If on the lookout for a lodge deal, it would pay to attend till the final minute

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When it comes to hotel reservation reservations, Aesop and its fabled ants may have done it backwards – it may actually be worth waiting until the last minute to book.

While it is popular belief that booking early will provide travelers with better prices on accommodation, flights, and other vacation components, Research by NerdWallet found that waiting to book a hotel room up to 15 days before arrival would save them more time 66% of the time, compared to four months.

With the idea that it is better to book early, it was actually more about the choice, said Sally French, a travel expert at NerdWallet.

“It’s less about ‘buy early for better deals’ and more about the opportunity cost of not booking early – you could limit your options a lot by waiting,” she said. “Booking in advance gives you more choice to book the hotel that really fits your budget.”

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In 2019, 2020 and the first half of 2021, NerdWallet examined more than 2,500 hotel room prices in hotels worldwide by price range and brand and compared the prices for nights for 15 days and four months.

From 2019 to 2021, the average room rate in North America booked on 15 days was $ 203 while that for a unit booked four months outside was $ 233, NerdWallet found, a difference of 12. 7%. Internationally, the respective rates and differences were similar at USD 201 and USD 232, which corresponds to a difference of 13.5%.

“International trends largely coincide with domestic trends,” said French, adding that it was “comforting to know that you are not missing out on even better international deals.”

Meanwhile, the average price across all high-end hotels was $ 302 when booked 15 days in advance, compared to $ 386 four months in advance – a 21.6% difference. The difference is even bigger – 50%, NerdWallet found – when comparing prices for 15 days in advance to 11 months ago.

However, “cheaper” is a relative term, French noted. As an example, she cited pre-pandemic nightly rates at the JW Marriott Los Angeles LA LIVE, which were $ 1,110 when booked 11 months ago and $ 450 just 15 days earlier.

“Still, $ 450 is more than most people pay for a night in a hotel,” said French. “Although you get a ‘better’ price at this hotel, it is often still more expensive than a mid-range option.”

The savings in hotels in the middle and lower price range were rather meager at 9.4% and 5.5%, respectively. French said NerdWallet found that “budget-friendly” hotels like the Best Western Market Center in Dallas for $ 100 a night – which never deviated from that price over the course of the study – are less likely to fluctuate in price even until the last Minute.

“But what if you think it’s okay to hesitate and then all the budget hotels are sold out because there was a huge festival or conference in town?” French said. “Maybe you have no choice but to book the Ritz-Carlton, which is often over $ 1,000.

“That’s a $ 900 mistake if you wait until the last minute,” she said.

Now, if you are comfortable traveling, grab deals while you can because I don’t expect them to stay.

Sally French

Travel expert at NerdWallet

Did the pandemic and the resulting drop in travel help keep prices down? French said prices were down about 33% year-over-year in 2020 but are now 30% cheaper than in 2019, which means they are rising.

“As more people get vaccinated and countries open up to tourists, I expect this trend to continue,” she noted. “Now if you are comfortable traveling, grab deals while you can because I don’t expect them to stay.”

Travelers should consider booking direct with their hotel of choice, be it online or by phone. According to French, it’s less about price and more about flexibility. “Many Hotels have super generous cancellation policies Nowadays, however, this is often only taken into account once the reservation has been made with them.

In addition, according to French, most hotels will offer lower rates for the same room and travel dates, or travelers with reservations at hotels with flexible cancellation policies will be able to cancel more expensive reservations and rebook them at lower rates. However, booking on online sites is “certainly faster and more convenient,” she added.

Destinations with cheaper hotel prices include Bangkok and Tokyo abroad – where prices are still more than 50% below 2019 prices – and in the US business centers like New York and Philadelphia, according to French.

Where to avoid

“I see a lot of hotels – especially in more remote, domestic destinations – whose prices have actually increased,” she said. “Two different luxury hotels in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch and the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, averaged 80% more than their 2019 rates in 2021.”