Are Last Minute Hotel Bookings Cheaper? (New Data) [2022]

Do you know some people who refuse to book hotels in advance and almost always book last minute?

In my case, I have a father-in-law who almost universally books hotels at the last second.

And it’s got me wondering could he be costing himself some serious cash or could his booking strategy actually be saving him a good amount?

If you have you ever wondered if booking a hotel last minute is actually cheaper, this article will be very illuminating.

Our research team looked at over 700 data points and examined what would be cheaper: booking a hotel last minute or booking several (3 to 9) months in advance.

We also compared the major hotel chains to each other and found some interesting findings that show that some chains like Hyatt may be better off when booked last minute.

Is booking a hotel last minute cheaper?

After analyzing over 700 data points, we found that booking US chain hotels last minute was usually not cheaper.

Compared to last minute prices, booking three months out was about 14% cheaper on average and booking nine months out was just under 1% cheaper.

However, these averages were very different for certain hotel chains. So booking nine months in advance could be beneficial for Hilton but not Hyatt, for example.

Also, some properties did offer cheaper rates for last minute bookings so booking last minute can still mean saving money — you just have to find the right property at the right time.

Below, I’ll jump in to some different factors to consider about hotel pricing and then give you a detailed breakdown of all of the data we found and the conclusions we arrived at.

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How hotel pricing works

Hotel pricing can depend on a multitude of factors.

First, prices might be set by the property manager or even a revenue manager who specializes in pricing based on current demand.

Sophisticated hotels rely on software like Duetto or other programs that help them land on a very specific price for the rooms.

The factors that go into pricing include things like historical occupancy rates, holidays and special events, and what nearby competitors are currently pricing at.

Some programs might be even more advanced and take into consideration things like airline ticket sales, the most popular days searched by users on booking sites, and lodging reviews on TripAdvisor.

And as you may have guessed, weather patterns can greatly impact last minute bookings.

If the forecast indicates a snowstorm blowing into a mountain resort town, that could shoot up the prices for that timeframe.

At the same time, if a storm is blowing through a tropical area that could potentially bring down the prices.

Sometimes, just the fact that clouds are moving into an area and sunshine is available in a neighboring area is enough to send prices upward.

Frequent changes

Prices at a hotel could change very frequently.

Some properties claim that their prices change multiple times a day (probably tiny fluctuations) while others may only change their rates every couple of days.

When booking last minute you don’t have the luxury to test out fluctuating prices so you just need to be careful that you are not getting caught at a bad time when prices are peaking on a micro-level.

Weekdays or weekends

As far as whether or not weekdays or weekends are cheaper that typically depends on the type of property/room you’re looking at.

Consider that a hotel that caters mostly to leisure travelers will likely be more expensive on the weekends for rooms with two queen beds because that is when families are out traveling for fun.

Meanwhile, a hotel that caters to solo business travelers will likely be more expensive for king bed rooms during the week.

Leisure travelers tend to be more sensitive to price fluctuations so based on that I would think that booking weekend rates last minute will often be better deals than weekdays but again it sort of depends on the room type and property.

Also, certain days of the weekend will usually be cheaper. For example, Sunday night hotel rates are on average, 30% cheaper than Fridays and Saturdays.

So if you were looking to book a last-minute Sunday night stay you might think you’re getting a great last minute deal but this could just be the standard pricing pattern.

Holidays and special events

When it comes to last minute deals, you have to be very careful navigating around holidays and special events because inventory can be extremely limited and the prices can shoot up like crazy.

It’s not unheard of to see prices triple or even quadruple the weekend of a major sporting event for example. Consider that during the Kentucky Derby hotels that normally go for $200 a night Louisville may start off at $1,000 plus!

While those price hikes are dramatic the biggest issue with special events and last minute bookings is usually available inventory.

If you have hotel elite status you can try to use your guaranteed availability benefit to book a room last minute. For example, Marriott Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite have a 48-Hour Guaranteed Availability.

