How to Book a Hotel That’s Sold Out – Who to Call and What to Say

Cathy Bennett Kopf Avatar
king size bed draped with mosquito netting in caribbean beach house

What are your biggest pain points when traveling? Traffic on a road trip? Delayed flights at the airport? Rainy days on your beach vacation?

Mine’s discovering the dream hotel for my vacation…and then learning it’s sold out.

Has it happened to you?

Sometimes it’s your fault. You procrastinate. Or you just happen to be traveling to a destination during its busy season. Whatever the reason, it’s super frustrating when you try to make a hotel reservation and you get the “no rooms available” booking message

But you don’t have to give up and move on. There’s still a chance you’ll be able to get a hotel room if a resort’s sold out. With these hacks and tips from hotel managers and travel pros (plus a little luck) you just might score that coveted room!

Double queen beds in room at Inn at Diamond Cove
If you keep trying, you could be rewarded with a cozy hotel room. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

The Dreaded “No Availability” Message

Are you like me? I pick my vacation days the second the calendar goes into circulation in my office. It’s how I maximize my time off. By extending 3-day weekends, I can stretch my holidays. My co-workers grumble behind my back, but it’s the perk I get as the most senior staff member.

And I know to book my flights at least 3 months in advance to get the best deal on airfare. Where I generally fail in my vacation planning is with hotel rooms. For some reason, I usually procrastinate booking a room.

It’s not a big problem when I’m heading to a destination like New York or Los Angeles where there are dozens of great hotels. But when I’m headed some place off the beaten path, where there’s ONE resort that’s THE place to stay, it’s super frustrating to discover it’s got no available rooms. More than once, I’ve found myself having to stay at a less than ideal location because of it.

Sound familiar? Then, read on to see how I have managed to book a sold out hotel in the past so you can avoid future booking failures.

lobby at the Eldred Preserve decorated in sophisticated style for Christmas
Booking your dream hotel during the holidays can be a real challenge. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

No Room at the Inn During Christmas

The last time I was confronted with a sold out situation, I was booking a family trip to California during Christmas break. We – a party of 7 – planned to attend the Rose Bowl parade and game in Pasadena on New Year’s and wanted to extend our holiday with a few days spent exploring the vineyards in Temecula.

Apparently, so did everyone else.

After doing my research, I had a list of three vineyard properties that met our needs – larger rooms, a pool and on-site dining. Then I tried to book my first choice hotel. No rooms available. It happened again with the second and third hotels. Aaargh!!

What I tried next is the #1 tip for booking a sold out hotel.

Read More: How to Clean a Hotel Room

How to Get a Room at a Sold-Out Hotel

Pick Up the Phone

If you receive a “no availability” message when you try to book a hotel room online, it’s time to go Old School and pick up the telephone.

Family travel blogger Sarah Pittard says, “I do this all the time…I call the hotel direct – not the 1-800 number – and explain why we want to stay, etc. We can get a room 85% of the time. Ask for the manager, not the reservations person.”

Sarah also advises that most hotels run a wait list. “Ask them to record your name, number and email even if they are full. Book another hotel that has a day-of or 24-hour cancellation policy, then keep calling your chosen hotel until you can’t cancel the second one.”

It’s what I did in Temecula. At first I was afraid the South Coast Winery and Resort manager would put me on some kind of a “Top 10 Telephone Pests” list, but she genuinely sounded happy to hear from me and sad each time she said that they still had no available rooms.

Meanwhile, I made our reservations at the nearby Ponte Vineyard Inn. It looked like a great choice for us, except that the new pool was still under construction.

ocean view room at the Serafina Beach Hotel in Puerto Rico
That view! Photo credit: Serafina Beach Hotel

What the Front Desk Recommends

I contacted Pierre-Alex Maillard, General Manager of the Serafina Beach Hotel in San Juan, to get some insider tips. He strongly recommends phoning or emailing the hotel directly too. “It’s the best way to determine real time room availability, plus there may be special resort credits or amenities offered only for direct bookings.”

