Exactly when to book a hotel to get the best deal

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This story is part of CNBC Make It’s One-Minute Money Hacks series, which provides easy, straightforward tips and tricks to help you understand your finances and take control of your money. As summer approaches, you might start looking toward your next vacation, and in some cases, setting your sights on […]

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s One-Minute Money Hacks series, which provides easy, straightforward tips and tricks to help you understand your finances and take control of your money.

As summer approaches, you might start looking toward your next vacation, and in some cases, setting your sights on a faraway destination. Roughly 50% of millennials and Gen Z are planning to travel internationally in 2022, according to Expedia’s 2022 Travel Value Index outlook.

But whether you are taking a quick weekend trip or jet-setting across the world, the recent rise in inflation might put a damper on your plans.

If you want to maximize your trip budget, the golden rule of travel is typically to plan your trip well ahead of time.

With flights, typically the earlier you book, the more money you’ll save. But with hotels or Airbnbs, it can be unclear how far in advance you should reserve a room to get the best deal. 

One tip: If you’re flexible, willing to wait or simply easy-going with travel planning, you could save on lodging by booking at the last minute. That’s right, it can be cheaper to book your next home-away-from-home only days before you leave. 

The ideal amount of time to book a hotel room is only 15 days before your trip, according to a 2021 NerdWallet study.

Looking at more than 2,500 hotel room rates between 2019 and 2021, NerdWallet found rates were about 13% cheaper when booked 15 days before compared to four months before.

On average, travelers saved about $30 per night by booking last-minute, which can really add up.

The savings were even higher for luxury hotels: About 22% cheaper when booked 15 days out.

However, if you’re traveling to a popular destination or during a busy travel season, you risk not snagging your first-choice hotel. You may get stuck at a hotel further away from your destination — the beach, Disney World or a sporting event may be a little harder to get to if you wait too long to book.

But with skyrocketing travel prices, booking your hotel at the right time could mean the difference in how much cash you have in your pocket for the rest of the trip.

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