But note even these benefits sometimes have exceptions.

Stay length

Last minute hotel bookings may be more advantageous for single night stays. If you have a longer stay, you are probably better off booking that more in advance.

This makes sense because it’s easy for a hotel to know what their inventory looks like within 24 hours but harder for them to predict what occupancy will do four or five days out.

Marriott Renaissance Hotel Phoenix.

Apps

Before jumping into our data it’s a good time to remind you that there are specific apps you can use to find last minute hotel deals.

Here are some apps to check out:

Some of these apps may allow you to find hotels available late at night/in the early morning.

For example, if you were arriving on a redeye flight and needed to check in at 2 AM you might be able to find a hotel room available for that scenario.

If you are going to be staying in hotels at all hours you might also look into hotels that offer day/hourly rates which are special rates that allow you to stay in a hotel room for only a few hours or for an afternoon. You can usually save about 45% when going this route.

Our study data

We compared the prices for booking the next day, three months out, and nine months out. (For our next day bookings, they were made in the evening the day prior.)

We focused on four major hotel chains: Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott and included a diverse range of brands including high-end properties, cheaper properties, and everything in-between. For the study we focused on the six most popular cities in the US.

Here are the key findings broken down by chain:

  • Overall, booking last minute is not cheaper on average
  • Marriott and IHG offered the best discounts for booking 3 months out
  • Hilton offered the best discount for booking 9 months out
  • Booking last minute was most beneficial for Hyatt

Our data is interesting because taken as a whole it shows that booking last minute is not cheaper than booking at least a few months out.

But there were a number of properties that did have cheaper rates when booked last minute and in some instances specific locations seemed to have cheaper last-minute bookings.

Locations that had the most amount of last minute hotel deals included Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

In some cases, booking last minute would never be the cheapest rate for any chain or brand within a city. Indeed, most of the time it seems like booking last minute was the most expensive rate for all properties within a city.

But in other cases, there would be a clear advantage to booking a specific brand within a city last minute.

For example, almost every data point we had for Hyatt properties in Los Angeles had the best deals for last-minute bookings. Marriotts in Houston also had a lot of last minute rates with the cheapest prices.

So with all of that in mind here is a look at our data.

Hilton

This first data set looks at Hilton properties in the largest cities in the US. We found that on average it was 16% cheaper to book nine months out and 11% cheaper to book 3 months out.

This means Hilton was the best major chain for booking 9 months out. So if you like to plan way ahead, Hilton could reward you with the best savings.

