You’re planning a trip and you want to get the best deals possible. Turns out that if you want to save money, the timing of when you book your hotel room is key.
So, when is the best day to book a hotel room?
Lucky for us, two recent studies looked at this very question. The 2019 Travel Pricing Outlook from Airlines Reporting Corporation and Expedia compared the average daily rates across 900,000 properties. The report found that travelers generally got the lowest rates on Friday nights. Flying to your destination? Here’s how far in advance you should book your flight.
“If you think about it in terms of supply and demand, it makes a lot of sense,” says Christie Hudson, senior PR manager for Expedia North America. “Not a lot of business travelers are going to be booking on a Friday night. And business travelers drive the demand pricing for travel.”
The travel site Kayak also crunched the numbers and had similar findings. “Our data shows that hotel prices are at their peak Monday through Wednesday, for both domestic and international destinations. As you approach the weekend, we see these prices start to decrease. Your best bet then is to book on Fridays and Saturdays.”
15 things you should never, ever do in a hotel room
15 things you should never, ever do in a hotel room
Steal the bathrobes
"Guests sometimes take home essential amenities that the hotel provides during their stay, like shampoo, lotion, and other vanity products," says Ryazan Tristram, photographer and travel blogger for everythingzany.com. "However, people sometimes take home the bathrobes as well, which is a no-no." You could be charged extra or fined for taking pricier items, including linens, artwork, and electronics. Find out what you can take from hotel rooms without getting in trouble.
Break something and lie about it
Accidents happen, but damaging something in your room and keeping it a secret can actually harm staff or future guests. Matthew, founder of thetravelblogs.com, says a guest once cut his foot on a shard of glass. "[Glass is] very hard to spot, even if you know it is there, so although the room was cleaned, there was one piece that the housekeeper missed," he says. "We ended up comping that man's night in the hotel all because the previous guest didn't make the team aware of broken glass in his room."
Cook anything without a proper kitchen area
"We always want to save money when we travel," says Tristram. "Some guests will bring their portable cooking appliances with them during their stay, and this can cause a few problems, primarily if the hotel room doesn't have any kitchenette area." These cooking appliances can set off a hotel's fire alarm system or cause an actual fire, so stick with no-cook meals if you want to save a few bucks on food. Find out 9 ways to travel cheap, according to travel agents.
Leave important jewelry in your suitcase or dresser
Hospitality businesses can't always stop thieves from putting their sticky fingers where they don't belong, so don't leave your precious jewels, wallets, or purses in your room, unless it's in a hotel-provided safe, says a Farmers Insurance Group representative. Your homeowners or renters policy may provide coverage for your belongings while you are traveling, so it's important to report any lost or stolen items as soon as possible. Don't miss these other tips for protecting your belongings in a hotel.
Keep your bathroom door ajar when taking a shower
There's nothing wrong with enjoying a steamy shower at a hotel, but beware what the vapor can do if released into your room. "A hotel's hot showers can cause a lot of steam, and as a result, can trigger the hotel's fire alarm system inside your bedroom if you leave the bathroom door open," says Tristram. Learn 22 tips for making your hotel stay as safe and healthy as possible.
Cover up smoke alarms
Certain hotels still allow smokers to smoke cigarettes inside their rooms. Despite this, some guests insist on smoking in non-smoking rooms. The biggest problem: Guests who do this cover the smoke alarm so they can smoke in bed, risking their safety and that of all other guests, says Bryony Summer, owner and editor of coastingaustralia.com.
Forget to inspect the bed
Even the finest hotels and housekeepers can't keep creepy critters from making their way into bedrooms. "I always advise travelers to put their luggage in the bathtub until they inspect the bed for bedbugs," says Mitch Krayton of Krayton Travel. Think hotel beds are dirty? Learn the 11 germiest spots in every hotel room.
Restock the minibar
There's no crime in enjoying a drink from the hotel fridge. After all, that's their purpose. "But if you plan on taking a bottle of whiskey out of there, just accept that you'll still be paying for it," says Sophia Borghese, a consultant for La Galerie Hotel in New Orleans. "Don't try to fake the hotel staff out by replacing the liquor with a half-sipped bottle of Diet Coke. This happens more often than you might think, and those who do it still get charged for taking that $30, two-ounce bottle of spirits."
Boil your undies in the kettle
Funny? Yes. Disturbing? Absolutely. Has it actually happened? You bet. After 12 years of managing, Summer says the worst thing she came across was having guests boil their underwear in kettles, pots, or steamers to "freshen them up." Check out the 13 craziest things people have seen in hotel rooms.
