The Best Time to Purchase Airline Tickets and Hotel Rooms

Hotel rates can be all over the place. Here, veteran travel writer Kate Siber explains how (and when) you can find the best rates.
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When to Book Hotels Online
The Riviera Maya's Fairmont Mayakoba: yours on the cheap if you know when to book. (Fairmont Mayakoba)

When to Book Hotels
While airlines can be more than 80 percent full during good years, the U.S. hotel industry has never been more than 65 percent full. And many hotel chains cringe to see large numbers of rooms sitting empty.

"It's easier for car-rental companies and airlines to take planes and cars out of service, but the hotelier has to keep operating the hotel," says Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire Group. That means hoteliers have a strong incentive to discount rooms at the last minute when their hotels are empty. For high-traffic periods, sales will typically occur about a month before.

"Hotel rates don't fluctuate as much as air, so it's not as beneficial to book 60 to 90 days in advance, but it's definitely beneficial to book at least 30 days in advance," says Ike Anand of Expedia.

But for small boutique hotels and family-run lodges, there is rarely reason to book last minute, since they are less likely to change their rates and are more likely to fill up.

"The best places to stay tend to fill up really fast," says Mark Fuller, president of Eurotrip.com, a budget-travel forum and booking tool for travels to Europe. "When you do find some gems in certain cities, it pays to book in advance."

Of course, when the economy is in the stinker and few people are traveling, hotels of all stripes and sizes offer discounts and it's best for customers to aggressively seek out deals.


Published: 14 Mar 2011 | Last Updated: 8 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in United States

$329-$499
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Royal Palms Resort and Spa - Destination Hotels & Resorts
$950-$1475
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The Peninsula Chicago
$1395-$1495
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The Peninsula New York
$995
Average/night*
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Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

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