Property Name24 Hr3 mos9 mos
Conrad New York Midtown$724$501$501
Conrad New York Downtown$583$372$398
The Hilton Club – New York$517$287$394
Hilton Garden Inn New York/Tribeca$411$143$181
The Quin Central Park by Hilton Club$371$287$315
New York Hilton Midtown$364$272$275
Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza$331$135$157
Hilton New York Fashion District$309$115$197
Embassy Suites by Hilton New York Manhattan Times Square$283$125$204
Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central$293$129$215
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown$166$334$253
Hilton Checkers Los Angeles$204$291$230
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles – Commerce$175$144$150
Hampton Inn & Suites Los Angeles – Glendale$171$180$152
Hilton Garden Inn Los Angeles Montebello$156$550$148
Hilton Garden Inn Los Angeles/Hollywood$276$345$227
The Beverly Hilton$499$423$399
Embassy Suites by Hilton Los Angeles Downey$228$379$160
H Hotel Los Angeles, Curio Collection by Hilton$205$214$203
Hilton Los Angeles Culver City$185$209$196
Waldorf Astoria Chicago$547$418$501
LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton$244$114$359
Hilton Garden Inn Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile$231$99$144
Hilton Chicago$226$159$207
Palmer House a Hilton Hotel$208$148$270
The Drake$190$125$225
Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile$188$155$432
Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown$157$117$289
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago – Magnificent Mile$153$122$316
Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile$152$127$272
Hilton Americas-Houston$223$342$196
C. Baldwin, Curio Collection by Hilton$195$262$157
Homewood Suites by Hilton Houston Downtown$191$273$161
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Houston by the Galleria$175$185$161
Hilton Houston Post Oak by the Galleria$175$198$188
Hampton Inn & Suites Houston Heights I-10$171$147$132
Hilton Houston Plaza/Medical Center$166$159$163
Embassy Suites by Hilton Houston Near the Galleria$164$150$144
Home2 Suites by Hilton at the Galleria$161$141$157
Hilton University of Houston$161$154$139
Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort$636$532$332
Home2 Suites by Hilton Phoenix Glendale-Westgate$287$281$142
Hampton Inn & Suites Phoenix Glendale-Westgate$283$267$136
Tru by Hilton Phoenix Glendale Westgate$283$281$154
Hilton Garden Inn Scottsdale Old Town$278$433$165
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Paradise Valley – Scottsdale$264$302$156
Embassy Suites by Hilton Phoenix Biltmore$259$316$165
Hilton Garden Inn Scottsdale North/Perimeter Center$250$275$103
Embassy Suites by Hilton Phoenix Scottsdale$243$294$146
Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort$237$335$143
Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City$195$210$290
Home2 Suites by Hilton Philadelphia – Convention Center, PA$156$108$158
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Philadelphia Center City$228$160$171
Hampton Inn Philadelphia Center City-Convention Center$175$136$213
Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Center City$185$138$208
Motto By Hilton Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square$156$155$196
The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton$194$191$264
Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing$199$156$209
The Inn at Penn, a Hilton Hotel$303$255$237
Homewood Suites by Hilton University City Philadelphia, PA$244$148$175
$260$233$222
-11%-16%

Hyatt

Next was Hyatt. Hyatt was very interesting because it was the only brand that was more expensive when booking nine months out. In fact, bookings nine months out were about 23% more expensive!

Booking three months out was only about 4% cheaper than last minute so Hyatt might be the best brand to choose for last minute bookings.

Property Name24 Hr3 mos9 mos
Hyatt Grand Central New York$259$159$319
Hyatt Centric 39th & 5th New York$379$169$289
Andaz 5th Avenue$650$625$625
Hyatt Place New York/Midtown-South$359$199$319
Hyatt Centric Times Square New York$479$269$379
Hyatt Herald Square New York$379$219$379
Park South Hotel$419$219$259
Hyatt House New York/Chelsea$319$199$299
Hyatt Place New York City / Times Square$299$119$279
Hyatt Union Square New York$439$279$499
Hotel Figueroa$229$349$269
Hyatt House LA – University Medical Center$179$199$269
Thompson Hollywood$289$309$359
Hyatt Place Glendale / Los Angeles$209$409$259
The Shay$319$399$419
Hyatt Place Pasadena$209$279$239
Hyatt House LAX / Century Blvd$209$409$899
Hyatt House Los Angeles/LAX/Manhattan Beach$204$189$189
Hyatt Centric The Pike Long Beach$239$319$259
Hyatt Regency Long Beach$219$319$289
Hyatt Place Chicago/Downtown-The Loop$249$189$809
Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago$229$199$399
Chicago Athletic Association$259$189$379
Hyatt Place Chicago/River North$169$129$589
Hyatt Regency Chicago$329$169$289
Hyatt Centric Chicago Magnificent Mile$179$149$244
The Talbott Hotel$169$149$699
Thompson Chicago$209$229$699
Hyatt House Chicago / West Loop-Fulton Market$279$179$449
Hotel Lincoln$169$149$479
Hyatt Regency Houston$219$299$239
Hyatt Place Houston / Downtown$129$209$209
Hyatt Regency Houston/Galleria$209$239$199
Hyatt Place Houston/Galleria$139$149$149
Hyatt House Houston/Galleria$139$119$119
Hyatt Regency Houston Intercontinental Airport$139$149$149
Hyatt Place Houston-North$94$89$94
Hyatt Regency Houston West$119$134$209
Hyatt Place Houston/Sugar Land$124$124$124
Hyatt Centric The Woodlands$259$249$229
Hyatt Place Phoenix / Downtown$199$249$209
Hyatt Regency Phoenix$279$309$189
Royal Palms Resort and Spa$799$729$389
Tempe Mission Palms$259$249$329
Hyatt House Tempe / Phoenix / University$154$190$165
Hyatt House Scottsdale/Old Town$449$419$234
Hyatt Place Phoenix-North$139$159$109
Hyatt Place Phoenix/Chandler-Fashion Center$149$169$139
Hyatt House North Scottsdale$239$279$139
Hyatt Place Scottsdale – North$219$259$129
The Bellevue Hotel$289$329$329
Hyatt Centric Center City Philadelphia$229$369$409
Hyatt House Mt. Laurel$149$159$159
Hyatt Place Mt. Laurel$159$125$145
Hyatt House Philadelphia/Plymouth Meeting$139$129$129
Hyatt House Philadelphia/King of Prussia$169$189$229
Hyatt Place Philadelphia/King of Prussia$129$179$179
$250$239$306
-4.4%22.6%

