How to enjoy popular celebrations without getting ripped off

Enjoying local events can be a holiday highlight, but accommodation prices may soar. We outline five celebrations that have a big impact on the price you may pay and how you can cut costs.

It's always tempting to go out and celebrate an annual event, whether it's a festival, carnival or parade, but the popularity of these events can make accomodation prices shoot up. 

We have compared the prices of hotels to see how much more you could be paying if you decide to visit somewhere during a local celebration.

Our roundup looks at hotels with the biggest price hikes during some of the world’s best-loved events and includes our top tips to help you avoid being left out of pocket.

During our research, we looked at accomodation costs during the week of each individual celebration and compared prices to the following week. 

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Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras is the last day of the Carnival celebration and marks the Christian feasting period before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. 

Although Mardi Gras literally translates into 'Fat Tuesday', these celebrations in New Orleans go well beyond eating a pancake or two.

Flamboyant parades bring the city to life as part of the pre-Lent party, but they also drive hotel prices up to almost double their usual rate for that time of year.

Room price: 23rd ─ 28th February = £2,075 

Room price: 1st ─ 6th March = £1,050

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

Brazilians also put on a show in the run-up to Ash Wednesday, attracting around two million visitors every day with the world's largest carnival.

Carinval was originally linked to Catholicism as people feasted in prepararion for Lent.

While the religious element is less prominent, the extravagant parades have drawn attention to social issues in recent years. 

Unfortunately, visiting the city during the festivities will set you back almost twice as much compared to if you’d decided to skip the party and visit a week later.

Room price: 22nd ─ 27th February = £449

Room price: 29th February ─ 5th March = £214

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Young people celebrating St Patrick's Day. (Image: Shutterstock)

St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Ireland's most renowned celebration commemorates the death of St Patrick and is also the anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.

Dublin is one of Europe’s priciest cities, and it is particularly expensive during the festivities.

Those wanting to celebrate the patron saint in the capital can expect to pay 2.2 times more for a hotel room than they would after 17 March 2020.

Room price: 15th ─ 19th March = £1,253

Room price: 22nd ─ 27th March = £571

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Independence Day in New York

Year-on-year, a record-breaking number of people travel to the US to celebrate America gaining independence from Great Britain.

The city that never sleeps hosts some of America’s most impressive national holiday displays, and its hotels see some of the steepest price increases for visitors.

The cost of a room during Independence Day can set you back around 2.5 times more than if you chose to visit New York later in the month.

Room price: 2nd ─ 7th July = £1938

Room price: 9th ─ 14th July = £775

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Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich: Shuttershock

Oktoberfest in Munich

The world’s largest folk festival best-known for its beer tents – stems from a royal celebration in 1810 that quickly became an annual occasion.

Hotels make the most of the event’s prestige and increase the prices of their rooms more than any other festival.

The price of a stay costs almost three times more during Oktoberfest than the same stay the following week, according to our research. 

Room price: 1st ─ 6th October = £1,940

Room price: 9th ─ 14th October = £664

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How dynamic pricing impacts costs

So why is it that holidaymakers are charged so much more for accommodation during these festivals?

“It’s what’s known as ‘dynamic pricing’”, says Martyn James, head of media and marketing at independent resolution service Resolver.

"It’s just a posh way of saying that the price will fluctuate depending on how much what it is you’re buying is in demand.”

And it’s not only people who are booking holidays that are affecting the prices.

“Companies build up an enormous database of supply and demand, which is not only based on people committing to holidays, but also people who are just browsing.

"So you might just be sat in the pub looking at trips to Oktoberfest, but that shows interest and drives prices up.”

The type of event can also make a big difference.

“Festivals like Oktoberfest and St Patrick’s Day get a lot of block-bookings for things like birthdays or hen and stag parties, which increases demand.

"With a group of 10 people there is also more likely to be an element of peer-pressure, which causes people to spend more money than they might do if they were travelling alone or as a couple.”

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People celebrating Independence Day. (Image: Shutterstock)

Top tips to avoid getting ripped off

Martyn has revealed five tips for people wanting to visit these celebrations ─ without getting ripped off: 

Don’t trust the countdowns

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently issued warnings to a number of companies for ‘one room left’ announcements when it’s patently not true, warns James. 

Don’t just sign up

“Take the time to fully check out the listing before booking," advises James.

"Look at the photos, the location and verifiable reviews (good and bad).”

Out of hours

James recommends trying to book or search during times that are less busy.

"Early in the morning or late at night are often the best times to find deals as fewer people are searching," he says.

Find what you like

You shouldn't restrict yourself to only one or two accomodation choices. 

“Look at a range of options, pick a few, and check out how they’re priced over a few weeks," advises James. 

"Then you should have an idea about whether they really are good value.”

Book direct

It's easy to get distracted when comparing accomodation deals and booking through comparison sites, but this could backfire. 

“You have more consumer rights if you book direct from a business and pay on a credit card," says James.

"Why not call the hotel or airline and ask if they can match or reduce the price if you book direct - or throw in breakfast or another deal?”

Looking to book a break to see one of these celebrations? Read our online booking tips to cut the cost of your next trip.

*All figures are based on the price of two adults spending five nights in the city staying at the highest-rated three-star hotel with availability as listed on booking.com at the time of writing. 

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