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

By Deb Hopewell

May 15, 2019

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Getting a good deal on a hotel room comes down to a few simple tricks.

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Getting a good deal on a hotel room comes down to a few simple tricks.

Snag a hotel room at the best rate possible thanks to these handy tips.

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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 during what time of year you’re traveling in. 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 rates, both for domestic and international travel, is Friday, and sometimes Saturday, according to travel aggregator Kayak's Global Hotel Survey and the Airlines Reporting Corporation and Expedia Group's 2019 Travel Pricing Outlook.

The most expensive days to book are Monday through Wednesday, when most people are searching, with Tuesday being the single priciest day for domestic hotels, and Monday/Wednesday the most expensive for international hotels. But 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.

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

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Sunday is the cheapest day of the week to check into a hotel. Travelers on a weekend getaway are returning home that day, and business travelers don’t usually start checking in until Monday, so there can be a lot of unused and discounted Sunday inventory. Kayak’s study showed that for international travel, Tuesday check-ins at leisure-oriented hotels are noticeably cheaper, as well.

On the flip side, if you plan on arriving on a Friday or Saturday and leaving on a Sunday, you’d better plan to pay top dollar. If you have the flexibility to avoid that weekend time frame, you’ll save money. (Take note, however, that Fridays and Saturdays, along with Sundays, tend to be cheaper days for checking into business hotels.)

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 three 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. A 2018 study by SAP Concur, a company that assists businesses with travel and expense management, found the same results for booking hotels in Europe: Most hotel bookings are made a month or more out, when rates are the highest. Travelers who wait three or fewer days before their check-in date to make a reservation will save the most money.

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.

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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 booking at least a month in advance for the best rates and inventory, and even more if it’s a popular destination, like Barcelona or London. One tactic is to choose 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 Paris and Prague (or any other popular European destination) in August, when most Europeans take their vacations. Likewise, you won’t find many deals in Palm Springs, Mexico, or the Caribbean in winter.

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Holidays and special events, too, will see hotel rates skyrocket—think Christmas in Hawaii, New Year’s Eve in New York City, spring break in Fort Lauderdale, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans. If you’re traveling abroad, it helps to check ahead to see if there are any festivals or national holidays during your stay that would impact hotel prices. These could be anything from Carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the Palio di Siena in Italy or the Sydney Festival in Australia.

In short, remember that getting the best deal on a hotel room comes down to a few basic rules: Make your bookings from home on a Friday or Saturday (ideally at the last minute if you can), travel off-season whenever possible, and avoid checking in on Friday and checking out on Sunday.

>> Next: The Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets

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