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Your Guide to a Better Experience at Hotels

By Edited Jun 5, 2016 1 0
Room Number
Credit: By Brandy Combs

     Not everyone travels all the time. For anyone who may travel, they more often than not find themselves in situations that cause them frustration and confusion when it comes to hotels. I will go over some ways to save you money, time, and frustration, so you can enjoy your trip, and your hotel.

     One of the very first mistakes that most travelers make is not doing their homework. This mistake is booking a room based on a picture or a price, with little evidence or information to back it up. A picture can say a thousand words, but reality doesn’t always play nice. Travelers often assume that their every need and want will be met by any hotel they chose to visit. Every day these are the people who show up to a hotel and they collide with any and all of these following scenarios, novices and experts alike. 

  • Find that their reservation isn’t there, or intentionally didn’t make one. 
  • Have an extremely difficult time finding the hotel. 
  • The hotel isn’t what they expected and things aren’t the way they are at home.
  • What is a room worth? 
  • That hotels are, by nature, not quiet, kid, or allergy free.
  • I will also answer questions like, “Why am I being charged so much more than my receipt says? And why won’t the hotel take cash for the room?”

These are only some of the most popular reasons to hate hotels, but some of these can be avoided or eliminated from your problem list with some preparation and a little know how.

Your reservation

      Your reservation is missing or you didn’t make one. For those of you who would like to book your reservation online, there are two options. Do you want to book through a third party website or do you want to book directly with the hotel? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Booking through a third party is potentially cheaper, and easily attracts your attention with pretty colors or nonspecific and sometimes misleading pictures. Yes, I said that it could potentially be cheaper; however you could also just be a victim of advertising. Advertisers often, if not always, pretend to be the actual hotel. Many people book a room from a 1-800 number they found online. The first result at the top of the Google page is strategically placed so you think you are booking with the hotel. The third party will answer the phone like they are in the actual town, in the actual hotel, taking your reservation. In real life, they are probably in their underwear at home on the opposite side of the country, or in a call center in another country altogether. They will always make you pay for your stay when you make the reservation and your credit card will be charged immediately. One thing that makes everyone mad is that they never mention extra fees, like a parking fee or pet fee. If you need to cancel your stay, you will have a particularly unpleasant time getting your money back. If you make your reservation for the wrong days or the reservation glitches, changing it will be time-consuming. In addition to that, third parties tend to offer the exact same rates as the hotel would offer. If the difference is significantly cheaper, the likelihood is that the offer can’t be matched by the hotel. I have found that the much lower rate is to attract attention. Unfortunately, when you go to book the room, the price jumps up to the same rate other sites are offering. If you still want to book online find the hotel’s website that is not run by a third party, sometimes the hotel’s website will offer advance purchase discount rates.

     If you decide to book a reservation directly with a hotel, call the hotel and make sure the phone number has the area code that you will be visiting. One benefit of talking with the hotel directly, you can ask questions to see if that particular hotel is right for you. Booking directly is often a little more expensive, however, it offers more flexibility if you need to change or cancel your reservation. Most of the time, to change or cancel will cost you nothing, if you follow the cancellation policy. Best of all, they will tell you about any additional fees, and you can ask about them, if they don’t. For my 1st tip: No matter how you book, whether through a third party or directly with the hotel, always confirm your reservation with the actual hotel, and always get an email and a confirmation number. My 2nd tip: Always ask what the cancellation policy is. (I just want to insert this explanation as it may not be clear, an itinerary number and a confirmation number are not one in the same. A third party will usually give you both an Itinerary number to identify your reservation in their system, and a confirmation number to identify your reservation in the hotel system. If you book with the hotel, they will give you a confirmation number.)

      An aspect of point A I have not gone over is "what if I’m just traveling and don’t know where I’ll be or when?" This will take a small bit of planning, because if you decide to do this trip during tourism season (roughly from April to November), you will run the risk of ending up arriving in an unfamiliar town during a "sell out" event. Such events, means there are no rooms to rent in the entire town, or if you are really lucky, none in the surrounding towns either. And if you are fortunate enough to find a room, it’ll cost you dearly. In this case, my advice would be my 3rd tip: take this particular trip during the off season (December to about March), when room rates will be at their lowest and availability will be at its highest. If you decide to take a wandering trip during the summer months, be prepared to sleep in your car or a tent, if you don’t want to make a hotel reservation.

Finding Your Hotel

      Having a hard time finding the hotel? Now this may seem obvious, but it’s something that front desk agents face every day, if their hotel is even a little bit unique. For example, someone may assume something about a brand. I will use Hampton Inns as an example, most Hampton Inns are placed right off the highway. Now someone who frequents Hampton Inns quite often may visit a new area and just assume that their hotel, previously booked or not, will be right off the highway. Well, we all know what they say about assuming. Save yourself the aggravation and MapQuest your hotel even if you have a GPS. Because chances are your GPS may not be as reliable as you would like it to be. Getting an idea of your location and what some routes might look like will also help if there is road construction or an event that is blocking a direct route to your hotel. Also have your hotel’s phone number on hand if you need further instruction, they are always more than happy to direct you. Tip 4: Locate your hotel and at least glance at a couple of alternate routes to your hotel. Tip 4 1/2: When asking directions from the hotel, pay attention to what the person is saying, and writing it down will be helpful. Also pay attention to your surroundings! It’s really impossible to give directions to someone who can’t find a 3 story building, or a road sign that’s right in front of them.


