Save Big By Knowing How Far In Advance to Book Your Hotel Stay

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In many ways, a hotel room is like a supermarket’s ripe bananas. I don’t mean to imply that the hotels I frequent are yellow with occasional brown splotches from rough handling, although my stays at certain Howard Johnsons have been memorable. I mean that like ripe bananas, a hotel room has to be sold by a certain date or it doesn’t get sold at all.

Since an unsold room makes the hotel owner no money, hotel managers are constantly reviewing their unsold inventory and adjusting their prices to attract buyers and maximize their income. Each hotel manager – and there are more than 260 hotels in the immediate area around Disney World – has a predictable way of adjusting their prices. Some, for example, start by offering their rock bottom rates to anyone booking more than six months in advance. In that case, the hotel manager is trading some amount of profit for some degree of advance certainty that there’ll be enough paying guests to meet expenses. Other hotel operators charge their highest rates to anyone booking more than six months in advance, figuring that if the guest is willing to pay that much that far in advance, the guest must have limited choices in where they can stay and thus has to pay the rate. The pattern that the hotel manager follows in adjusting prices is known as a pricing strategy. Dozens of these strategies exist, and offer lowest prices anywhere from one week to one hundred days in advance.

Your key to getting absolute best deal at a particular hotel is in knowing which pricing strategy the hotel manager follows, and when that strategy generally offers the best rates. To determine that, however, you’d need to track the price of a particular hotel’s rooms for a particular set of dates, long enough to ensure you have enough prices to find a pattern. That would not be fun for most people. It is, however, the kind of project that the research team at the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World just loves.

We programmed the Unofficial Guide’s computers to check more than 30 Internet websites for prices on more than 260 hotels in the Orlando area, from one to 300 nights in advance. For example, our computers might check Hotels.com every night for the rate at the Marriott World Center for tomorrow, then the rates for night after, then the rates for night after that, and so on, up to 300 days into the future. The computers would then check Orbitz for rates at the same hotel for tomorrow night, the night after that, etc. Not every website offers rates for every hotel or every night, but we’ve still managed to compile a database of more than 91 million hotel quotes since late 2005.

To analyze that much information requires some very skilled statisticians and some really powerful computer systems. The Unofficial Guide is probably the only travel book in the world with two statisticians (and top notch ones, at that), and we gave one of them the task of determining how far in advance each hotel offered its best, second-best and worst rates.

The table below shows those data for a sample of the resorts we cover. A couple of notes: prices shown for the Disney resorts are from wholesalers such as Hotels.com, not from Disney themselves. It’s often possible to find better deals for Disney through discounts found on MouseSavers.com, for example.

In general, most hotels seem to offer bigger savings the longer you wait to book. While this isn’t surprising, you do run the risk of the hotel running out of rooms if you wait too long. And some hotel chains, such as AmeriSuites and Hilton, don’t seem to follow that policy for many of its properties.

The good news is that most hotels offer their best deals well ahead of any advance cancellation date, so you can always book a hotel room as soon as you know you’re going to Walt Disney World, then check back for a discount during the time period shown. For example, if you know you have to stay at the AmeriSuites Orlando Convention Center, you can make your reservation 180 days in advance to guarantee yourself a room at that location. Next, you’d check back for better deals anywhere from 32 to 42 days before your trip, since that’s when that AmeriSuites is most likely to drop its rates. One last tip: Once you’ve booked your lowest rates online, it doesn’t hurt to call the hotel front desk directly and see if they can beat the online rate you’ve found, or match the rate and throw in an upgrade, free breakfast or something similar. Our success rate in doing this varies depending on the season, and runs anywhere from 5% for summers and holidays to 30% during slower times of the year. With the economy slowing down, your chances of obtaining better deals are as good as they’ve been in many years.

