Contrary to a popular belief, last-minute rates are seldom the best deal. In the hotel business, like any other, supply and demand drives prices. In popular destinations, hotels often book up well ahead. When fewer rooms are available, prices climb — a lot. You may find it difficult getting a room at all if you wait until the last minute. You could literally be left out in the cold, not something you want on your vacation. This may not be the case in destinations that have an oversupply of accommodations or during the quietest times of the year.
Backing this up, a study by Trivago showed that the best time to book to maximize savings is about one month in advance. Booking 2 months in advance results in about the same discount as booking on the day of, or day before, your stay. Booking over 2 months in advance, usually results in below average savings.
Keep in mind these numbers are averages and no two bookings are the same. They are an excellent guideline though. The optimal time to book a hotel falls within a range a few weeks either side of the one month before your stay. This range varies by city or region, but the one month mark is almost always in the optimum range.
Another consideration is that booking one month in advance may not give you as many choices in popular destinations during their peak periods. In that situation, you may have to book further in advance to be sure of getting something suitable.
Where you travel also has a large bearing on the cost of accommodations. If you’re travelling for pleasure and are flexible as to where you can vacation, you can find some great deals.
Generally, big cities (popular with business travellers) have cheaper prices on weekends while resorts and vacation destinations (popular with tourists) offer lower rates on weekdays.
Many hotels offer larger discounts if you forego the choice to cancel your booking. This may be risky, as an unexpected event could change your travel plans. The likelihood of that increases the further ahead you book the room, but if the discount is significant, you might consider taking the risk.
If you find a competitive hotel rate with a free cancellation period, you can reserve the room to secure it without risk. You then have the option to cancel and book again if a better price (or a better hotel) becomes available before your stay. This option is not available if you make a non-refundable booking.
As you can see, there are many variables when trying to get the best rate on your hotel booking. The above knowledge should help you get a better deal while minimising risks.