8 Travel Hacks: How to Find a Hotel When Everything’s Booked

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It’s the last week of the year. Who else hasn’t planned anything for New Year’s Eve and starts to panic trying to find a hotel last-minute? *Raises hand* I’ve done a quick search on my favourite hotel booking apps for New Year’s Eve accommodation, seems like everything’s booked.

Our lives are so busy in today’s world for various reasons that we always leave things to the last minute more often than not. We simply can’t commit to certain dates and destinations when booking a holiday until we hear the jingle bells ring. That’s when early birds snap up all the good deals and accommodation, and even the places that are rated below 7.0 seem to be booked.

Fret not! In this post, we will show you 8 awesome travel hacks on how to think outside the box and find a hotel when everything’s booked. Yes, even when all the hotels, motels, resorts and holiday parks seem to be full.

8 Travel Hacks How To Find A Hotel When Everything's Booked

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1. Pick up the phone and CALL!

Are you frantically looking for a New Year’s Eve accommodation on your hotel booking apps and comparison sites? Or spending hours browsing through hotel websites for availability but not getting anywhere? I’ve been there.

But I’ve realised it’s so much more efficient to pick up the phone and speak to someone at your desired accommodation. For one, it saves time trying to navigate through accommodation website pages or repeatedly putting in the dates and number of people over and over again in hotel booking apps.

The most frustrating thing of all is the accommodation apps are usually not updating availability in real-time, nor does it reflect cancellations. On top of that, some hotels don’t even list their rooms on third-party hotel booking apps to avoid commission during peak times.

woman holding phone sitting at beautiful azure blue lake in South Island New Zealand
Call the hotel!

© Photos by Kida

To sum it up

So, pick up your phone and be bothered to call! Speak with the reception or reservations team and check if there are any cancellations or alternative dates and options that may work for you.

For example, do you have the option to move to another room if the room type isn’t available for the entire duration of your stay?

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2. Alternative bedding configurations

This tip is handy for families with baby or kids. When you’re searching for hotel availability, are you stubbornly putting in every single member of the family, including your 2-month-old baby? Before you judge me for dishonesty, read on.

Did you realise? Quite often, when you put in an infant as an occupant, the hotel room that would otherwise be available all of a sudden disappears from the list of available hotels. That’s because some booking systems recognise the infant as an independent person who requires a bed as well. For our family, the kids either sleep with a parent or in a portable cot in most cases, so we don’t require an extra bed just for the baby. Therefore, a room with a maximum capacity of 3, and sometimes 4 is actually just enough for our small family of 4.

Other times, you may have… say, 2 adults and 1 child. In that instance, a room with 1 king bed wouldn’t show up on the search result. Because technically, a king bed only fits 2, but what if you have the option of a rollaway bed or a sofa bed, like one of our stays below.

Hotel Sofa Bed Bedding Configuration
Pull-out sofa bed

© Photos by Kida

Before you confirm the booking, put in the notes section that you have an infant or toddler travelling with you. If they do charge extra, just pay on check-in. (In most cases, infants are free anyway)

To sum it up

When searching for a hotel room that can accommodate a family with young kids, only put in the number of adults and see if anything comes up. Look into the bedding configurations and see whether you can add a portable cot, rollaway bed or a pull-out sofa bed as an alternative option.

3. Downsize or upsize your accommodation requirements

It makes a lot of sense that the most common room types book out first, so let’s think outside the box and consider either downsizing or upsizing the accommodation you require. Are you able to split your group into two and take, say… two small studios? What about sharing a 3-bedroom apartment with another family, as we did below.

© Photos by Kida

The latter idea is so good that it cuts down the costs of your accommodation. Sometimes you could be paying the price of a basic studio for the best penthouse in the hotel when you split the costs in half with your friends, not to mention how much fun you’ll have on New Year’s Eve!

To sum it up

Uncommon room types are usually the last to go, so your chances of getting accommodation for New Year’s Eve will increase if you can consider uncommon room types, such as a large family penthouse to share with your family friends.

4. Try camping

Have you tried every type of accommodation there is? Hotels, motels, yurts, lodges, cabins, holiday parks, glamping, caravan, campervan, hey how about camping?

In my years of experience putting together a last-minute holiday (yes, hubby loves doing that to me), I find there is always a patch of grass available somewhere in a campsite. Maybe not the big branded holiday parks at the centre of top attractions, like Big4 Holiday Parks in Australia and Top 10 Holiday Parks in New Zealand. But it’s worth trying those smaller holiday parks or family-owned campsites. Unpowered sites rarely get snatched up to the last pinch of grass in most cases.

