider tips that’ll help you save.
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What is the best day to book a hotel?
Many factors can determine the price of a hotel room, including a busy holiday season and increased demand from a major festival or sporting event. That said, there is some basic guidance on when to book for the ultimate hotel savings.
The best day of the week to book your hotel at the lowest rate is Monday for domestic travel and Tuesday for international travel, according to travel site Expedia. The research shows that the lowest average daily rate (ADR) for domestic accommodations tends to occur on Mondays, when travelers can save more than 15% compared with booking and staying on the most expensive day, Friday.
Leaving the country? For the cheapest international trips, book and stay on a Tuesday. You’ll save 10% compared with booking and staying on a Thursday, Expedia research says.
If you can, try to book a refundable room. That way, if prices go down after you book, you can take advantage of the lower rates. And there’s a good chance prices will change.
|♦ Best days to book a hotel: Monday and Tuesday
|Book and stay on Monday for the cheapest domestic hotel rates, and on Tuesday for the cheapest international hotel rates.
What is the best time to book a hotel?
Bargain hunters often say hotel prices go down at night. And they may be on to something.
“Hotels often greatly discount their overnight rates a few hours prior to check-in to get the occupancy rate up and an extra ‘head in a bed,'” says Yannis Moati, CEO of HotelsByDay. “The caveat is that you cannot be choosy with the specific hotel choice, as that first choice may be gone on a last-minute basis.”
If you can be flexible with your lodging, however, this hotel-booking secret can get you great deals.
How far in advance should you book a hotel?
Booking at the last minute can save you money, says Berg. If you’re flexible with where you stay, you can save as much as 25% by booking the day before or the day of your stay, she says.
But keep in mind that you will need to be flexible with hotel quality and amenities to get the best price at the last minute. Hotels typically lower prices on remaining inventory in the month prior to the check-in date, adds Berg.
And of course, hotels go down in price closer to the date only when there is inventory available. If you’re headed to a popular event or sold-out show, you likely won’t find last-minute availability. In that case, the best time to book a hotel is around 21 days before check-in, according to experts.
If you book a refundable hotel room, you can keep an eye on the prices. If there’s a significant drop in rates, cancel your reservation and rebook to get the discount. And remember, no matter how much you pay for your room, there are things you really shouldn’t be asking hotel staff to do.
One caveat to last-minute booking, says Berg: “If you’re looking to plan a getaway vacation over a several-night stay, you should plan to book at least three weeks in advance. Vacation destinations typically do not discount remaining inventory to the same degree that hotels in cities do.”
What is the best day to check in for the lowest rate?
It depends who you ask, but in general, weekdays are the best bet for your next vacation. Remember, the Expedia report found Monday check-ins led to the lowest prices for domestic travel, and Tuesday check-ins were cheapest for international travel. And data from travel site Kayak suggests checking in on Tuesday and checking out on Thursday tend to offer more bargains when it comes to hotel rates.
Of course, this mostly pertains to leisure travel. The weekend is the prime time to be at the property, making Friday the most expensive check-in day and Sunday the most expensive day to check out. For hotels that specialize in business travel (or handle a lot of it), midweek tends to be the busiest—and the most expensive time to check in and out.
No matter when you arrive, do your best to be a respectful guest by avoiding these things you should never do in a hotel room.
What is the cheapest month to stay at a hotel?
For most of North America, the best time to travel in 2023 to get average rates of less than $150 was Jan. 3 through Jan. 8, according to the experts at Hotels.com.
That said, you’re not totally out of luck. The cheapest month depends on the location. In 2023, New York City (one of the most expensive cities for hotels) is running its popular Hotel Week from Jan. 3 to Feb. 12, when prices for hotel rooms in the city that never sleeps are discounted by nearly 25%. Prices are even known to dip to $100. But you may still find high prices at busy ski resorts or tropical destinations during this time.
Traveling during your destination’s off-season, whatever time of year that may be, can help you save on your next trip.
When is the worst time to book a hotel room?
Looking for a good deal? Hotels lower prices on remaining inventory in the month prior to the check-in date, so one of the worst times to book is just before this one-month cut-off date. But keep in mind that you will need to be flexible with the hotel property and amenities to get a good last-minute deal.
Avoid checking in on Black Friday, say the experts at Hopper. “Prices for Black Friday check-ins are higher than Thanksgiving itself,” says Berg. “In fact, you’ll pay an additional $50 [or more] to check in on Black Friday for a post-Thanksgiving weekend getaway.”
Why do hotel prices fluctuate so much?
“Hotels typically increase their rates when demand is high,” says Melissa Dohmen, a spokesperson and lodging expert at Hotels.com. That’s why prices can skyrocket during one season but drop during another. The law of supply and demand also leads prices to fluctuate daily—sometimes even more than once a day, says Audrey Fairbrother of Hotel Engine.
Dohmen says the peak of summer, when most people are looking for a beach getaway, is a prime example of a time when hotel rates will soar.
To deal with this high season, “consider destinations outside of your usual vacation spots, and if you don’t have to stick to a specific travel date, book during non-peak travel times,” she advises. Mid-May and the latter part of August can be great times to save, she says, because seasonally high prices haven’t ramped up yet.
