Traveling opens you up to new experiences and adventures, but booking accommodations can be a source of stress. If you’re wondering whether to book a hotel in advance or take a chance and walk in, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the pros and cons of each approach.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: While walking in can sometimes score you last minute deals, advance booking generally secures lower rates and guarantees room availability, so it’s better to book hotels in advance whenever possible.
Benefits of Booking a Hotel Room in Advance
Secure the best rates and avoid sold out hotels
Booking a hotel room in advance offers several benefits, starting with securing the best rates. Hotels often offer discounted rates for guests who book in advance, allowing you to save money on your accommodation.
By booking ahead of time, you can take advantage of early bird specials, promotional rates, or even package deals that include additional amenities.
Moreover, booking in advance helps you avoid the disappointment of arriving at a hotel only to find it fully booked. During peak travel seasons or popular events, hotels can quickly fill up, leaving walk-in guests scrambling to find alternative accommodations.
By planning ahead and making a reservation, you ensure that you have a guaranteed place to stay and can relax knowing that your room is secured.
According to a study conducted by TravelClick, hotels tend to have higher occupancy rates when guests book in advance compared to walk-in guests. This indicates that booking in advance is a popular choice among travelers seeking a hassle-free experience.
Greater selection of room types and locations
When you book a hotel room in advance, you have a wider selection of room types and locations to choose from. Hotels often have limited availability for certain room categories, such as suites or rooms with specific views.
By booking ahead of time, you increase your chances of securing the room type that best suits your preferences.
Additionally, popular hotels in prime locations can quickly fill up, especially during peak travel seasons. By booking in advance, you have a better chance of snagging a room in your desired location, whether it’s near popular attractions, business districts, or scenic areas.
According to a survey conducted by Booking.com, travelers who booked their accommodations in advance were more satisfied with the room options and location compared to those who walked in without a reservation.
Cancellation policies provide flexibility
One of the advantages of booking a hotel room in advance is the flexibility provided by cancellation policies. Many hotels offer flexible cancellation policies that allow you to modify or cancel your reservation without incurring significant fees.
This can be particularly beneficial if your travel plans change or if unexpected circumstances arise.
Without a reservation, walk-in guests may not have the same flexibility to modify or cancel their accommodations without penalties. By booking in advance, you have the peace of mind knowing that you can make changes if needed, providing you with greater flexibility and control over your travel arrangements.
A study by Hotel Management found that hotels with lenient cancellation policies tend to attract more guests who prefer to book in advance, as it provides a safety net for any unforeseen changes in their travel plans.
When Walking In and Booking Upon Arrival Works
Taking advantage of last minute deals
One of the advantages of walking into a hotel and booking upon arrival is the opportunity to snag last-minute deals. Hotels often have empty rooms that they are willing to offer at discounted rates to fill up their occupancy.
This can be particularly beneficial for budget travelers or those looking for a spontaneous getaway. By being flexible with your travel plans, you can take advantage of these discounts and enjoy a great stay at a fraction of the original price.
According to a study conducted by trivago, an online hotel search platform, last-minute bookings can save travelers an average of 15-20% compared to booking in advance. So, if you’re open to the possibility of finding a good deal, walking in and booking upon arrival can be a smart choice.
Only need a room for one night
If you’re only staying in a destination for one night, it might not be necessary to book a hotel in advance. This is especially true if you’re traveling to a popular tourist destination with a wide range of accommodation options.
Walking in and booking upon arrival gives you the flexibility to choose the hotel that suits your needs and preferences at that moment.
Imagine arriving in a city and stumbling upon a charming boutique hotel that you wouldn’t have found if you had booked in advance. By being spontaneous, you might discover hidden gems that can enhance your travel experience.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about cancelation fees or changing your plans if unexpected circumstances arise.
Visiting in the off-season
Another scenario where walking in and booking upon arrival can work in your favor is when you’re traveling during the off-season. During these quieter periods, hotels often have more vacancies, making it easier to find available rooms without prior reservation.
If you’re visiting a destination during the off-season, you might even have the luxury of negotiating better rates directly with the hotel staff. This can lead to significant savings, allowing you to splurge on other aspects of your trip.
However, it’s important to note that this approach may not be ideal for highly sought-after destinations or during peak travel seasons when hotels tend to be fully booked. In such cases, booking in advance is recommended to secure your preferred accommodations.
