If you travel enough, eventually you’re going to be in a situation where your flight is delayed or canceled. And when trouble hits, you won’t be the only one scrambling to figure things out.
The airline staff are likely to be stretched to the limit trying to handle everyone’s issues. So what can you do to stay ahead of the crowds and find a last-minute hotel room?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I recommend paying for your travel with a credit card that has travel insurance perks. These benefits could reimburse you for everything from delayed luggage to canceled trips!
The trip delay insurance you get will vary depending on which credit card you used to pay for your travel. And typically, delays caused by the weather are covered.
With certain Chase cards, you can get up to $500 back if your flight is delayed 12 hours or more. But with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your flight only needs to be delayed 6 hours before your coverage begins. And the Citi Prestige has one of the best credit card flight delay policies because you’re covered after only 3 hours of delay!
If the weather or something else out of your control has caused a delay and you need a place to stay, the airline might offer you a hotel voucher. But you probably won’t be the only one looking for help.
So if you’re in a situation where you aren’t getting any help finding a hotel room, here is what you can do to take care of yourself.
How to Find the Best Deal on Last-Minute Hotel Rooms
When you’re looking for a cheap last-minute hotel room, you’ll want to be quick. Because most likely, you’re not the only one who is desperate for a place to stay.
So don’t waste time browsing individual hotel websites. Instead, search a 3rd-party booking site, like Hotwire or Priceline. This is will give you a general idea of what hotels are the in the area, and what the price range is for rooms.
I’ll show you how to find “secret deals” on Hotwire & Priceline. When you book a “secret deal,” you won’t know which hotel you are staying at until after you complete the reservation. But you will know the general area where the hotel is located and its rating. Check out this video guide to learn how to find great deals using these sites!
Keep in mind, when you book through 3rd-party sites you will NOT earn points and your hotel elite status probably won’t be recognized. But at this point, anything is better than sleeping in the airport!
1. Hotwire Hot Rate Hotels
Link: Hotwire Mobile App
These screenshots are taken from the Hotwire website.
Step 1. Search for a Hotel in Your Area
Enter the airport or city where you want to stay, the dates of your stay, and the number of rooms you’ll need. Then click the “Find a Hotel” button.
Step 2. Find the Hot Rate Hotels
To see the only best prices you’ll need to select “Hot Rate Hotels” from the “Hotel Rate Type” drop-down menu.
Step 3. Choose a Hotel
Next, you’ll want to find a hotel close to where you are. When you hover your cursor over a hotel, the area of the map where the hotel is located will be highlighted in red.
Or you can narrow your search to certain neighborhoods by selecting them on the map.
From here, you can click on the hotel you want and make a booking. Taxes and fees will be added to the final price. Hotwire’s Hot Rate hotel bookings are non-refundable.
2. Priceline Express Deals
Link: Priceline Mobile App
Priceline says their Express Deals are as cheap as if you used their Name Your Own Price bidding feature. But I don’t know if that will be true for your situation or not. So I suggest finding a price range for a hotel you want with Hotwire’s Hot Rate or Priceline’s Express Deals. And then using the Name Your Own Price feature and bidding 15% to 25% below the price you already found to see if you can get a better deal.
These screenshots are taken from the Priceline website.
Step 1. Find the Express Deals Link
To find Priceline’s Express Deals, you’ll need to click the “Searching Express Deals” link.
Step 2. Search for Your Hotel Deal
Then enter the location, dates, and number of rooms for your stay before clicking “Find Your Deal.”
Step 3. Narrow Your Search Results
Now you can browse through your Express Deals and limit your search by the rating and neighborhood of the hotel.
I found Hotwire’s search to be easier because you can look at a map and select different neighborhoods to narrow your search. But Priceline’s search only lets you limit the search area by neighborhood name. And if you don’t know the area very well, this isn’t as helpful because you will only see a map after you choose the hotel.
Now you can select your deal and complete your reservation! Taxes and fees will be added to the final price. Priceline’s Express Deals are non-refundable.
Before You Book Your Room
Once you’ve found a last-minute hotel deal with Hotwire, Priceline, or another site, you’ll usually want to book it right away. Because if the weather is bad and a lot of flights are canceled or delayed, hotels rooms can fill up quickly. But if you have a little extra time, you might be able to find a better deal.
You could try calling hotels directly (not the hotel chain’s reservation line) because hotel managers want to fill empty rooms and may be able to give you a better deal. If you do this, try leading the conversation by mentioning the prices you found online and asking if they can give you a better rate. Team member Jasmin has had luck with this in the past.
If you paid for your flight with a credit card that has trip delay insurance, you’re in luck! You could receive reimbursement for certain items needed to make yourself comfortable including, but not limited to:
- Hotel for an overnight stay
- Ground transportation
- Rental car
So you can book a hotel room (at any rate) and be reimbursed later. However, you’ll need to make sure you have documentation of the delay, your tickets, and receipts for your expenses. And there will be a limit to how much you’ll get reimbursed.
If you can’t find a hotel, try searching on Airbnb. Airbnb hosts may be willing to give you a last-minute discount if you ask. And you could also consider Couchsurfing or you could stay at a hostel. If all else fails, hopefully, you already have complimentary airport lounge access and the airport has a lounge that is open 24/7.
Can You Find a Last-Minute Award Night?
Link: Hotel Hustle
If you want to book a last-minute award stay, you can quickly search for hotel awards across multiple hotel chains with Hotel Hustle. I like Hotel Hustle because it shows you what rooms are available and how many points they cost. And you can limit your search to only the hotels you have points with.
But sometimes Hotel Hustle will show award nights that aren’t available when you go to book them. So it isn’t perfect. And if lots of folks are booking rooms, award nights will usually disappear much faster than other rooms.
If your flight is delayed or canceled and you need a hotel, you’ve got options. You could see if the airline will book you a room or provide you with a hotel voucher. But airline staff can be stressed and busy if there are a lot of delays. So you’ll want to be able to take care of things yourself.
You can search for “secret deals” on sites like Hotwire and Priceline. With these deals, you won’t know what hotel you’re booking ahead of time. But you will know the hotel’s rating and the general area that it’s in.
If you have the time, you could try calling individual hotels directly to see if they’ll give you a better deal than what you found online. And if you can’t find a hotel, Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and hostels could be good last resort options.
What do you do to find the best deals on last-minute hotels?