Pierre-Alex notes that you’re more likely to score a room because of a last minute cancellation at a drive-by hotel chain than at a destination resort. Flash sales are another means to access rooms at coveted properties; Pierre-Alex recommends industry-leader Secret Escapes.

corner suite interior featured in post on how to get a room at a sold-out hotel
What a nice surprise! When all you want is a room and you end up with a corner suite and stunning views! Photo credit: Dana Zucker

If You’ve Got Status, Flaunt It

“Status counts,” says luxury traveler Dana Zucker. For example, “If you are a Hilton Diamond Member, you can always get a room at any of their properties worldwide up until 48 hours before your arrival date,” says Dana. “We have never had an issue getting a room with Hilton as a walk-in when online says the hotel’s full.”

It’s good to note that “extraordinary demand dates” are usually excluded, says frequent traveler Nasreen Stump. “If it’s graduation weekend, the Olympics or another busy time, the guarantee doesn’t apply.”

Maintaining status at multiple loyalty programs increases your odds of finding a room. Dana notes that it’s easier now that Starwood, Marriott and Ritz Carlton are combined in one rewards program, Marriott Bonvoy. Concierge services offered by credit cards like American Express Platinum and private banking programs are also another resource.

“Keep your concierge phone numbers handy,” says Dana. “They seem to be able to work magic.” One of her best-ever scores: a corner suite in Alaska during the sold-out cruise ship season.

screenshot of notification from Open Hotel Alert an app to help you get a room at a sold-out hotel
Open Hotel Alert is an app to help you get a room at a sold out hotel. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

There’s an App for That

If you don’t have the time to keep calling and checking for availability, register your interest on the free website, Open Hotel Alert.

Simply enter your travel dates and a list of area hotels pops up – those with availability and ones that are sold out. Select the one you’re interested in, enter your preferred contact method (text message, email or both) and Open Hotel Alert will contact you if a room becomes available at that property.

The free service is affiliated with Booking.com; the company earns a commission if you book your room through the booking site.

Another way to use the internet to your advantage is with a simple Google search. Enter your hotel name and Google will pop up different booking platforms such as Priceline, Expedia or Hotels.com. These booking platforms may have one or two rooms even when the hotel website indicates no availability.

If your efforts fail, Hotel Tonight should be able to find you a last minute hotel in the area even if it’s not your first, second or third choice.

Getting That Hotel Room When All Else Fails

If you’ve already been calling the hotel manager often enough to get on the “Top 10 Telephone Pests” list, flaunted your hotel status, waved around your premier credit cards and added your name to every waiting list, here are a few more tips for securing that coveted room:

  • Check with a travel agency. Many hotels sell blocks of rooms to travel agents.
  • Call the hotel directly. Speak to someone at the front desk — those folks are on the front line of hotel availability. If there’s a room at the inn, they will know.
  • Leverage your membership in organizations, such as AAA and AARP, which could give you the upper hand.

And when all else fails, try looking really, really sad. Nasreen says, “I find showing up at the check-in desk, asking about cancellations and looking pitiful works.”

Sometimes You Have to Settle for Second

We ended up staying at the Ponte Vineyard Inn because rooms never became available at the South Coast Winery and Resort. And it was fine. Better than fine.

The weather was actually cooler than we thought it would be, so we didn’t even miss the pool. The rooms were ideal for our extended family and the vineyard views couldn’t be beat.

Sometimes things work out just as they were meant to.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What should I do if the hotel I want is sold out?

A: Don’t give up! There are still ways to get a hotel room even if the resort is sold out. Try calling the hotel directly and asking if they have any cancellations or if they can put you on a waiting list. You can also try using third-party booking sites or apps, such as HotelTonight or Expedia, as they may have last-minute deals available.

Q: What if I need to book a hotel during peak season?

A: If you’re traveling during a busy time, such as a holiday or major event, it’s best to book your hotel as early as possible. However, if you find yourself in a situation where everything is sold out, try looking for hotels in nearby towns or cities. You may also want to consider alternative accommodations, such as vacation rentals or hostels.

Q: How can I make sure I get the best deal on a hotel room?

A: Do your research! Look at multiple booking sites to compare prices and read reviews from other travelers. You can also try calling the hotel directly and asking if they have any discounts or promotions available. Finally, consider booking during the hotel’s off-season or mid-week, as prices may be lower.

Q: What should I do if I have a problem with my hotel room?

