Booking a hotel is much like baking in that it often tends to be more an art than a science.
While some folks will claim to have the perfect formula for getting the best deals on a hotel room that’s 100% fool proof, the reality is that there are no magic bullets. A technique that netted you a discounted room in one hotel may fail to have any effect elsewhere because some unseen factor is sufficiently different as to render it completely ineffectual.
However, while there are no guarantees there are general guidelines and strategies you can use to help steer you in the right direction. Again, it’s an art more than anything. While you’re unlikely to land free upgrades to a hotel’s presidential suite this way, it will most definitely save you cash on accommodation you can put towards other parts of your holiday.
The time of year, and sometimes even the day of the week, can have quite a marked impact on the prices of hotels. So prudent travellers should always be mindful of what days they choose to travel when booking their hotels.
For example, a huge mistake far too many rookie holiday makers commit is booking a hotel during the holidays.
At first glance this seems logical – the kids are off school, more is typically open, and work may be more lenient – but consider that everyone is also thinking the same thing. Demand matches supply and (because Adam Smith hates your guts) that means that prices take a sharp rise.
Don’t forget national and regional holidays too. If you’re flying to the USA during the 4th of July, expect a lot of hotels to suddenly charge more as freedom loving Americans return home to celebrate. Likewise keep in mind that the holiday season will vary from country to country too.
For example, in the UK the summer holidays are six weeks from sometime in July to the beginning of September, whereas in the USA they’ll last for ten to eleven weeks from mid-June to late August or early September depending on the state. In Australia, meanwhile, the whole things is reversed because July to September would be the middle of their winter period. So make sure you take this into account when flying in from the elsewhere during their term times!
Usually the best times to book are in between peak and off-peak seasons, called the “shoulder season”, or immediately after the holidays end (such as January and February). These are the times of year when the least number of people are looking to travel. Not only does this lower the prices but, because it’s out of tourist season, availability is likely to be better as well.
For a similar reason weekends also see a slight rise in prices, so keep an eye on weekly price hikes too.
The better the location of a hotel, the more it will cost. For example, booking a hotel in the middle of London will probably cost twice (or more) as much as a hotel on the outskirts of the metropolitan area. Likewise, hotels in especially scenic parts of the region will also be dearer than accommodation in less attractive parts of town.
All this is down to things such as accessibility, the surrounding land value, how much traffic a hotel will likely see, and surrounding services and attractions. While having a hotel smack bang in the middle of where all the action is can be an immense boon, it’s certainly one that costs. You can save money by looking at hotels that aren’t as advantageously placed.
Don’t undermine yourself though. If you choose a hotel that’s too far out from where you want to go, any savings you’ve made will just be lost again on transport and other services. Some hotels will run shuttle services to certain attractions or areas, which is worth checking for, but remember not everyone gets a private ride!
Never feel beholden to a hotel just because you’ve made a reservation and never agree to place down a non-refundable deposit. Always arrange to pay on arrival to minimise the risk of throwing your money away.
Deals will come and go as time progresses, so always keep yourself flexible in case you see a better offer at alternative hotel. Book the best deals early on just as a safety net, but keep your eyes peeled in the meantime up until the moment you leave. If a juicier option pops up, you can cancel and rebook as you please.
Depending on how it’s done, both early and late bookings can be a good way to gain deals.
If you’re looking for cheaper rates by an ahead of schedule booking, try to book at least a month in advance. These are when deals are their most reliable and generally the most reasonable. If you’re keeping your options open, it’s not a bad idea to book your hotel at the earliest stages of holiday planning so you can both get a good rate while giving yourself time to look for other options.
You can also wait until just a day or two before arrival to book – chances are someone will have had to cancel their reservation and left a room empty.
Hotels abhor empty rooms as it’s always a loss in revenue, so they’ll likely offer reduced prices to fill up rooms that have been cancelled at the 11th hour. Indeed, booking a room on the day of arrival can get you as much as 10-20% off, depending on what time you arrive at the hotel.
Just keep in mind that this is a gamble. You could equally come to find that the hotel is completely packed by the time you’ve come to book, and so isn’t advised if you’re dead set on a particular hotel.
Hotel booking websites can sometimes be used to find good deals on hotels, while also covering entire cities or regions making searching for good rates even easier. This can be useful for preliminary searches and getting a good feel for what the situation on the ground is like when it comes to hotel rates.
That said, however, be cautious about the major websites. Most will charge a hefty commission rate to hotels on their engines which inflates prices and isn't fair to either consumers or the hotels themselves. Plus smaller or independent hotels usually can’t afford these commissions at all, so relying on the big, famous hotel booking websites may just blind you to potential bargains on offer in the area.
So that they don’t lose any revenue in booking prices, many hotels will incentivise guests booking directly through them rather than through a third party. This can either be done directly through a website or over the phone.
The later especially may carry an advantage, as you’ll be talking to a physical person rather than using a search engine algorithm. A member of staff at the hotel can better advise you about rates, peak seasons, special offers or deals that may not be widely advertised online.
This is also of course the joy of Hoo, as we're aiming to streamline that offer-making process to put you in direct contact with the hotels rather than just gobbling up tons of commissions. Better for you, better for the hotels!
Find out more about our mission, and get in with a chance to win a luxury VIP night in London, by visiting win.bookhoo.com today.