Wendy Perrin says that if you want to get into a sold out hotel, find out what the hotel’s standard cancellation deadline is and that’s when you can try to book a room.
Call the hotel directly (not the 800 number) and ask on what date cancellation penalties kick in for the date you want to arrive. (Three weeks before? Three days?) Note the date, then call that morning to see if rooms have opened up as people cancel at the last minute to avoid being charged.
Let me offer a modification, and an additional use for this technique.
Major Events Cause Rooms to Open Up Early
Find out if there are any big conferences going on at the hotel. If there are, the group contract usually specifies various deadlines for ‘attrition’ (reducing the group’s commitment of roms) and also a deadline for the group’s block.
A group might reduce the number of rooms six, three, or even a month prior to the event. And any unused rooms may go back into inventory often a month out, These dates can vary by contract but are roughly standard, and are times when rooms may open up.
Often hotels are sold out in advance of major events, like the Presidential Inauguration in DC, but once the room blocks expire hotels find that they have unsold rooms and they’re quite anxious to move them.
Many Hotel Chains Send Out Stay Reminder to Guests a Week Out
I find that availability will often open up a week out, perhaps these emails are driving people holding reservations that aren’t going to use them to cancel. That’s another reason why a week out is a good time to check, or six days out to give people time to read those emails and take action.
This Advice Isn’t About Just Getting a Room But Also a Suite
Hyatt Gold Passport is the most generous program allowing its top elites to confirm upgrades any time after booking four times a year from any rate, and letting any member confirm a suite for up to 4 nights for just 6000 points when paying an eligible rate (Hyatt Daily Rate on a standard room for most hotels, a premium room for resorts).
Those suites aren’t always available, of course. But I can’t recall every being shut out of a reservation for one when I’ve continued to check back, I may not be able to book it when I make the reservation but usually a week out or a few days out they’ll open up.
That’s because — just like the reasons you can get into a sold out hotel at specific times where people are likely to cancel their bookings — they’re also cancelling reservations or releasing rooms that are blocked into suites.
Elite Benefits Can Buy Their Way Into Sold Out Hotels
Hotel programs often offer guaranteed availability to their top tier elite loyalty program members. That requires an advance reservation, usually 48 or 72 hours, and may exclude dates coinciding with certain events (think Superbowl). It also usually requires an especially high room rate, remember they are going to have to be willing to walk another guest in order to fulfill this pledge so the revenue has to be worth it tot he property.
As recently as a year ago I was finding many Hyatt hotels pricing their ‘Diamond Guarantee Rate’ not much higher than the Hyatt Daily Rate. I assume that was not intentional or policy and that hasn’t been the case recently in my limited searching.
This is a pricier strategy than looking to time cancellations, though of course a top tier elite who absolutely needs a room at a specific property can book this guarantee rate and still try to time the property — cancellations may mean that rooms open up at a lower price, and a reservation can be rebooked.
In fact, it’s often a good strategy to re-price a room closer to check-in and sometimes rates do fall.