Resort Name Lowest Rate Days in Advance to Book For Lowest Rate Potential Savings Highest Rate Days in Advance Highest Rate is Offered
All-Star Sports Resort $ 58.98 0-75 $ 19.99 $ 78.97 76-181+
AmeriHost Resort $ 45.00 0-75 $ 17.00 $ 62.00 76-181+
AmeriSuites Lake Buena Vista South $ 30.00 151-181+ $ 21.75 $ 51.75 0-150
AmeriSuites Orlando Convention Center $ 35.00 32-42 $ 5.00 $ 40.00 0-31, 43-181+
AmeriSuites Universal $ 17.00 0-7 $ 21.33 $ 38.33 8-181+
Animal Kingdom Lodge Walt Disney World $ 149.00 0-75 $ 56.00 $ 205.00 76-181+
Baymont Inn Kissimmee $ 54.00 0-42 $ 8.96 $ 62.96 43-181+
Beach Club Resort Walt Disney World $ 240.00 0-120 $ 65.98 $ 305.98 121-181+
Best Western Movieland $ 39.00 0-14 $ 7.00 $ 46.00 15-181+
Best Western Plaza I-Drive $ 39.00 0-14 $ 7.00 $ 46.00 15-181+
Best Western Universal Inn $ 38.94 0-14 $ 12.06 $ 51.00 15-181+
BoardWalk Inn Walt Disney World $ 205.00 22-90 $ 100.00 $ 305.00 0-21, 91-181+
Buena Vista Suites $ 74.25 0-14 $ 4.75 $ 79.00 15-181+
Caribbean Beach Resort Walt Disney World $ 104.00 0-90 $ 25.00 $ 129.00 91-181+
Caribe Royale Resort Suites $ 78.00 181+ $ 23.46 $ 101.46 0-180
Celebration Hotel $ 74.29 61-90, 181+ $ 20.71 $ 95.00 0-60, 91-180
Celebrity Resorts Lake Buena Vista $ 46.40 0-60 $ 31.60 $ 78.00 61-181+
Clarion Maingate $ 40.19 91-150 $ 1.18 $ 41.37 0-90, 151-181+
Clarion Universal $ 39.95 121-150 $ 10.00 $ 49.95 0-120, 151-181+
Club Hotel by DoubleTree $ 60.00 0-51, 76-181+ $ 1.00 $ 61.00 52-75
Comfort Inn I-Drive $ 45.00 0-42, 52-60 $ 5.00 $ 50.00 43-51, 61-181+
Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista $ 36.00 0-14, 22-120 $ 6.00 $ 42.00 15-21, 121-181+
Comfort Inn Maingate West $ 29.95 181+ $ 10.00 $ 39.95 0-180
Comfort Inn Sandlake $ 31.00 0-7, 32-181+ $ 0.50 $ 31.50 8-31
Comfort Suites Maingate $ 55.00 22-42 $ 4.99 $ 59.99 0-21, 43-181+
Comfort Suites Orlando $ 30.00 32-75, 121-181+ $ 19.00 $ 49.00 0-31, 76-120
Comfort Suites Universal $ 53.95 0-7 $ 13.55 $ 67.50 8-181+
Contemporary Resort Walt Disney World $ 183.00 8-42 $ 66.00 $ 249.00 0-7, 43-181+
Coronado Springs Resort Walt Disney World $ 104.00 0-120 $ 34.96 $ 138.96 121-181+
Country Inn & Suites Calypso Cay $ 58.00 8-14, 43-60, 76-90 $ 2.00 $ 60.00 0-7, 15-42, 61-75, 91-181+
Country Inn & Suites I-Drive $ 52.50 181+ $ 2.80 $ 55.30 0-180
Courtyard by Marriott I-Drive $ 67.00 0-7 $ 17.00 $ 84.00 8-181+
Courtyard by Marriott Lake Buena Vista $ 57.00 0-31 $ 2.00 $ 59.00 32-181+
Crowne Plaza Resort $ 44.99 0-14, 91-150 $ 5.01 $ 50.00 15-90, 151-181+
