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Advanced reservations for lodging

I know this is a beaten topic, but most of the posts are pre-covid. We travel through North Ireland and Ireland 5/18-6/2, starting in Belfast and going counter clockwise around the island. We have reservations for nights in Galway, Killarney, the last 2 nights in Dublin, and the first 2 nights in Belfast. But the days between Belfast to Galway, and Killarney to Dublin, we'd like to stay flexible and book more last minute. Should we be able to find lodging without much trouble? Thanks

Posted by
1080 posts

This is a much debated topic here! There are two schools of thought:

1) It is fun to be spontaneous and you might stumble onto a great place to stay but you also may be forced into a not so great place in a poor location because everything is booked. Plus, you have to spend time (your most precious commodity when traveling) to located a tourist visitors center to get help locating a place.

2) Others like me, research the area I'm staying, read the recommendations in Rick Steves books ( which are usually very good), check reviews online and pick a place close to where I'm interested in visiting ( I mean within walking distance). I'm a little OCD so I like to have a game plan on paper before I head to Europe.

Posted by
1229 posts

I try to remind myself that people who live in Europe travel like we do here in the States, meaning, I drive away from my house headed to another state without any idea where Ill stop for the night and with the expectation that of course Ill find somewhere to stay.

Meaning, of course you can find somewhere to stay too. But there may be compromises. The reason I plan ahead is cost: if I travel for 3-4 weeks, I want to spend X/night, and if I wait until Im on the road, I will be likely spend a lot more. But if thats not an issue, and if you dont mind finding a place that may not be directly in the town/village you want but near enough, I think you're fine taking things as they come

Posted by
6635 posts

Donald's analysis is useful, but there's also a middle ground: Book your starting and finishing hotels ahead, since you know when you'll be there, and book the rest one or two days ahead by internet (the hotel's computer or your own device). That gives you some flexibility on the road, at the cost of a little online searching time on travel days or evenings. It saves you the time of hunting for a TI or looking up and down streets for "vacancy" signs after a day's travel. It risks making some disappointing choices, either because the best (for you) places are full or because you haven't had time to research thoroughly on the move. But it's worked for us in the US and Europe. I suggest always getting refundable reservations in case plans change. And if you're going somewhere during a festival or special event it's wise to book well ahead.

Posted by
1999 posts

If there is a hotel or area you want to stay in I would book ahead. If you are the opposite of me and don't care about accommodations because "it's only a place to sleep" and you don't care about booking a deal then I think you should be fine waiting until a few days or so before you leave or get to a destination.

Basically, it's your travel style but I would look to see if there are any conferences or festivals during your trip as that could make prices rise and less vacancies.

Posted by
2267 posts

I don't know if anyone could have a post-covid perspective on this. But a truth from the last few years pre-covid: Ireland sells out in the summer, and you're only just before that wave. I mean, sells out. Planes, hotels- all at capacity.

I like to be more flexible when I can, but Ireland at the start of June... I'd make plans.

Posted by
471 posts

Good luck on that. I think it's going to be big year for travel. Having your first and last hotel is a good strategy. When you say "book more last minute", do you mean walk-in, that morning or a couple of days before? I'd go with some idea of what's along my route of interest. You can always check availability online to gauge the conditions.

Posted by
8546 posts

Planning is where I try to save money on trips. Lodging is one variable where planning in advance gives me good value. I often can get a nice place at a reasonable cost by planning ahead. For example one hotel room I pre-booked several months ago would currently cost me $200 more for a 3 night stay if I made the reservation today.

Perhaps there is some middle ground here. Could you make fully refundable reservations that you could cancel up to 24-48 hours in advance with no penalty? That way, if everything is full, you still have a good option. If there is lots of availability, simply cancel your reservation and make a change if desired.