A: If you have a problem with your room, such as a noisy neighbor or a broken appliance, don’t be afraid to speak up. Call the front desk or speak to a manager and explain the situation. They may be able to move you to a different room or offer a discount on your stay. It’s important to address any issues as soon as possible to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

Cathy Bennett Kopf serves as the Daily Editor of SheBuysTravel, reporting to Editor-in-Chief Cindy Richards. She began travel writing after serving as the unofficial (and unpaid) vacation coordinator for hundreds of family and friend trips. She launched her blog, The Open Suitcase, in 2012 and joined the SBT (formerly TravelingMom) team in 2016. A lifelong resident of New York, Cathy currently resides in the scenic Hudson River Valley. She’s a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the International Travel Writers Alliance and TravMedia.
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15 responses


  1. It’s great that you elaborated that the hotel rooms could affect your vacation. My cousin informed me yesterday that she was planning to have a vacation during the holidays, and she asked if I had any idea what would be the best option to do in choosing the best hotel for us. I appreciate this instructive article, I’ll tell her that we can try to consult a well-known hotel for accommodation packages.

  2. I’m from Pasadena, Ca and my family and I made our road trip around and back to California on the 40 in early October, 2021. We got tired from all the drive so we decided to stay the night east of Albuquerque, NM. It’s Easy say then done. I tried that method by going old school and pick up the phone and make the calls and spoke to the manager. Still no luck and still no room available. I’ve made over 12 phone calls to 12 different hotels but yet nothing.

  3. Your claim that “booking platforms such as Expedia or Hotels.com. These booking platforms may have one or two rooms even when the hotel website indicates no availability.” is patently *wrong*. Hotels may guarantee rooms to third parties, but they’re never going to give the third party precedence over their own website or inhouse staff. Email, or phone the hotel directly, don’t rely on third party resellers. Especially because, you become the third party’s customer, not the hotel’s, so if they’re overbooked, guess whose reservation they’ll cancel first!
    Also? Do *not* start your call by asking to speak to a manager, the hotel almost assuredly has a reservations agent whose entire job is to do exactly book you exactly what you’re looking for. If they can’t help you, do keep calling back, but there’s really no need to pester the manager. She’s got other things to do.

    1. What Kitty typed! Except – *They got other things to do.

  4. It’s important to be persistent if you are trying to get a room at a “sold out” hotel. These are some great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Calling the hotel directly and speaking to someone at the front desk can possibly get you a room that’s marked unavailable.

  6. Some of the stuff on here is bad advice. I manage a hotel and 3rd party booking is often wrong about what a hotel has available. We had one issue specifically with booking.com where they were showing we had rooms and booking people when we were sold out. Somehow these reservations were getting through and overselling hotels, so people were showing up to no rooms. The property and the official hotel site has the most up-to-date information, ALWAYS. Also, throwing your “reward status” around doesn’t get you as much as you think at the property level and more often than not will have the staff less inclined to really try and help you. We deal with entitled elite members every day that talk down to us and treat us like crap because they think their status makes them something. I would suggest calling the property and being as pleasant as you could possibly be. Joke with the staff, be friendly, etc…the property will bend over backward for you because it’s a treat to get a guest like that.

    1. Thanks Tim. We always welcome hotel perspective. We did recommend that folks try to call the hotel first as it’s (in our opinion) the best route!

    2. Thanks, Tim; your advice is right on target. Please tell me if I am correct on this: My understanding is that some of these booking services have only a certain block of rooms they can book, and if their website tells you no rooms are available, that means only that none of the roms they have booked are available. Am I correct on this?

      1. That is correct. Always call the hotel if the booking site says it’s sold out. There might still be rooms available and the hotel company likely will match the booking site price if you ask.

    3. What Tim said!

  7. I like that you pointed out that we can find an available room by entering the name of the hotel we might like to book on a search engine. As you said, there will be lots of websites that can show up which can tell if there are rooms available. With that in mind, I will be doing this when I get home later since I need to book one for my family this weekend for the celebration of the birthday of my husband.

  8. When I plan my vacation, I start with booking flights, hotels are next. It is very important to do it in advance since I am always trying to travel with miles and points. On occasion, on last minute trip, I come across sold out message. And yes, my next step is calling a hotel. Thank for links to the websites that can assist in situations like that.

  9. So helpful. Jam-packed with specific tips. Thank you.

  10. If you want to be alerted when sold out hotels open up, you can use Open Hotel Alert. It’s free. Hope this helps. openhotelalert.com

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