Crowne Plaza Universal $ 44.95 22-42 $ 10.25 $ 55.20 0-21, 43-181+
Days Inn Eastgate $ 30.00 0-7 $ 3.00 $ 33.00 8-181+
Days Inn Lake Buena Vista $ 53.00 0-120 $ 14.00 $ 67.00 121-150, 181+
Days Inn Sea World/Convention Center $ 39.00 0-31 $ 1.00 $ 40.00 32-181+
Days Inn Suites Maingate East $ 34.50 22-31 $ 9.50 $ 44.00 0-21, 32-181+
Days Inn Universal Studios $ 25.00 0-7 $ 12.00 $ 37.00 8-181+
Days Inn West Kissimmee $ 37.00 0-120 $ 4.00 $ 41.00 121-181+
Dolphin Walt Disney World $ 125.00 151-181+ $ 24.00 $ 149.00 0-150
DoubleTree Castle Hotel $ 73.00 0-7, 15-42 $ 8.00 $ 81.00 8-14, 43-181+
DoubleTree Guest Suites $ 77.00 0-14 $ 3.10 $ 80.10 15-181+
DoubleTree Universal $ 57.00 76-90 $ 4.00 $ 61.00 0-75, 91-181+
Econo Lodge Hawaiian Resort $ 26.00 8-21 $ 1.48 $ 27.48 0-7, 22-181+
Econo Lodge Polynesian Resort $ 28.00 0-31 $ 2.00 $ 30.00 32-181+
Embassy Suites Orlando I-Drive $ 80.00 0-14 $ 15.00 $ 95.00 15-181+
Embassy Suites Plaza I-Drive $ 79.00 22-42 $ 19.10 $ 98.10 0-21, 43-181+
Embassy Suites Resort Lake Buena Vista $ 79.00 0-31, 181+ $ 15.00 $ 94.00 32-180
Enclave Suites $ 39.50 43-51, 61-75 $ 19.65 $ 59.15 0-42, 52-60, 76-181+
Extended Stay Convention Center $ 34.99 0-14, 22-42, 52-150, 181+ $ 10.96 $ 45.95 15-21, 43-51, 151-180
Extended Stay Universal $ 34.29 121-180 $ 5.71 $ 40.00 0-120, 181+
Fairfield Inn & Suites Universal $ 67.00 0-60 $ 9.00 $ 76.00 61-181+
Fairfield Orlando Cypress Palms $ 61.95 0-150 $ 26.55 $ 88.50 151-181+
Fort Wilderness Resort(campsites) WDW $ 39.00 0-31, 151-181+ $ 16.00 $ 55.00 32-150
Gaylord Palms Resort $ 79.00 15-42 $ 20.99 $ 99.99 0-14, 43-181+
Golden Link Motel $ 35.00 121-150 $ 4.00 $ 39.00 0-120, 151-181+
Grand Lake Resort $ 60.00 0-150 $ 13.00 $ 73.00 151-181+
Grosvenor Resort $ 55.29 0-7 $ 3.71 $ 59.00 8-181+
Hampton Inn Convention Center $ 51.99 181+ $ 3.01 $ 55.00 0-180
Hampton Inn Kirkman $ 51.99 181+ $ 3.01 $ 55.00 0-180
Hampton Inn Lake Buena Vista $ 62.00 0-7 $ 9.00 $ 71.00 8-181+
Hampton Inn Maingate $ 49.00 0-42 $ 10.00 $ 59.00 43-181+
Hampton Inn Maingate West $ 80.10 181+ $ 8.90 $ 89.00 0-180
Hard Rock Hotel $ 159.00 0-42 $ 43.00 $ 202.00 43-181+
Hawthorn Suites Lake Buena Vista $ 39.00 0-21, 181+ $ 50.00 $ 89.00 22-180
Hawthorn Suites Orlando at SeaWorld $ 49.00 15-42 $ 10.00 $ 59.00 0-14, 43-181+
Hawthorn Suites Universal $ 54.00 43-51 $ 7.00 $ 61.00 0-42, 52-181+
Hilton Garden Inn $ 69.00 0-7, 15-60 $ 5.00 $ 74.00 8-14, 61-181+
Hilton Garden Inn Orlando $ 64.00 22-42, 61-120 $ 24.00 $ 88.00 0-21, 43-60, 121-181+