IHG

For IHG properties booking three months out was about 20% cheaper. Booking your hotel room approximately nine months out was only about 3% cheaper.

So planning ahead with IHG may not always give you a large discount but booking three months out could give you better savings than the other major hotel chains.

Property Name24 r3 mos9 mos
InterContinental New York Barclay$427$227$322
voco The Franklin New York$398$207$261
Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York$389$124$210
Kimpton Hotel Eventi$356$213$273
InterContinental New York Times Square$332$246$389
Crowne Plaza HY36 Midtown Manhattan$322$179$261
Holiday Inn New York City – Times Square$303$142$246
EVEN Hotel New York – Midtown East$256$120$175
Hotel Central Times Square$237$136$205
Holiday Inn Express New York City – Chelsea$218$111$370
InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown$293$270$315
Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown$303$219$207
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Los Angeles Downtown West$233$200$242
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Hollywood Walk Of Fame$270$220$279
Crowne Plaza Los Angeles-Commerce Casino$189$180$162
Kimpton Hotel Wilshire$370$320$341
Holiday Inn Burbank-Media Center$199$189$360
Holiday Inn Los Angeles – LAX Airport$170$165$170
Kimpton Hotel Palomar Beverly Hills$389$338$347
Holiday Inn ExpressNorth Hollywood – Burbank Area$237$265$197
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile$244$120$353
Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago-Downtown$237$189$324
Kimpton Gray Hotel$207$180$360
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago$215$180$378
Crowne Plaza Chicago West Loop$180$134$216
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chicago-Midway Airport$173$166$207
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chicago O’Hare Airport$142$145$137
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chicago North Shore – Niles$166$128$162
Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore (Skokie)$133$94$141
Crowne Plaza Chicago Ohare Hotel & Conf Ctr$132$120$162
InterContinental Houston – Medical Center$170$189$189
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Houston-Dwtn Conv Ctr$171$162$151
Staybridge Suites Houston-Galleria Area$156$120$136
Holiday Inn Houston Downtown$175$180$143
Holiday Inn Express Houston – Galleria Area$151$116$133
Hotel Indigo Houston at the Galleria$161$132$120
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Houston S – Medical Ctr Area$146$108$130
Staybridge Suites Houston – Medical Center$142$116$116
Crowne Plaza Houston Galleria Area$132$112$96
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Houston SW – Galleria Area$146$120$120
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Scottsdale – Old Town$327$219$313
Staybridge Suites Phoenix – Biltmore Area$161$162$162
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tempe$175$183$149
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Phoenix Dwtn – State Capitol$151$221$140
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Phoenix Airport$151$192$93
Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport – PHX$146$202$130
Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix Airport North$165$222$134
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Phoenix – Airport North$161$203$125
Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix Airport$132$199$104
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia$314$251$389
Holiday Inn & Suites Philadelphia W – Drexel Hill$275$261$306
Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia – Penns Landing$227$153$297
Holiday Inn Express Voorhees – Mt. Laurel$208$137$180
Holiday Inn Philadelphia-Cherry Hill$389$309$361
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Ft. Washington – Philadelphia$194$123$174
Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia NE – Bensalem$193$179$202
Crowne Plaza Philadelphia-Cherry Hill$189$136$162
Crowne Plaza Philadelphia – King of Prussia$189$153$151
Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Airport$199$131$161
$224$178$218
-20.0%-2.8%

