By Wendy Perrin, TripAdvisor travel advocate
If you think the path to the lowest hotel price is to book as far ahead as possible or to wait for a last-minute deal, you may end up overpaying for your next trip. TripAdvisor has crunched its hotel booking data to uncover the least expensive time to book your summer vacation--and it's probably not when you thought.
TripAdvisor's report finds that the best time to book hotels is highly dependent on where you want to visit. If you're headed to Europe this summer, right now is when some of the lowest rates are on offer; if you're vacationing in the U.S., you may want to wait another month or so. The amount of savings varies a lot from region to region too. Here are common hotel booking misperceptions that the report dashes--and five mistakes not to make.
Mistake #1: Waiting too late to book European hotels.
Europe is extremely popular in summertime--which could explain why the best summer hotel rates are on offer between three and five months in advance. In Berlin and Prague, the report finds, you can save 33% by booking between two and five months out. Two cities where longer lead times are not necessary are Paris and Istanbul, perhaps because these cities have a lot of new hotel rooms to fill. In Paris you can save about 32%, in Istanbul 29%.
Mistake #2: Booking Asian hotels too early.
The cities with the shortest lead time to secure the biggest savings are in Asia, where the lowest prices tend to hit within two weeks of your visit. In Dubai you can save 40% by booking within two months of your trip, in Jakarta 39% by booking within three months. Of the 25 cities included in the study, the one you can wait the longest to book is Singapore, where you can possibly save 26% by looking for deals as close as two weeks ahead.
Mistake #3: Booking a city hotel more than five months in advance.
In most places covered in the study, you'll pay more if you book more than five months out. Two big exceptions are Barcelona and Moscow, where you can see significant savings by booking up to seven months out. In fact, travelers to Moscow (where the Russian ruble has lost a lot of value within the past year) stand to gain the most (55% savings) by booking at the right time.
Mistake #4: Worrying about when to book summertime bargains in the Caribbean.
Traditionally, low-season pricing in the Caribbean brings significant savings. You needn't stress over when to pull the trigger to score those bargains, since booking when prices are at their lowest (between one and four months before your travel date) may save you only 7%. In other words, you'll benefit from steep summertime off-peak pricing in the Caribbean no matter when you book.
Mistake #5: Expecting last-minute savings in New York City
New York City sees deals galore at certain times of the year, but for summer trips specifically, you're probably better off looking for deals between two and four months ahead of your visit. That's when you can save 25%.
And a tip:
The cities included in the TripAdvisor study have plenty of large hotels--and thus the room inventory that makes sales possible. If the commodity you want is scarce and you lack flexibility--say, you're bound for an island with only a few hotel rooms, or you're traveling during the peak July 4th weekend, or you're a large family that requires connecting rooms with certain bed configurations--then you may want to book in advance of the optimal time for savings, while the rooms you need are still available. Say you're Caribbean-bound and the best beach matters more to you than the lowest price: Since the optimal booking window is between one and four months out, don't hesitate to book ahead of the four-month mark.
The optimal times for booking on TripAdvisor--for nine regions of the world and 25 cities--are spelled out here .