Hilton Grand Vacations Club $ 79.00 8-75 $ 20.00 $ 99.00 0-7, 76-181+
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Sea World $ 76.50 22-42 $ 6.50 $ 83.00 0-21, 43-181+
Hilton Walt Disney World $ 69.30 0-21 $ 23.70 $ 93.00 22-181+
Holiday Inn Express Summerbay Resort $ 35.00 76-120 $ 4.99 $ 39.99 0-75, 121-181+
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Convention Center $ 42.00 121-150 $ 12.99 $ 54.99 0-120, 151-181+
Holiday Inn International Resort $ 40.00 181+ $ 24.00 $ 64.00 0-180
Holiday Inn Maingate West $ 42.00 181+ $ 10.00 $ 52.00 0-180
Holiday Inn Nikki Bird Resort $ 46.95 22-42 $ 1.04 $ 47.99 0-21, 43-181+
Holiday Inn Universal Studios $ 54.00 43-51 $ 1.24 $ 55.24 0-42, 52-181+
Holiday Inn WDW Resort $ 89.00 181+ $ 20.00 $ 109.00 0-180
Home Sweet Home Eastgate $ 90.00 22-31 $ 9.00 $ 99.00 0-7, 181+
Homewood Suites I-Drive $ 66.00 32-75 $ 9.00 $ 75.00 0-31, 76-181+
Homewood Suites Lake Buena Vista $ 76.00 0-21 $ 19.00 $ 95.00 22-31, 76-181+
Hotel Royal Plaza $ 89.00 181+ $ 1.30 $ 90.30 0-180
Howard Johnson Enchanted Land Resort Hotel $ 25.14 61-90 $ 4.86 $ 30.00 0-60, 91-181+
Howard Johnson Express Inn and Suites $ 34.00 0-7 $ 5.00 $ 39.00 8-181+
Howard Johnson Inn Maingate East $ 30.60 0-14 $ 1.40 $ 32.00 15-181+
Howard Johnson Inn Maingate West $ 27.22 91-150 $ 1.18 $ 28.40 0-90, 151-181+
Howard Johnson Inn Orlando $ 31.00 61-90 $ 4.00 $ 35.00 0-60, 91-181+
Howard Johnson Inn South I-Drive $ 29.00 0-42, 52-60 $ 3.00 $ 32.00 43-51, 61-181+
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress $ 141.00 0-21, 181+ $ 24.19 $ 165.19 22-180
I-Drive Inn $ 27.30 61-120 $ 12.70 $ 40.00 0-60, 121-181+
Knights Inn Kissimmee $ 31.00 0-7 $ 3.00 $ 34.00 8-181+
Knights Inn Maingate East $ 30.00 0-42 $ 1.00 $ 31.00 43-181+
La Quinta Inn I-Drive $ 39.00 8-75 $ 17.00 $ 56.00 0-7, 76-181+
La Quinta Universal $ 30.00 8-14 $ 15.00 $ 45.00 0-7, 15-181+
Lake Buena Vista Resort $ 50.40 8-42 $ 10.60 $ 61.00 0-7, 43-181+
Liki Tiki Village $ 53.90 151-181+ $ 4.90 $ 58.80 0-150
Mainstay Suites $ 46.02 181+ $ 11.80 $ 57.82 0-180
Marriott Cypress Harbour Villas $ 79.00 32-75, 181+ $ 15.99 $ 94.99 0-31, 76-180
Marriott Imperial Palm Villas $ 69.99 181+ $ 99.01 $ 169.00 0-180
Marriott Orlando World Center $ 98.00 181+ $ 41.00 $ 139.00 0-180
Marriott Village Fairfield Inn $ 39.00 121-150 $ 20.95 $ 59.95 0-120, 151-181+
Marriott Village Spring Hill Suites $ 92.00 32-75 $ 46.00 $ 138.00 0-14, 22-31, 76-181+
Marriott Vista Grande Villas $ 89.00 0-51 $ 15.00 $ 104.00 52-181+
