Think Twice Before Booking A Hotel Before You Start Your Road Trip

The gas tank is full, and so is the trunk and the snack bag. You're ready to hit the road. Your sunglasses are within arm's reach, you have all of your favorite songs organized onto a playlist, and you have a roadmap clearly showing all the places you'll visit. Everything, including the driving schedule you'll be sharing with your friends, is figured out. Well, almost everything. You don't have hotels booked quite yet and can't decide if that's okay. Will booking your hotels before your trip kicks off make your overnight stops easier? Your friends have differing opinions, and you're the deciding vote. What do you decide? 

For some, booking your accommodations ahead of time is a no-brainer. Knowing you have a place to stay for the night and exactly how much it'll cost can bring you peace of mind that waiting in ambiguity will not. However, if you're willing to step out of that comfort zone, you could save cash and start driving without being bound to a specific location.

Why you should book last minute

Road trips that last for days are quite the adventure. Sometimes you get to your destination sooner than anticipated, and sometimes you're running late. For this reason alone, waiting until the day you'll need the hotel to book it could be a good idea. If you get to a town early, you may choose to continue your trip to cover more ground. If you had already booked, you'd have to stay put, unless you're willing to pay the cancellation fee.

On the other hand, if you run into some bumps in the road and find yourself delayed — or maybe you found an interesting attraction you wanted to explore — you could struggle to cover the stretches of miles between you and your hotel after the sun sets. Driving while tired is unsafe, and you could be putting all road trip travelers at risk by doing so. In such a scenario, it'd be wiser to cancel your room and rebook at the nearest hotel. If you wait to book, however, you avoid cancellation fees entirely and can stop whenever you're ready.

Where to look to book

Flexibility is key when it comes to travel, so waiting to book your hotel ensures that flexibility. If you're a cheapskate planning a road trip, this method might just work in your favor. In addition to being able to better meet your resting needs, you can also snag some steals on last-minute hotel deals when you wait to book the day of. You can reserve directly through hotels, or you can check on booking sites like Hotwire and Kayak to possibly score greater savings on rooms.

If you really want to, you can also show up at the hotel to ask for a room. While this is possible and will likely land you a room, the success of this approach depends entirely on the hotel's availability. If you can't book online for whatever reason, consider calling ahead to ensure there's room for you. Hotels aren't your only option, either. If they're full for the night, you could see if the town has a bed and breakfast for you to stay in or another type of lodging. Whatever you decide on, however, consider waiting to book it on the day you'll need it. It just might save you money and enable you to see and do more on your road trip.