Some years ago, I booked a hotel on an advance purchase rate. Unfortunately, there was an unexpected trip interruption which caused the remainder of the trip to get cancelled. The hotel offered no flexibility because it was an advance purchase rate. I have not booked an advance purchase rate ever since.
Why Pay More?
I always book hotel nights on a flexible rate, even when it costs more than the advance rate. This seems counter-intuitive but it can actually work to your advantage in terms of savings. Because the rate is flexible, you have the flexibility to change or cancel the reservation if plans change. If the nightly rate drops at the same hotel (or other nearby hotels), you can take advantage of the lower rates.
Case in point:
I have an upcoming reservation which has a nightly rate of $224 per night, for a 4 nights stay.
I booked it a couple of months back, and I wanted to stay at this specific property. Recently, I checked the rate again and noticed the rate had actually gone down. After re-pricing the reservation, I got a better price.
I would not be able to get the savings if I had booked the advance rate.
I see no downside to booking the flexible rate, except the price may be marginally more than the advance purchase rate. In return, you get the flexibility and the potential to save more if the rate drops. I definitely value the flexibility over the savings from the advance purchase rate. That is not to say that I would never book an advance purchase rate. I’d consider it if my plan is firm (i.e. there is a need in a matter of days) and the advance rate is significantly cheaper than the flexible rate.
Do you always book the flexible rate, or do you always just book whichever rate is the cheapest?