Master’s Inn I-Drive $ 20.00 8-14 $ 20.00 $ 40.00 0-7, 15-181+
Master’s Inn Kissimmee $ 28.00 0-42 $ 1.00 $ 29.00 43-181+
Master’s Inn Maingate $ 26.35 0-21 $ 9.65 $ 36.00 22-181+
Microtel Inn & Suites $ 32.00 0-7 $ 17.56 $ 49.56 8-181+
Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn $ 60.00 121-150 $ 19.00 $ 79.00 0-120, 151-181+
Old Key West Resort Walt Disney World $ 164.00 0-75 $ 105.00 $ 269.00 76-181+
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate $ 77.40 0-42 $ 49.60 $ 127.00 43-181+
Orlando Grand Plaza $ 33.00 151-181+ $ 1.00 $ 34.00 0-150
Parkway International Resort $ 69.30 0-60 $ 9.70 $ 79.00 61-181+
Peabody Orlando $ 49.95 181+ $ 49.05 $ 99.00 0-180
Polynesian Resort Walt Disney World $ 254.00 0-120 $ 61.00 $ 315.00 121-181+
Pop Century Resort Walt Disney World $ 58.98 0-75 $ 19.99 $ 78.97 76-181+
Port Orleans Resort(French Quarter) WDW $ 104.00 0-120 $ 34.96 $ 138.96 121-181+
Port Orleans Resort ( Riverside ) WDW $ 104.00 0-120 $ 34.96 $ 138.96 121-181+
Portofino Bay Hotel $ 171.60 0-51 $ 65.40 $ 237.00 52-181+
Quality Inn & Suites Eastgate $ 39.00 0-60 $ 4.80 $ 43.80 61-181+
Quality Inn & Suites Universal $ 36.00 0-7, 91-181+ $ 5.30 $ 41.30 8-90
Quality Inn I-Drive $ 28.00 22-75 $ 10.00 $ 38.00 0-21, 76-181+
Quality Inn Maingate West $ 27.00 0-90 $ 1.83 $ 28.83 91-181+
Quality Inn Plaza $ 30.00 0-14 $ 8.00 $ 38.00 15-181+
Quality Suites Maingate East $ 46.00 52-75, 151-181+ $ 7.00 $ 53.00 0-51, 76-150
Quality Suites Universal $ 39.20 0-7 $ 9.54 $ 48.74 8-181+
Radisson Barcelo Inn I-Drive $ 36.00 32-51 $ 4.00 $ 40.00 0-31, 52-181+
Radisson Inn Lake Buena Vista $ 59.99 22-42 $ 15.01 $ 75.00 0-21, 43-181+
Radisson Resort Parkway $ 45.00 0-7 $ 15.66 $ 60.66 8-181+
Radisson Worldgate Resort $ 50.00 76-120, 151-181+ $ 10.00 $ 60.00 0-75, 121-150
Ramada Plaza & Inn Gateway $ 31.60 91-150 $ 3.39 $ 34.99 0-90, 151-181+
Ramada Resort Maingate $ 33.00 32-90 $ 3.04 $ 36.04 0-31, 91-181+
Red Carpet Inn East $ 38.00 91-120 $ 1.99 $ 39.99 0-90, 121-181+
Red Horse Inn $ 42.00 91-180 $ 2.00 $ 44.00 0-90, 181+
Red Roof Inn Convention Center $ 39.95 32-51 $ 2.05 $ 42.00 0-31, 52-181+
Red Roof Inn Kissimmee $ 31.49 181+ $ 4.10 $ 35.59 0-180
Renaissance Orlando Resort $ 40.00 91-120 $ 34.60 $ 74.60 0-90, 121-181+
Residence Inn Convention Center $ 31.00 52-60 $ 4.00 $ 35.00 0-51, 61-181+
Residence Inn Orlando $ 71.00 91-120 $ 12.00 $ 83.00 0-90, 121-181+
Residence Inn Sea World $ 29.14 32-60 $ 58.07 $ 87.21 0-31, 61-181+
