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Should You Wait to Book a Hotel Room Until the Last Minute?

By Bennett Kleinman
Read time: 4 minutes

When booking a hotel room, travelers often spend a great deal of time searching for the most affordable rates available. While you may be tempted to secure a room well in advance for some peace of mind, in some cases, you can save money on your hotel reservation by waiting to book. The data shows that room prices have the potential to drop as the date of stay approaches, and though it’s not always a guarantee, these savings happen more frequently than you may realize. So if you’re planning a trip and still haven’t booked the accommodations, then you might want to hold off until you read this article. Here’s how to determine whether or not it’s cheaper to book hotel rooms at the last minute.

When to Book a Hotel for the Biggest Savings

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While it may be risky to wait to book a hotel until the month of your trip, there could be a noted benefit to doing so — depending on the location (more on that later). According to a study from financial advice website NerdWallet, travelers who book around 15 days in advance may save more on their reservation than travelers who secure their hotel four months ahead of time. The savings vary from year to year, but were an average of 13.9% in 2021 and even higher for luxury hotels. This isn’t just a trick for hotels in the U.S., but applies to international bookings as well.

Some savvy savers even suggest waiting until 48 hours before your desired date of stay to finally book. However, when you’re that close to your travel date it might be best to call the hotel and talk to someone directly. Politely request to speak with a manager and ask if there are any last-minute rooms available. Often, hotels are willing to work with you and offer a more flexible rate rather than let a room go unused, so it’s worth calling to see if you’ll get lucky.

For real risk-takers, you can let the clock tick down even further. Assuming you have a back-up plan in place, it can be worth waiting until the day of your desired stay to finally make your desired booking. Many hotels will cut their prices by an average of 10% once the clock strikes 4 p.m., so get ready to pick up your phone and jump at these deals should they become available.

The Risks of Waiting Too Long

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It’s important to consider where and when you’re staying before waiting too long to make a reservation. If there’s a major event in the area, such as a concert or sports game, then prices are likely to increase as inventory shrinks — and you’ll just end up paying a heftier rate in the end. Major holidays and weekends are also more desirable travel days, so don’t expect rates to fall during these peak times.

As for location, it’s critical to take note of the city where you’re staying. Certain high-profile leisure cities such as Las Vegas, Miami, and other popular resort towns sell out most of their listings well in advance. While there’s likely to be some last-minute accommodations available, they’re rarely as heavily discounted as you may hope — if at all. When it comes to these sought-after leisure cities, the greatest savings are actually offered an average of three months ahead of your stay, so book then and don’t wait.

Also consider the amount you’ll save by waiting — according to the NerdWallet research, it was around 13.9% in 2021. Depending on the cost of your stay, that may not actually add up to much — or outweigh your peace of mind. The site also recommends taking advantage of hotels’ flexible rates, allowing you to potentially cancel and rebook without penalty.

Helpful Last-Minute Services

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For many travelers, keeping track of changing hotel prices may be too time-consuming to make it worth their while. Thankfully, there are helpful services like HotelTonight that compile last-minute, discounted hotel rates all over the world. They even offer a Daily Drop once a day, offering spontaneous travelers an extra 30% in savings, as long as they act within a 15-minute window. Major booking providers like Expedia also have a last-minute deals section, and the site offers savings of up to 40% on hotels — the catch is, you won’t find out the exact hotel name until you complete your reservation.

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