Tips for Booking Hotel Rooms at the Last Minute
Be flexible on locations and amenities
When booking a hotel room at the last minute, it’s important to be flexible with your location preferences and amenities. Some hotels may have limited availability in popular areas, so being open to staying in a nearby neighborhood can increase your chances of finding a room.
Additionally, consider prioritizing the amenities that are most important to you and be willing to compromise on others. For example, if having a pool is a must-have for you, but a gym is not as important, you can focus your search on hotels with pools and be more flexible with other amenities.
Check discount travel sites for deals
Discount travel sites can be a great resource for finding last-minute hotel deals. Websites like Expedia, Booking.com, and Hotels.com often offer discounted rates for same-day bookings. These sites aggregate deals from various hotels and can provide you with a range of options to choose from.
Additionally, signing up for their newsletters or following their social media accounts can keep you updated on any flash sales or limited-time promotions. It’s worth checking these sites regularly as new deals can pop up at any time.
Consider alternate accommodation options
If you’re having trouble finding a hotel room at the last minute, it may be worth considering alternate accommodation options. Bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and hostels can provide affordable alternatives to traditional hotels.
Websites like Airbnb and VRBO offer a wide range of options for different budgets and preferences. Another option to consider is staying in a nearby city or town and commuting to your desired destination. This can open up more accommodation options and potentially save you money.
Using Mobile Apps to Book Instantly
Gone are the days when travelers had to rely solely on walk-ins or making advance hotel bookings over the phone. With the advent of mobile apps, booking a hotel instantly has become a convenient and hassle-free process.
These apps offer a plethora of benefits, making them a popular choice among travelers.
Top last minute booking apps
One of the major advantages of using mobile apps to book hotels instantly is the availability of top last-minute booking apps. These apps, such as HotelTonight, Booking.com, and Expedia, provide users with access to a wide range of hotels at discounted rates.
They are designed specifically for spontaneous travelers who prefer to make their hotel reservations on the go.
Apps like HotelTonight, for instance, offer exclusive deals on unsold hotel rooms, allowing travelers to find great accommodation options at a fraction of the original price. These last-minute booking apps ensure that you never have to worry about finding a place to stay, even during peak travel seasons.
Ease of comparing prices
Another advantage of using mobile apps for instant hotel bookings is the ease of comparing prices. These apps provide users with the ability to compare the rates of multiple hotels in real-time. By simply inputting your desired location and travel dates, you can instantly see a list of available hotels along with their prices.
Apps like Kayak and Trivago aggregate prices from various online travel agencies and hotel booking websites, allowing you to find the best deal within seconds. This feature not only saves you time but also ensures that you get the best value for your money.
Streamlined booking experience
Mobile apps offer a streamlined booking experience, making the entire process quick and efficient. With just a few taps on your smartphone screen, you can search for hotels, view detailed information about each property, and make a reservation instantly.
Apps like Airbnb and Booking.com provide users with user-friendly interfaces, allowing them to easily navigate through various options and filter results based on their preferences. Additionally, many apps offer secure payment options and allow you to store your credit card information for future bookings, further enhancing the convenience of the booking process.
When to Avoid Walking In to Hotels
While walking into a hotel without a reservation can sometimes be an exciting adventure, there are certain situations where it is best to avoid this approach. Here are a few instances when it is wise to book your hotel in advance:
During peak travel season
If you are planning to travel during a popular vacation period, such as holidays or summer break, it is highly recommended to make your hotel reservation in advance. During these peak travel seasons, hotels tend to fill up quickly, and you may find yourself struggling to find available accommodations if you decide to walk in.
Booking in advance ensures that you have a guaranteed place to stay, and it allows you to choose from a wider range of options.
For extended stays
If you are planning to stay in a destination for an extended period of time, it is generally better to book your hotel in advance. This is especially true if you have specific requirements, such as a kitchenette or a separate living area.
By making a reservation ahead of time, you can ensure that you secure a room that meets your needs and preferences. Additionally, hotels often offer discounts for guests who book extended stays in advance, allowing you to save money in the long run.
If you need specific room features
If you have specific room preferences or requirements, such as a room with a view, a certain floor level, or a particular bed arrangement, it is advisable to book your hotel in advance. While some hotels may be able to accommodate these requests on a walk-in basis, there is no guarantee that they will have availability.
By booking in advance, you can communicate your preferences to the hotel and increase the likelihood of securing a room that meets your needs.
At the end of the day, advance hotel booking typically wins out by ensuring room availability at the best rates. However, walking in can score deals in the right circumstances. Use this advice to make the best booking decision for your travel needs and destination.