How Far in Advance Can You Book Hotels?

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Planning a vacation takes time and preparation. One key question that arises is how early can you book hotel reservations.

While last-minute deals pop up often, there are advantages to booking further out.

In this article, we’ll look at how far ahead major hotel brands allow reservations, strategies for early booking, and tips for securing plans while maintaining flexibility.

Typical Hotel Booking Windows

Most hotel chains open up reservations approximately:

  • 1 year in advance: This is the standard maximum for many global hotel brands. Some smaller independent properties book 6-8 months out.
  • 18 months ahead: For higher-end luxury resorts, booking windows can open 18 months before arrival.
  • 24 months ahead: Unique venues like Disney World can have booking calendars open 24 months in advance due to high demand.

So for average hotels, aim to book 1 year out for the widest selection of rates and room types. Earlier than that generally won’t gain you anything further.

Note that while you can reserve a room up to 1 year in advance, you aren’t typically charged until 1-2 months prior depending on cancellation policies.

Why Book a Hotel Early?

Here are some potential benefits of booking further in advance when possible:

  • Better availability: Hotels tend to fill up as you get closer to the travel date, so booking early secures a room.
  • Lower rates: Early bird rates can offer 10-25% discounts over booking last minute.
  • Greater flexibility: More time to review options and fine-tune travel plans without a rush.
  • Peace of mind: Having major plans locked in early may reduce anxiety and uncertainty closer to travel dates.
  • Preparation: Gives you a chance to research the area more to optimize your stay.
  • Savings: Multi-room or group bookings often come with discounts when reserved further out.

While not always necessary, looking ahead and booking early can maximize convenience and savings for many travelers.

Strategies for Booking Early Successfully

Here are some tips to make early hotel reservations effectively:

  • Be flexible on dates: Provide a range of arrival and departure dates to expand options. Hotels have more wiggle room to find deals outside peak times.
  • Book refundable rates: Pay a small premium for a fully refundable rate to maintain cancellation flexibility even if plans change.
  • Use a travel agent: Experienced agents often have access to unpublished early booking discounts at popular hotels.
  • Set calendar alerts: Mark your calendar when final payment dates approach in case you need to adjust plans.
  • Purchase travel protection: Explore insurance options that provide trip cancellation coverage for permitted reasons. This safeguards upfront payments.
  • Take advantage of sales: Check for seasonal sales like “book by X date and save Y%” that reward early commitment.

With the right approach, you can secure ideal hotels farther in advance while retaining flexibility should you need to alter plans down the road.

How Early to Book Popular Hotel Destinations

For top vacation spots, here’s guidance on when to start booking to optimize availability and pricing:

  • Major cities: 3-6 months out for best urban hotel selection and rates.
  • Beach destinations: 6 months ahead for warm weather locales to score summer savings.
  • National Parks: At least 6 months ahead for lodges and peak seasons when demand is high.
  • Ski resorts: Up to 1 year out for winter trips to lock in rooms and lift tickets during snow season.
  • Europe: 6-8 months out allows more choice across cities, though last minute deals can arise depending on the season.
  • Hawaii: Ideally 6-8 months out for next winter or 8-12 months for summer/fall due to high occupancy.

Adjust timelines based on your specific destinations, but use these as general benchmarks for optimal early booking.

How Far in Advance Can You Book Hotels?

Risks of Booking Too Early

While early booking has advantages, be aware of a few potential downsides:

  • Inflexibility: Making non-refundable reservations may lock you into a trip you later need to cancel.
  • Changing prices: Rates could potentially decrease if you book far out compared to waiting.
  • Limited details: Booking so far in advance means your trip plans may be uncertain still.
  • Forgotten plans: Making reservations 12 months in advance risks forgetting details unless you track diligently.
  • Missed deals: Last minute promotions may beat early prepaid rates in some instances.
  • Unnecessary urgency: No need to book extremely early during off-peak travel periods when deals abound later.

Weight these factors before rushing to book hotels 9-12 months out versus taking a more moderate approach.

Making Changes to Early Reservations

Sometimes early hotel bookings need to change. Here are tips for smooth modifications:

  • Review cancellation policy: Understand any refund conditions and deadlines prior to booking.
  • Mark your calendar: Note final cancellation and payment dates should adjustments become necessary.
  • Book flexible rates: Paying more for refundable rooms provides the most change options later.
  • Change dates: Simply shifting arrival and departure may be easier than cancelling in some cases.
  • Modify room type: Downgrading rooms if plans change is often allowed by hotels if space permits.
  • Use credits: See if reservations can be changed to future travel credits if a cancellation comes up.
  • Leverage grace periods: Some hotels allow changes up to 24-48 hours prior without penalty.

With the right rate and policy, you can usually modify even early hotel bookings as needed through proactive planning.

Key Takeaways

To recap tips for early hotel booking:

  • Book 1 year out for most major hotel brands, earlier for luxury resorts.
  • Weigh advantages like lower rates and flexibility against drawbacks like lack of discounts.
  • Use flexible, refundable rates and travel insurance when booking far in advance.
  • Adjust timelines based on destination – book ski resorts early but cities can wait.
  • Leeway to change dates, rooms, and cancellation is still possible despite early reservations.

Careful planning allows you to lock in dream hotels as far as a year out while retaining peace of mind that alternations are achievable when early commitments require modification.


I'm Jennifer Tuffen, a travel enthusiast and storyteller, six years and 10+ countries deep into a journey of discovery and cultural immersion.