Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

Graduation can be something of a logistical nightmare, especially for parents trying to book reservations. During graduation weekend, most hotels in town are completely booked. Finding housing accommodations is integral to a stress-free graduation.

The spring hotel crisis

The massive increase of visitors to local hotels and motels has led graduates’ families to get reservations nearly a year in advance. Cal Poly parents can tell us why:

“Because San Luis Obispo is a small town, hotels for special events like Move-In, Open House, Mustang Family Weekend, and Commencement always get booked up and the hotels raise their prices by two times,” Cal Poly parent Traci Libby said.

Libby’s hunch that hotels fill up during the graduation season was similar to Cal Poly parent Leslie Tobia, who made her reservations one year in advance.

“We made hotel reservations back in July of 2017 for June of 2018,” Tobia said. “Our first choice was to stay in an Airbnb — those were already booked. Most hotels were booked at the time as well. Crazy!”

The hotels must also prepare for the influx of people. Micaela Board is a front desk agent at La Cuesta Inn and understands the reasons for booking and pricing troubles.

“[Given] the general demand, mixed with the fact that it requires the hotels to stock more amenities than usual and staff more employees than any other day of the entire year, it makes sense that prices would increase,” Board said.

When should you book?

How far in advance should Cal Poly parents plan? On the Cal Poly Parents Facebook page, most parents recommend planning at least 11 months in advance, both for hotel accommodations and dinner reservations.

“For Spring commencement, it’s the norm to make your hotel reservations almost a full year in advance,” Libby said. “We made our hotel reservations for Spring 2018 Commencement in July 2017, as we did with our reservations for a graduation dinner.”

Board agrees on the early reservations and advises people to be aware of deposits.

“I recommend people call around 11 months in advance to book a room,” Board said. “Guests should be willing and ready to put down the first night’s rate and taxes as a deposit.”

Board noted most hotels will refund that deposit if the reservation is canceled within 30 days of the reservation date.

“It is better to have a room and not need it than to not have a room and need one,” Board said.

Solutions and alternatives

While the best solution is to plan ahead, there are other last minute ideas to consider. In addition to hotel accommodations in the nearby towns of Paso Robles and Pismo Beach, there are other rental options.

“For parents who don’t have hotel reservations yet, they may have better success looking at hotels or VRBO [Vacation Rentals by Owners] in the surrounding areas of Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Cayucos, and Paso Robles,” Libby said.

For those willing to adapt, there are far more creative solutions.

“We decided to book a campsite [at El Chorro Park] to alleviate the stress of finding (and budgeting for) a hotel,” Cal Poly parent Amy N said. “That being said, we still made the camp reservation six months [in advance] for ourselves and extended family.”

The best solution to finding housing for graduation is to plan well in advance. That means for anyone graduating in spring 2019, let your family know they should start looking for reservations now.

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