Use the throw pillows
"If you notice the throw pillows on the bed or the couch have no removable sleeves, you can be sure they are never thoroughly cleaned," says Kashlee Kucheran, seasoned traveler and co-owner of traveloffpath.com. "After they get so stained or smelly that they become offensive, the hotel will just replace them. In the meantime, you can bet there have been many faces, bottoms, and other things lounging on those pillows, so steer clear!"
"No one should ever, ever send any sensitive information or conduct any important business over hotel Wi-Fi—at least not without encryption," says Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN. "Given how easy it is to hack public Wi-Fi hotspots, you might as well be yelling your passwords and bank details down the hall." Travelers should use encryption to shield their Internet activity when sending important information.
Forget that you recently dyed your hair
As a courtesy to the hotel, you might want to wait until you get home before you change the hue of your 'do. "The ruined towels and bed linens are unrecoverable," says Leslie Mulcahy, co-owner of Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont. If you have recently dyed your hair, avoid washing your hair—or bring your own towel or disposable sheets to wrap your hair until it dries. On that note, you might want to bring your own hairdryer after hearing the gross reason you should avoid hotel hair dryers.
Walk with heavy feet
Loud music and voices aren't the only things you should keep in check when you're in a hotel room. "In my experience, no matter how luxurious a hotel is, they are still built with materials that don't allow a lot of soundproofing, especially from upstairs guests," says Kucheran. Avoid walking around with weighty steps so you don't become "that annoying guest."
Sneak in your pets
It's tempting to bring your furry friends on trips with you, but don't do it without asking if the hotels you're staying in are pet-friendly. If the answer is "no," don't try to pull a fast one on the staff—animals leave trails of evidence, from hairs to prints to smells, and your cleaning fees will skyrocket if you've broken the rules. Check out these other 21 secrets hotel clerks won't tell you.
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Hotel prices are higher at the beginning of the week because that’s typically when people start planning their trips, says Kathleen Chamberlain, PhD, a hospitality and hotel management instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. Toward the end of the week is when travelers are more likely to actually be taking those trips, so that’s something you should take into consideration when you’re thinking about when to book your hotel room.
“If you’re a budget-minded person who is looking for a room, definitely Fridays,” Chamberlain says. “Most people aren’t necessarily looking on Friday or Saturday, because that’s when they’re typically checking in.” The same dynamic would come into play when booking rentals on Airbnb, she says. Use these tips to get the best airfare possible.
Are there any exceptions?
That said, if you’re loyal to a specific hotel brand, you’re not necessarily going to find cheaper deals on a Friday.
“If you’re going somewhere because you want to stay at a luxury property, you’re going there because of what they offer, not so much because they’re offering you a specific price,” Chamberlain says.
When it comes to booking vacation rentals, the situation is a little different. VRBO has found that in general, they’re much more consistent in their pricing, Hudson says. That’s because owners don’t want fancy algorithms that change pricing based on capacity or demand. That said, VRBO does still have some recommendations on the best time to book vacation rentals.
15 red flags to watch for when booking a vacation rental
15 red flags to watch for when booking a vacation rental
1. No Reviews or Ratings
Reviews and ratings can provide invaluable details about the property and what it’s like to rent from the property owner. If a listing appears too good to be true or looks like the average listing but has zero reviews and ratings, it could be a sign of a scam. Although a listing might be brand new and have no rental history, consider speaking with the owner about why it hasn’t been rented before.
2. Unclear or Inaccurate Fees
When property owners list vacation homes on sites like Airbnb or HomeAway, they’re required to disclose all fees upfront. If you use a third-party site to book the rental it might impose hidden fees that could be listed somewhere else. If fees for vacation homes are not listed — or the listing states that additional fees will be calculated later — consider this property a risky rental until you can verify the bottom line price.
3. No Cancellation or Rebooking Policy
Sites like HomeAway provide travelers with booking guarantee, but independent vacation property owners might not be so generous. Verify what the cancellation policy is to see if there are any rebooking fees should you need to change your reservation.
Everything needs to be disclosed up front and in writing when you sign the rental agreement. If these important details are missing it could mean you’re working with someone who won’t follow through with the rental agreement — or honor a cancellation or rebooking request without a hassle.
4. Ridiculously High Cleaning Costs
Property owners set the cleaning fees for vacation rentals. Generally, studios and small apartments cost about $100 to clean and larger spaces might be as much as $200.
If you notice cleaning fees are much higher than expected — with no explanation why — you are likely paying more than necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask the property owner what cleaning service he uses — you can request a quote on your own for an estimate.
