Are Hotels Cheaper Last Minute? A Comprehensive Guide

February 12, 2024

In the dynamic world of travel planning, the question of whether hotels are cheaper last minute often lingers in the minds of budget-conscious travelers. The appeal of spontaneous getaways and potential savings can be tempting, but is there truth to the notion that procrastination pays off? Let’s dive into the intricacies of hotel pricing and booking to unravel this mystery.

What is the Cheapest Time to Book a Hotel?

Conventionally, travelers have been advised to book hotels well in advance to secure the best deals. However, recent research challenges this notion. According to a study by NerdWallet, which analyzed over 2,500 hotel room rates spanning multiple years, it was found that booking a hotel room 15 days before the check-in date was cheaper 66% of the time compared to booking four months in advance. Moreover, the savings were even more significant in 2021, with rooms being cheaper 73% of the time when booked last minute.

What is the Cheapest Day to Buy a Hotel Room?

Photo of River Landing Suite

Interestingly, the timing of your booking can significantly impact the price you pay for a hotel room. Waiting until the day of arrival can yield the best deals, particularly around 4 p.m. This is when hotels, faced with unsold inventory, are more inclined to slash prices to fill vacant rooms. HotelTonight, a renowned platform for last-minute hotel bookings, reports that same-day rates are, on average, 10% less than rates booked the day before.

What Do Hotels Do with Unsold Rooms?

Hotels employ various strategies to manage unsold inventory. As the check-in date approaches, they may adjust room rates downward to attract spontaneous travelers seeking deals. Additionally, hotels may partner with online platforms specializing in last-minute bookings to offload surplus inventory at discounted rates. The goal is to maximize occupancy and revenue, even if it means offering rooms at lower prices than originally planned.

Are Hotels Cheaper on Certain Days of the Week?

While the day of the week can influence hotel prices to some extent, the overarching trend suggests that waiting until closer to the check-in date generally results in better deals. However, certain factors may come into play. For instance, weekends and peak travel seasons may witness higher demand, leading to higher prices overall. Conversely, mid-week stays or off-peak periods might offer more favorable rates due to lower demand.

Insights from Industry Experts

According to Sam Shank, co-founder and CEO of HotelTonight, hotels are more likely to offer deeply discounted rates as the check-in time approaches, especially if rooms remain unsold by 4 p.m. on the day of arrival. Platforms like HotelTonight capitalize on this trend by offering time-sensitive deals, such as the Daily Drop, which provides significant discounts for a limited time.

Conclusion: Is Waiting Until Last Minute Worth It?

While the allure of last-minute savings may be enticing, it’s essential to weigh the potential benefits against the risks. While waiting until the eleventh hour can yield discounted rates, there’s no guarantee of availability or substantial savings. Moreover, for travelers with specific preferences or requirements, booking in advance offers peace of mind and ensures access to desired accommodations.

In conclusion, while hotels may indeed be cheaper last minute, the degree of savings and availability can vary significantly. For spontaneous travelers willing to take a chance, waiting until closer to the check-in date might yield favorable deals. However, for those seeking certainty and peace of mind, booking in advance remains a prudent option, albeit potentially at a slightly higher cost. As with all aspects of travel planning, careful consideration of individual preferences and circumstances is paramount in making the best decision.

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