If you don’t have all the camping gear, search for camping gear hires or a rent-a-tent option like the one we stayed in below.

© Photos by Kida

To sum it up

Look out for the not-so-popular campsites with good reviews. Call them to find out if there are any campsites available to pitch a tent over New Year’s Eve. If you’re wondering what you need to pack for a family camping trip, download our free PDF camping with kids’ essentials checklist.

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5. Events with accommodation

Do you have New Year’s Eve events and festivals lined up already? If you’re still searching for somewhere to stay on New Year’s Eve, look up your nearest 3-day music festivals that include camping onsite.

We live in New Zealand, and although we’re a family with two young kids, there are 2 very popular NYE family-friendly music festivals here in Auckland that run across multiple days where you have the option to go camping in a beautiful park.

New Year's Eve Events Festival Camping
Photo © Pixabay

To sum it up

Look for New Year’s Eve events that run across multiple days and include camping under the stars for ticket holders.

6. Farmstay, Airbnb and holiday rentals

If you haven’t already, search for accommodation on Airbnb or other holiday rentals websites. If nothing is available today, try again tomorrow, people are listing their homes regularly during the holiday seasons.

We found this Airbnb barn below, it’s in the middle of nowhere and not close to any attractions. But we really enjoyed our stay away from the crowd.

Airbnb barn farmstay holiday rental mum with kids enjoying coffee at sunrise
Our Airbnb farm stay

© Photos by Kida

To sum it up

Search alternative accommodation options such as Farmstay, Airbnb, Book A Bach and Stayz to see if you can find something other travellers less commonly find.

7. Somewhere remote?

Do you know every nook of your town, city and country? Jump on Google Maps and have a look at which region is new to you, search ‘attractions’ and see what comes up.

Find a new point of interest and explore the remote regions of your country. Get off the beaten tracks, and you might just find a hidden gem!

Remote holiday house beautiful scenery in the middle of nowhere off the beaten track

© Photos by Kida

To sum it up

Get out of your comfort zone and explore the unknown, it can be a lake in the middle of nowhere, a river in a forest, a seaside town that you’ve never heard of. Go somewhere remote and not known by tourists, find the hidden gems and the accommodation that no one knows about!

8. House party

If you have exhausted all the options above, don’t worry, we can still throw an epic house party. Invite your friends over, put up some decorations, prepare a feast, find a party playlist, stream some movies and crack open a beer. It’s the attitude to celebrate that counts!

Christmas lighting house decoration events

© Photos by Kida

Accommodation Booking Sites & Apps

Below is a list of hotel booking sites I personally use myself. You can find a range of family accommodation on these websites, from holiday parks to holiday homes, hotels to resorts.

*Some of these links are affiliate links. (full disclosure)
It doesn’t affect you in any way, but we may receive a small commission for bookings through our site.

Hot Tips

If you only travel occasionally, consider booking with the hotel directly. You might get a discount & better service.

However, if you’re a frequent traveller that stays at hotels often, we recommend sticking with one hotel booking site/app to reap the benefits of its loyalty program.

Hotel Booking Sites

hotels.com hotel booking
I use Hotels.com app to book hotels after browsing through hotel comparison sites. The loyalty program is my favourite and customer service has been excellent so far.
Trip.com hotel booking
Sometimes I find the best prices on Trip.com, so I use Trip as an alternative hotel booking app.
Agoda hotel booking
Agoda also offers some of the best prices around, and its rewards system is simple to use and is one of my go-to hotel booking apps.
Booking hotel booking
Occasionally, the hotel I’d like to book is only available on Booking.com. This site has the most complete list of accommodations.

Hotel Comparison Sites

trivago hotel comparison
Trivago is the first hotel comparison site I’ve used and still love today.
How to use Trivago & tips
google hotels comparison
Google Hotels is the most convenient to use for me as I use Google maps to bookmark the places I want to go.
How to plan a trip in 30 minutes

Holiday Homes

Vrbo holiday home hotel booking
Vrbo is a holiday home booking site. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you may be more familiar with the name Homeaway, which is now acquired by Vrbo.

New Zealand travels: use Bookabach.co.nz
Australia travels: use stayz.com.au
Airbnb holiday home hotel booking
I personally find Airbnb is getting more and more expensive with fees, so I don’t use it often anymore. However, Airbnb still remains one of the largest holiday home booking sites.

Don’t Be A Stranger!

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In the meantime…

How do you find a hotel when everything’s booked? Do you have any other tips and hacks on getting last-minute accommodation?

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