Marriott

Once again, we found booking three months or nine months out was cheaper in the case of Marriott hotel stays.

For three months we found the discount to be about 18% and for nine months the discount was about 6%. Houston and Phoenix had the highest amount of last minute bookings with the cheapest rates.

Property Name24 Hr3 mos9 mos
The Algonquin Hotel Times Square, Autograph Collection$503$394$482
Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, New York City$547$263$373
The Chatwal, a Luxury Collection Hotel, New York City$794$651$651
The Lexington Hotel, Autograph Collection$468$272$359
The Westin New York Grand Central$514$253$362
The Times Square EDITION$829$482$482
W New York – Times Square$471$307$449
Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel$580$319$340
Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel$362$329$547
The St. Regis New York$1,628$976$1,009
Sheraton Grand Los Angeles$284$362$318
The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles$1,110$928$952
JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE$638$451$451
W Hollywood$728$438$429
The Glenmark, Glendale, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel$303$322$275
SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills$813$433$461
Sheraton Pasadena Hotel$218$208$227
Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel$237$208$275
Beverly Hills Marriott$332$332$399
The Westin Los Angeles Airport$256$237$208
JW Marriott Chicago$284$208$332
W Chicago – City Center$199$161$265
The Blackstone, Autograph Collection$151$142$294
Le Méridien Essex Chicago$157$104$218
Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel$218$142$303
The Westin Chicago River North$265$189$351
Hotel Chicago Downtown, Autograph Collection$189$161$664
The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Michigan Avenue Chicago$255$189$426
Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk$187$151$351
Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile$204$147$285
JW Marriott Houston Downtown$227$294$275
The Laura Hotel, Autograph Collection$189$180$474
Le Méridien Houston Downtown$199$189$180
Magnolia Hotel Houston, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel$209$180$180
Hotel ICON, Autograph Collection$298$279$289
The Westin Houston Downtown$189$208$208
Marriott Marquis Houston$246$218$332
Houston Marriott Medical Center/Museum District$161$189$170
The Westin Houston Medical Center$151$170$170
The St. Regis Houston$436$379$379
Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel$275$275$218
The Westin Phoenix Downtown$256$284$246
Sheraton Phoenix Downtown$331$303$217
Marriott Phoenix Airport$189$332$332
Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel Tempe$151$218$151
Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at The Buttes$180$341$341
The Westin Tempe$248$388$221
Scottsdale Marriott Old Town$530$486$356
W Scottsdale$778$616$335
Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West$237$302$194
W Philadelphia$629$507$518
Le Méridien Philadelphia$332$288$466
The Westin Philadelphia$253$247$302
Philadelphia Marriott Downtown$219$219$286
Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown$364$242$276
Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel$341$330$352
Philadelphia Marriott Old City$286$275$319
Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel$286$209$231
Philadelphia Airport Marriott$219$143$242
Sheraton Suites Philadelphia Airport$219$175$175
$373$304$350
-18.4%-6.1%

Final word

As you can tell, the data shows that while there are some exceptions, booking last minute is usually not the best deal. (Sorry, father-in-law.) Instead, the best deals are usually found about three months out. Also, some cities tend to have better deals for last minute bookings and some chains are better for booking last minute than others.

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