      The hotel isn’t what you expected. A popular belief is that every hotel will have the same or similar amenities. Once again, assuming is going to be your enemy. Not every hotel has a pool, microwaves and fridges in every room, a place to buy things you forgot, an on property restaurant, rollaway beds, or WIFI to name a few. For this reason, calling your hotel ahead of time and asking questions is a good idea. Are you traveling with kids who are going to want to swim? Or traveling with special medication or food that needs to be refrigerated? Perhaps you recently broke your tailbone and need a shower not a tub? Take your circumstances into consideration and make sure the hotel you choose can accommodate you. As simple as that sounds people don’t do it and then they have set themselves up for disappointment.

     If things aren’t the way they are at home, (here it comes, it’ll be quiet shocking) it is because you are not at home. You’d be surprised at the number of people who leave home only to be shocked and amazed at how differently things are done in other places; such as how a town is organized, how people act and react to one another. It’s a fascinating dynamic when you get culture shock in the next town over or across the country. Tip 5: There is no way to avoid this completely, but having an open mind will enhance your time away from home, so don’t shut down when things don’t make sense at first, just enjoy the adventure!

Your Room

     What’s the worth of a room? Many people expect a standard hotel room to be roughly the same, no matter where they happen to go. However, this is far from the truth. A person may visit a town where a quality room is 80 dollars a night, whereas another town a quality room would be upwards of 109 dollars a night. In addition, these base rates rise pretty much every year. What determines a room rate? Location, Location, and profit. Downtown areas and right off the highway will charge the most for their rooms and the further from those areas you get, the price will likely go down, but as with anything, not a guarantee. Running a hotel is expensive and the point of a hotel is to make money. Events will determine how much more expensive a room will be for the duration of the event. The price of a room, during an event, can go up a little or a lot, depending on room availability. When room availability goes down, the price will go up. So what is a room worth? Tip 6: honestly, the best answer to this is to do your research on the hotels in the area you will be staying. Reading reviews, comparing amenities and asking about special rates or deals, will give you the ability to knowledgably decide which hotel will give you the most for your money.

The Unavoidable

     One thing that a lot of people struggle with, when they are traveling, are three inescapable things. They are noise, kids, and allergens. Noise may be from a nearby highway or a neighboring room; kids may make quite a bit of noise, or get in the way during the breakfast rush. When traveling many people don’t understand that the hotel will always try its best, but these things are something they have no control over. If noise is an issue for you, try staying at a bed and breakfast further from the city. If you are on vacation, stay with a friend instead, or if it’s for work, bring a pair of earplugs. Let the hotel know, ahead of time, if you are allergic to air fresheners or feather pillows, so that they can prepare for your arrival, but keep in mind, that while taking preventative steps may help, there will be times that it’s just not possible for the hotel to cater to you personally on these matters. A hotel can’t just kick a crying baby out of the room next to you or move the highway further away. In such cases you may want to rethink your travel plans.

Any Questions?

     I’d also like to address a couple of things that many people don’t know. Such as “I already paid for my room, why does the hotel want my credit card again?” The answer: most hotels will ask for a backup credit card, this credit card is used for incidentals. Incidentals are things like putting a bottle of water or candy on your room, paying for parking, or fining you, if you damage hotel property. Which brings up another question, "I gave them my credit card and they said it wouldn’t be charged since there are no incidentals, but I just looked at my online statement and there is a charge on it! (or there is "x" amount of money being held on my credit card.)" The following answer covers this question as well: "Why am I being charged for "x" amount more than my receipt says?" The Answer: If you run into either of these scenarios, please notice that the amount, whatever it may be, is PENDING. This is holding your funds for a certain amount, so if you try to skip out on your bill or damage hotel property they can charge you for it. This amount will be returned to your account when your bank processes the transaction, which may take 24 hours to 7 business days. Taking us to our next question which is "Why can’t I just pay cash? Why do they have to have a credit card?" This is partially answered above, but I would like to add that while you may still pay with cash, it is becoming more and more rare for a hotel to accept only cash. This is mainly because even if you pay for your room up front, there may be instances where a guest will take several items from the room, damage hotel property, or leave a room so trashed that the hotel has to hire additional services to clean or fix the room. The hotel wants to cover its proverbial butt when it comes to such situations. Tip 7: do not go on vacation or business trip with a nearly maxed out credit card. Also, note that credit card transactions are not instantaneous, it will be 24 hours and up to a week for your "borrowed" funds to be put back in your account.

      These tips and information will come in handy whether traveling across town for a night or crossing the country for a month or more. The last tip I’d like to give for less stressful travel, is to be prepared to be flexible. Situations are going to arise that may be stressful, no one can control that. However, you can control your outlook and actions when these things do happen and being grumpy and miserable isn’t going to make them go away, but being positive and happy will gain you new friends and a better experience. Hope this helps. Chow!



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