Riande Continental Plaza $ 31.86 52-90, 121-180 $ 1.02 $ 32.88 0-51, 91-120, 181+
Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes $ 138.57 181+ $ 46.43 $ 185.00 0-180
Rodeway Inn I-Drive $ 26.00 43-75 $ 7.00 $ 33.00 0-42, 76-181+
Rodeway Inn Maingate $ 30.00 0-21, 32-180 $ 1.96 $ 31.96 22-31, 181+
Rosen Centre Hotel $ 59.25 0-21 $ 26.75 $ 86.00 22-181+
Rosen Plaza Hotel $ 41.99 91-120 $ 5.00 $ 46.99 0-90, 121-181+
Royal Pacific Resort $ 139.00 0-42 $ 21.00 $ 160.00 43-181+
RIU Orlando $ 35.00 0-7, 22-42, 91-150 $ 4.99 $ 39.99 8-21, 43-90, 151-181+
Saratoga Springs Walt Disney World $ 164.00 0-75 $ 105.86 $ 269.86 76-181+
Seralago Hotel $ 41.00 8-14, 43-60, 181+ $ 0.65 $ 41.65 0-7, 15-42, 61-180
Sheraton Royal Safari $ 59.40 15-75 $ 15.60 $ 75.00 0-14, 76-181+
Sheraton Vistana Resort $ 79.20 15-42 $ 8.80 $ 88.00 0-14, 43-181+
Sheraton World Resort $ 59.00 181+ $ 3.00 $ 62.00 0-180
Extended Stay Deluxe Lake Buena Vista $ 37.14 91-120, 181+ $ 2.86 $ 40.00 0-90, 121-180
Silver Lake Resort $ 39.99 121-181+ $ 4.01 $ 44.00 0-120
Sleep Inn Convention Center $ 40.00 15-51 $ 16.25 $ 56.25 0-14, 52-181+
Sleep Inn Maingate $ 40.50 0-90 $ 5.50 $ 46.00 91-181+
Spring Hill Suites by Marriott $ 65.00 181+ $ 5.00 $ 70.00 0-180
Star Island Resort $ 40.00 32-42, 121-181+ $ 30.00 $ 70.00 0-31, 43-120
Staybridge Suites Hotel $ 85.00 0-7 $ 14.00 $ 99.00 8-181+
Staybridge Suites Lake Buena Vista $ 88.00 0-31 $ 10.00 $ 98.00 32-181+
Extended Stay Convention Center $ 49.00 181+ $ 12.00 $ 61.00 0-180
Inn at Summer Bay Resort $ 49.00 0-90 $ 8.00 $ 57.00 91-181+
Super 8 East $ 31.49 0-42, 76-181+ $ 2.51 $ 34.00 43-75
Super 8 Lakeside $ 33.00 0-31 $ 2.00 $ 35.00 32-181+
Super 8 Universal $ 33.00 0-31 $ 6.99 $ 39.99 32-181+
Swan Walt Disney World $ 125.00 151-181+ $ 24.00 $ 149.00 0-150
Travelodge I-Drive $ 31.00 52-60 $ 1.00 $ 32.00 0-51, 61-181+
Travelodge Suites Eastgate $ 39.56 76-120, 181+ $ 3.44 $ 43.00 0-75, 121-180
Wellesley Inn Kissimmee/Lake Cecile $ 50.00 22-42, 91-150, 181+ $ 1.00 $ 51.00 0-21, 43-90, 151-180
Westgate Inn $ 31.25 0-31 $ 2.75 $ 34.00 32-181+
Westgate Lakes $ 20.00 181+ $ 14.29 $ 34.29 0-180
Westgate Palace $ 94.00 32-42 $ 12.00 $ 106.00 0-31, 43-181+
Westgate Resorts $ 63.96 0-7 $ 3.04 $ 67.00 8-181+
Wilderness Lodge Walt Disney World $ 140.00 22-90 $ 65.00 $ 205.00 0-21, 91-181+
Wilderness Lodge Villas Walt Disney World $ 195.00 22-120 $ 44.00 $ 239.00 0-21, 121-181+
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Posted on October 10, 2008

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