What are the best websites and apps for finding a better deal?
Here’s a travel trick that’ll help you save: Create a smartphone folder for your travel apps, then browse its contents when you’re on the hunt for great deals. It’s a smart first step, especially when it comes to booking affordable hotel stays.
Download these free options below before your next trip:
If you’re concerned you may have pulled the trigger too early on your hotel room deal, this app is for you. Pruvo helps you find better deals on a room you’ve already booked (provided it has a free cancellation policy) and then helps you rebook it at a lower rate.
For last-minute bookings, download the Hotel Tonight app, then turn on the location option to see what nearby hotels have last-minute availabilities—say, if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay during a road trip. These deals usually offer significant savings and the best possible price. You can also use the app to book a hotel in advance, but for the biggest discounts, you’ll want to wait until right before you need a place to lie down.
If you don’t need to stay in a hotel overnight but need a room for an afternoon, download HotelsByDay. The app allows you to rent hotel accommodations during the day to take advantage of the workspace, use the gym, relax after a trip to the spa, hang out before events or catch a nap before a late flight. Don’t forget to tip the hotel staff, even if you’re just there for the day.
For a massive selection, head to Hotels.com, a website and app with more than a million properties to choose from. Join the loyalty program, and you’ll earn points toward future stays and unlock codes for 10% off.
In an InsureMyTrip analysis of hotel-booking sites, Hotels.com came out on top. It has what InsureMyTrip calls “the most cost-effective accommodation … cheaper than other websites in 331 instances.”
Expert tips that score you a better deal on your hotel room
- Check your points and miles. “Consumers are often sitting on a stockpile of credit card rewards—’free’ money that can only be put to use if it is, in fact, used,” says Bankrate analyst Sarah Foster. She recommends using any credit card rewards points to fund some of your travel. Remember, points don’t accrue interest, so it’s better to use them than to keep them sitting in an account.
- Search for three-star hotels. Everyone loves a luxury stay at a four- or five-star hotel, but savvy travelers can find two- and three-star hotel gems that don’t skimp on style or experiences, says Hotels.com. Even better: These properties usually offer cost-saving perks, like free breakfast and parking. That may be why the site saw demand for three-star properties grow by 20% this year.
- Consider a last-minute booking strategy. If you are flexible and don’t mind waiting until the last minute—meaning 4 p.m. or later on the day you need a hotel—hold off on booking. You’ll be rewarded with great deals. According to industry source Hotel Management, 40% of travelers cancel their hotel rooms before the cancellation penalty goes into effect.
- Pay attention to refund policies. When possible, select a fully cancellable room and the most flexible refund option in case plans change. That way, you can cancel and rebook if prices go down.
- Book with the hotel directly. Hotel-booking websites, like TripAdvisor and Hotels.com, are an easy online way to figure out which hotels in your price range have open rooms. But here’s an insider tip from a hotel inspector: Once you’ve decided where to stay, book directly with the hotel. You’ll usually get the greatest deal (especially since many will match the best online price), and most hotels will assign the least-spacious rooms to those who book through discounted sites.
The best credit card for hotel perks
Hotels are one of the things you really should be paying for with a credit card. “Every major hotel chain has its own loyalty rewards program, which anyone can join for free,” says Alex Breen, a rewards analyst with WalletHub. “But these hotel rewards programs are not equally rewarding for everyone. They all have different rules, earning rates and point values, as well as a variety of unique benefits. Plus, a lot depends on where you travel, how often you stay in hotels and how much you’re comfortable spending.”
WalletHub compared the 10 most popular hotel rewards programs using 21 key metrics and determined that Radisson Rewards Americas is the best hotel loyalty program for travelers of all spending levels, earning an average WalletHub Score of 73 out of 100. The site also highlighted Wyndham Rewards, which it says offers up to $12.84 in rewards value per $100 spent—the most of any major hotel loyalty program, adds Breen.
The bottom line
If you’re traveling within the United States, book and stay on a Monday for the best deals. Headed out of the country? Book and stay on a Tuesday for the ultimate savings. By booking at the right time, and possibly even waiting until the last minute, you may see significant savings on your hotel getaway.
Keep in mind that the cost of a hotel room depends on a lot of factors beyond the day and time you book. Knowing the best time to book a hotel is just as important as knowing when you’re traveling, where you’re going and whether any major events are happening during your stay.
And just as having a strategy pays when you’re booking travel, it leads to great deals when you’re shopping too. That’s why it’s helpful to know the best time to buy appliances, furniture and even Apple products.
- Hayley Berg, economist with Hopper
- Yannis Moati, CEO of HotelsByDay
- Melissa Dohmen, spokesperson and lodging expert at Hotels.com
- Audrey Fairbrother, travel expert with Hotel Engine
- Sarah Foster, analyst at Bankrate
- Alex Breen, rewards analyst with WalletHub
- NYC & Company: “NYC Hotel Week”
- InsureMyTrip: “Most Affordable Way to Book a Hotel”
- Expedia: “2023 Travel Trends Report”
- Cision Newswire: “New Hotels.com pricing index reveals when and where to score best hotel rates this summer”
- Hotel Management: “Study: Cancellation rate at 40% as OTAs push free change policy”