Whether you have a family emergency, get “talked into” a weekend in Vegas, or just put the pro in procrastination, sometimes last-minute travel is simply unavoidable. But just because you’re flying by the seat of your pants, sans plans, it doesn’t mean you should be forced to pay sky-high hotel rates. There are some easy strategies to help you score sweet deals on hotels (including our favorite eco-friendly hotels), ensuring that once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll not only have a place to rest your head, but plenty of cash to spare. Because you’re going to need money for the important things…like blackjack and martinis, primarily.
1. Take Advantage of Unsold Hotel Rooms
Ah, the beauty of supply and demand. According to the pros at Unsold-Hotel-Rooms.com, during times when there are plenty of hotel rooms to go around, prices are slashed dramatically. Prime times to capitalize? The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the month of January, and the first few weeks of February—all statistically slow times in the hotel business. Check out the site, which allows you to search by landmarks, stars, popularity, reviews, brand names or hotel features, ensuring you’ll get just what you’re looking for, and get it at a decent price.
2. Book Same-Day for Deals
While this might leave you feeling a little nervous, believe it or not, there are some excellent savings to be had by simply booking a room on the same day that you plan to stay. Many hotels tend to operate under the philosophy that it’s better to have someone paying a lower rate staying in their establishment than the rooms remaining completely empty (and by proxy, making them no money), so rates for the night typically drop dramatically on the day-of. And an easy way to find those deals? Well, that would be with an app, of course…
3. Know that There's an App for That
Get off Candy Crush for a minute or two and download some excellent apps that will assist you in booking last-minute hotel rooms. USA Today has compiled a list of six apps designed specifically to help you score a deal with no time to spare, which includes well-known names like Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity and Orbtiz, along with lesser-known options. JetSetter (free, available on iOS) has a Jetsetter Now feature, which gives users the opportunity to book same-night hotel stays for rates that are discounted up to 60 percent. Meanwhile, Hotel Tonight (free, available for Android and iOS) has great deals that go live at noon each day. The app also does an excellent job of classifying the hotel, so whether you’re interested in somewhere considered “hip,” “luxe” or “charming,” you’ll find one that’s sure to fit your needs perfectly. (As a bonus, Travel and Leisure has a great list of apps to consider as well!)
4. Join Mailing Lists
While it may seem like an unsavory option to sign up for what, 99% of the time, is going to qualify as spam, registering for travel websites’ mailing lists can actually result in big benefits. For the price of having to click “delete” for every unwanted email, when you do find yourself needing a last-minute (often unadvertised) hotel deal, you’ll often find it appears right in your inbox. This has not only one, but multiple positive aspects, saving you both money and the time and effort of searching out reasonably priced hotel rates on your own.
5. Be Flexible
When looking to book a last-minute hotel room at a low rate, it’s important to remember that it will often be, to an extent, a “take what you can get” scenario. The best options might not be in the heart of downtown or the hub of all the activity. There might not be a heated pool, complimentary breakfast or fresh flowers in your room. While sometimes you will score with awesome amenities and an excellent location, sometimes you won’t, so remember to look on the bright side: with all that money you’re saving, you can buy some chocolate and put it on the pillow yourself, creating your own five-star experience. That’s putting the pro in proactive, right there.