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Get the Best Rates on Your Hotel Room With These Simple Tips

By Deb Hopewell and Michelle Baran

Sep 14, 2021

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Eager to check into a new hotel like the forthcoming Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley? Try these booking tips.

Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley

Eager to check into a new hotel like the forthcoming Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley? Try these booking tips.

Mark your calendar so that you can snag a hotel room at the best rate possible.

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Hotel accommodations are typically one of the biggest expenses on a trip, and whether you’re looking for budget options or five-star luxury, no one wants to pay more than they have to.

Timing, they say, is everything, and that’s particularly true when it comes to booking a hotel room since room rates can vary appreciably, depending on factors like how far in advance you book and what time of year you’re traveling. With that in mind, here are some tips for getting the very best deal on your hotel stay.

What is the best day of the week to book a hotel room?

The best day of the week to book your hotel at the lowest rate is Saturday for domestic travel and Friday for international travel, according to travel aggregator Kayak, which analyzed hotel searches conducted between January 1 and September 8, 2021.

According to Kayak, Tuesday is the most expensive day to book domestic travel and Sunday is the most expensive day for international hotels. As the week slides into the weekend, hotel searches drop by as much as 30 percent, and the rates tend to drop off, as well.

Interestingly, travel booking and review site Tripadvisor offered some slightly different intel, reporting that Tuesday is the cheapest day to book a hotel, both for domestic and international accommodations.

What is the cheapest day of the week to check in and out?

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Here, there’s been a bit of change recently. A couple years ago, prior to the pandemic, Kayak had reported that Sunday is the cheapest day of the week to check into a hotel, the day that travelers on a weekend getaway usually return home and prior to the Monday check-ins that are typical for business travelers. But in 2021, Kayak reports that Tuesday has become the cheapest day of the week to check into a hotel both domestically and internationally.

It remains true, however, that when traveling domestically, if you plan on arriving on a Friday or Saturday and leaving on a Sunday, you’ll be paying top dollar. If you have the flexibility to avoid that weekend time frame, you’ll save money. Thursday is the most expensive day for check-in internationally, followed by Friday.

Tripadvisor reports that for domestic trips, one-night stays are cheaper (and confirms that Tuesday check-ins are cheapest) but that for international stays one-night stays are the most expensive and booking a hotel for two- or three-night stays midweek can save travelers between $10 and $30 per night.

How far in advance should I book a room?

The calculations get a little trickier here. Kayak found that if you’re not risk averse and can wait until the last minute, say one to four days before your planned check-in date, you can save a lot of money.

One reason is that hotels typically have a 24- to 48-hour cancellation policy and do see cancellations come in just ahead of that window via those looking to avoid being penalized. Rather than have those canceled rooms go unused, the hotels will cut rates to fill them.

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For international trips, booking rooms one to seven days prior to arrival could save travelers between $10 and $70 per night, according to Tripadvisor, which found that 25 percent of international travelers make their bookings 1 to 1.5 months in advance when the rate is actually $37 to $100 per night higher.

The issue with waiting is that availability and room category options could be sparse. But if you’re game for a bit of a gamble in exchange for a good deal, a travel site like HotelTonight or One:Night will be particularly useful to find last-minute deals.

However, if you’re traveling abroad, you might not be comfortable waiting until right before you leave, or landing in a foreign country without knowing where you’re sleeping that night. In that case, hotel comparison site Trivago suggests choosing a handful of hotels that fit your price range a couple of months before your departure. Then start tracking them over a few weeks to gauge the best price and lock it in when you’re satisfied. Trivago found that if you’re traveling abroad, booking more than two to three months in advance will cost the most.

What time of year should I avoid hotel stays?

If your main goal is to save money, booking a hotel off-season is the way to go. That means avoiding popular domestic or European destinations in the summer and opting for spring or fall instead. Likewise, you won’t find many deals in Palm Springs, Mexico, or the Caribbean in winter.

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While some holiday gatherings and special events have been on hold due to the pandemic, typically around these times (and if the events are actually going ahead) you will see hotel rates shoot up as well—think Christmas in Hawai‘i, New Year’s Eve in New York City, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans

In short, remember that getting the best deal on a hotel room comes down to a few basic rules: Make your bookings on a more favorable day of the week (try Tuesday or the weekend), try for last minute if you can, travel off-season whenever possible, and avoid checking in on Friday.

This story originally appeared on May 14, 2019, and has been updated to include current information.

>> Next: The Best U.S. Flight Deals for 2021—and When to Book

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