Booking Queenstown hotels in peak and off season

Booking Queenstown hotels in peak and off season

Learn how hotels and motels in Queenstown differ from other accommodation providers in New Zealand when it comes to booking in low and high season.

If you’re booking accommodation yourself, as independent travelers usually do, you can get overwhelmed by the amount of hotels and motels that are located in Queenstown.

A consequence of this is that it won’t be easy to make a choice.

Motels and hotels in Queenstown are no different than any other place in New Zealand or the world for that matter. The only difference is that Queenstown can get very busy at times, so the demand for accommodation may be higher than elsewhere in New zealand.

Therefore, you may encounter Queenstown hotels and motels that apply strange rules to booking a room with them. This article tries to put these rules into perspective.

Peak season and off season in Queenstown New Zealand

It seems like it’s always peak season in Queenstown throughout the entire year or at least whenever I’m there. But there are a few months during the year that can be considered off season or low season.

Because of the ski season, the high season in Queenstown starts in June and ends by the end of October.

Then there is a relatively calm period in November until mid-December when things start to pick up again.

And then there is another peak season lasting from December 20 until the end of March.

From this we can conclude that the low season or off season falls in AprilMay, and November. Outside of these months, Queenstown is a busy little city.

About Queenstown hotel and motel cancellation policies

Cancellation policies for hotels and motels in Queenstown come in one of four forms:

  1. flexible cancellation policy
  2. one night’s charge cancellation policy
  3. full charge (on no show or when cancelled late) cancellation policy
  4. prepaid and non-refundable cancellation policy

The amount of time you’ve got to cancel a reservation depends on whether it is high season or low season. In high season, Queenstown hotels and motels may ask you to cancel up to 14 days in advance, while in low season, this cancellation period may be up to 48 or 72 hours in advance.

Even if you opt for flexibility, some Queenstown hotels may require you to cancel 24 or 48 hours in advance in order not to be charged for one night of accommodation.

Some Queenstown motels may even charge you the full amount of your stay if you’re late cancelling your reservation. Otherwise, you’ve got up to a certain time – for example, until 6 p.m. on the day of arrival – to cancel your reservation.

Flexible room rates are generally higher than non-flexible room rates. Non-flexible rates usually require full payment in advance without the option to cancel or change your reservation.

In essence, this means you will lose the entire sum of money that you paid if you do not show up and/or would like to change your reservation.

You might find a few hotels that offer an option to change your reservation but at an additional cost.

The reason why hotels and motels in Queenstown do this is because tourism is big business in Queenstown. Queenstown is one of the most tourist-oriented cities in New Zealand and much is catered around tourism.

So if you cancel your reservation late and a hotel or motel is unable to get someone else to book your room, they lose money. To avoid this, they’ve put such strict cancellation policies in place to protect themselves against financial loss.

Not all hotels and motels are transparent about their cancellation policies, so if you cannot find the cancellation policy of a hotel or motel on their website, send them a short email requesting it. Most will provide you with it; if they don’t or refuse to, it might be best to take your business elsewhere.

It is always good to buy travel insurance that will cover any cancellations you may want to make when choosing a non-flexible rate or when having to prepay your room reservation.

You don’t really want to wind up in a situation where 12 days before your trip to Queenstown something out of your control happens – for example, your mother dies – so that you are unable to travel to Queenstown, and you also lose $875 or more because you did not cancel your reservation 14 days in advance. That would be twice as much grief you would have to deal with.

6 Things to consider when booking a room in Queenstown

1. The size of your budget

If you want to spend your money on doing fun things such as tours, activities, and food rather than on staying at a luxurious hotel in Queenstown, you may want to look into hotels or motels that are clean and offer only basic amenities.

You may also want to try visiting Queenstown during the off season rather than the peak season when accommodation prices go through the roof.

2. The purpose of your visit to Queenstown

If you’re going to Queenstown to rest, relax, and pamper yourself, and will therefore be spending most of your time in a hotel room, you may want to consider things such as whether the hotel has a restaurant that provides room service or whether your room has a view of Lake Wakatipu and/or the Remarkables.

On the other hand, if you are visiting Queenstown to be outdoors and are usually up and about very early in the morning, it does not make sense to stay at a hotel or motel that offers lake views or anything else that may be perceived as being nice to have because you will not be spending much time at the hotel anyway.

3. Stay at a hotel or a motel?

Hotels tend to have a restaurant and offer things such as room service and a 24-hour front desk. The rooms tend to be smaller than in motels, but that’s because they usually just contain a bed and a desk.

Motels in New Zealand are not the same as motels in the United States or Canada. Motel units may have cooking facilities – either a full kitchen or a kitchenette with a microwave and fridge – so you can buy food from the supermarket and cook for yourself. Not all motels offer cooking facilities, though, so can sometimes be seen as small hotels.

Hotels don’t have cooking facilities unless they are apartment-style hotels or motels that are posing as hotels by joining a large hotel chain. Some may come with a small fridge in the room, though.

Hotels generally have more rooms than motels and host more guests and large tour groups than motels, so they tend to be busier, especially when you’re in a hurry to check in or check out. Motels are typically also more personal and informal but not always.

4. Do you have a car?

Queenstown is not like Christchurch where the amount of space to move around is not an issue. This space issue extends to parking in the city and when you are staying at a hotel.

Some hotels may have over 200 rooms but only 60 car parking spots available. There are hotels in Queenstown that are popular with tour groups who generally arrive in large tour buses, but parking spots may still run out because a hotel may offer good food and entertainment that attract guests who are not staying at the hotel but who have a car to park.

If you’re going to Queenstown without a car, parking will not be an issue for you. But if you have or are renting a car, I would suggest asking the hotel you want to stay at how many parking spaces they have available before you reserve a room.

5. Hotel ratings and amount of stars

The quality of accommodation can differ a lot in Queenstown.

While there are hotels and motels that are Qualmark rated, the rating often only says that the hoteliers have put in an effort to get or maintain the stars at the time the Qualmark agent passed to check the facility.

I once stayed at a 5-star motel in Queenstown that did not provide essential things such as soap, so don’t only use the amount of stars of a hotel or motel to decide whether to stay there. Be very practical when making a decision.

6. Hotel and motel reviews

Be cautious when reading hotel or motel reviews and don’t believe everything you read. However, if you see several people complaining about the same issue, do assume that it could be true.

For example, if there are five people saying something about there being too much noise coming from the street, do a quick search to find out where the hotel or motel is located. If it is located near a busy road, you can assume that the claims could be valid.

Don’t go overboard with reading reviews, though. There is no such thing as a perfect hotel or motel. Take what’s important to you into consideration so that you can make your decision about where to stay in Queenstown.

Besides, the way you experience a hotel or motel might be totally different than the way someone else would experience it.


I hope you’ve found this article useful. The main thing to remember is to gather as much information as you can before making a reservation. The more you educate yourself and know about a hotel or motel, the more you can avoid getting unpleasant surprises.

In addition, don’t be surprised either if you have to pay the full amount of your stay when you check in. This practice is becoming more and more the norm for smaller motels in New Zealand whether it is peak or off season, because the level of trust whether guests have enough credit to pay for their stay has drastically gone down over the years.

This article falls under Travel Guide.

Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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