5. No Deposit Required
If you stumble across the perfect property and find out the owner isn’t asking for a deposit for your reservation, you might be walking straight into a scam. Legitimate property owners will ask for a deposit to make your reservation and will request full payment before you arrive, according to VRBO. Anything that differs from this standard process could be a major red flag.
6. No Address Listed
If you’re shopping independent listing sites or websites like Craigslist, you might come across vacation home rentals with professional-looking photos and clear descriptions. If there is no address listed, however, you might be looking at a property that doesn’t really exist on the rental market.
One easy way to verify if it’s a real property is to contact the owner and ask for the address. Do a Google Earth search for the exact address so you can see the physical building and determine if it’s the same one you saw in the listing.
7. Absurdly Low Prices
Very low prices for a vacation rental compared with similar properties in the area could be a sign of a scam. Like hotel rooms, vacation rental prices can fluctuate with the season, so any major price drops or increases should occur across all properties in the area.
If you find one property owner is listing a rental at a very deep discount, don’t be afraid to ask him why the rate is so low compared to other prices in the area. If the owner can’t provide a legitimate reason or you can’t get an answer, it could be a scam.
8. Property Owner Requires a Wire Transfer Deposit
If a property owner requests a wire transfer of funds to cover your deposit, it means you would be sending cash without any payment protection — the money is going straight from your bank account and your bank can’t protect you if you’re the one authorizing the transaction. If the property owner refuses to accept a credit card or PayPal payment — or use a service like DepositGuard to eliminate the risk of a bad transaction — it might be time to shop elsewhere.
“Never pay by wire transfers, never follow instructions to pay into a bank account if the homeowner claims to be affiliated with the booking site and watch out for a change in the email address you’ve been dealing with,” said Laurel Greatrix, TripAdvisor Rentals spokesperson. “If any of these things happen, cease communication with the homeowner and contact the rental company immediately."
9. No Option to Tour the Property
If you live close enough to visit the area you plan to stay in, the property owner should be able to give you a tour of the property if it’s unoccupied. It never hurts to check out a listing in person, so if you can, schedule time to meet the owner and ask any questions in person. If the owner refuses to give you a tour, the listing could be fake.
10. High-Pressure Sales via Phone or Email
Booking vacation rentals over the phone or email is a sales strategy for many companies. It’s easy to be coerced into confirming a reservation that you might not actually want — or afford — when you’re dealing with a high-pressure salesperson.
Politely end the call if you feel the salesperson is being too aggressive. Don’t end up being charged for a booking that you didn’t really authorize and have a hard time getting a refund.
11. Nonexistent or Negative BBB Reviews
Not all listings reveal the name of the rental company or manager behind them. If you can’t verify whom the property manager or rental company is, confirm those details so you can check reviews and Better Business Bureau information.
A limited liability rental company — one that has the letters "LLC" after its name — will likely have a business description and some reviews on the BBB website. If you can’t find any traces of a business entity or come across bad reviews, it might be a sign to steer clear of the rental.
12. No Secure Website for Credit Card Payments
Even if the property owner isn’t requesting a cash payment, money order or wire transfer, paying by credit card through the rental company’s website might not be a good idea. Make sure you're providing payment over a secure payment portal or you run the risk of fraud.
Look for signs of a secure server and if you're not comfortable with making an online payment, ask the property owner to send you an alternative method of payment. “You can also look for vacation rental properties that offer a payment guarantee, like TripAdvisor Rentals’ Payment Protection,” said Greatrix. “This will ensure you are paying securely and will cover you in the unlikely event that something goes wrong with your booking.”
13. Owner Doesn’t Disclose His Name
If you can’t find any instances of the property owner’s name in the listing but it looks like an independent owner wrote it, you might be dealing with a scam. As a renter, it’s your job to verify the source of the listing and determine whether you are comfortable doing business with the person who claims to own the property. If you can’t find anything about the person through a basic Google search and he doesn’t share his history with the property, proceed with caution.
14. Property Photos With Markings on Them
Many scam artists use photos and descriptions of real home listings from realtor websites to create fake ads on legitimate booking sites like HomeAway and VRBO, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Once the scammers receive money through PayPal or other safe payment gateways, they simply disappear.
When it's time to book your vacation plans, look at the photos of a property very carefully. Any photos with the letters “MFRMLS” on them indicate they came straight from a realtor website, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
15. Multiple Listings in Different Cities or Sites
If you’re shopping around for vacation home rentals on sites like Craigslist — where it’s easy to post anonymously and often for free — check the web for duplicate ads and listings. Some scammers might post a copycat listing of a certain property in several different cities but change the location. You can find duplicates by doing a reverse Google Image search on the property photos or copying a portion of the ad text into the Google search bar to see where else it’s being posted.