I often hear from travelers looking for advice after they have had a less-than-pleasing experience while traveling or when booking their travel plans. For the most part, the complaints fall under a couple of categories: failure to read the fine print, not understanding various policies, and you get what you pay for. To save you the frustration and disappointment experienced by so many others, I thought I’d take a stab at these issues here on Travel Smart Blog.
You Get What You Pay For:
If you have a set budget for your price per night then you need to set your expectations accordingly about just how far your money can go. Depending on your destination, a $ is worth a lot more or a lot less (average hotel prices on map). Let’s take a look at New York City and Las Vegas.
In 2011, NYC was the most expensive city for actual hotel room rates according to the Hotel Price Index™ (HPI®) from Hotels.com with an average price per night just above $200. And that’s sure to go up this year. Knowing that fact, you should expect to pay more even for very average hotel accommodations. If you are only willing or able to spend $70/night, I can assure you that unless you set your expectations accordingly, you will likely be disappointed. In fact, on average when you do a search of NYC Hotels on Hotels.com, even the one – two star hotels average $100/night.
Conversely, Las Vegas had an average price per night of $102 in 2011, according to the HPI. Take a look at these Hotels in Las Vegas from Hotels.com. The three-star Circus Circus is $26/night; the four-star Monte Carlo is a mere $50/night. Great, affordable rates at quality hotels! Of course, these prices may fluctuate if you are trying to book during the Final Four or some other popular time but typically your travel dollars can go a lot further in Las Vegas than New York City.
Prices vary from city to city and whether you are traveling at peak season or traveling in the off-season. You need to set your price based on the quality of accommodations that you expect and the experience that you want to have; then try to find one that matches your budget and meets your requirements. You may have to change one of those variables in order to get what you want most.
I recently read some guest reviews for a one-star hotel in NYC with a $45/night price. Too good to be true? Probably. Defined – one star hotels typically are affordable establishments with clean, no-frills accommodation and minimal on-site facilities. If you choose less than a two-star property in NYC, you may want to pack your own sheets and towels. And that’s not an April Fools joke.
If you are booking online then you shouldn’t complain if the experience you have matches the photos, the description and the vast majority of guest reviews for the hotel that you selected. There is so much information readily available to us that you should have very few surprises at a hotel. That’s not to say that bad experiences don’t happen at good places, because they do and in those situations you should have some recourse .
Let’s face it; even some of the best names in hospitality have been known to contract a case of bedbugs. Safety, cleanliness and convenience should all be considered when you choose a place to stay.
READ the guest reviews. Read the good, read the bad and THEN make up your own mind. If you see the same negative comments popping up in different guest reviews then take those as a warning.
Another big complaint I see centers on various cancellation policies. Just like your retail stores and their different return policies; hotels, airlines and tour operators all have varying cancellation policies. You have to find out what they are BEFORE you make your reservation and make sure you understand and accept the consequences in the event you need to cancel.
For example, many online travel agencies have their own cancellation policies that are tacked on in addition to whatever the hotels’ own policies are. Hotels.com does NOT charge cancellation or change fees, which is great and very helpful. However, when you book through Hotels.com you need to make sure you understand the cancellation policy of the hotels you are considering. Hotels.com always provides the cancellation policy of the hotel before you confirm your reservation. For most, you can cancel within 48 hours of the reservation without penalty but some are different – so read the fine print.
Free cancellation until 05/06/12
The property makes no refunds for no-shows or early checkouts.
Seems pretty clear to me. And – you are reminded again of this policy before you confirm your booking. I know it’s frustrating when things don’t goes as planned but these policies are there for a reason so please be sure that you understand them before you make the reservation.
Nothing feels worse than arriving at your hotel to be told that there is no record of your reservation. What do you do? First and foremost, keep your cool. Sometimes the problem is as simple as your name having been keyed in incorrectly when the reservation was made. If you have printed proof of your confirmation, this is the time to show it. As long as you can prove you had a reservation for that date at that hotel, the hotel should be able to find it. Always bring along copies of your reservation confirmations to avoid this mix-up.
If you booked with an online travel agency, such as Hotels.com, call the site right away (one of the benefits of booking through an online agency is that they have a wealth of resources to get you re-accommodated). The sooner they know there’s a problem, the faster they can assist you. Again, have your confirmation number ready.
It’s rare but it happens. Just like the airlines, hotels hedge their bets that not all their guests will show up during their busy times and sometimes overbooking situations occur. If you have a confirmed booking, the hotel is obligated to find you equal or better accommodations at no additional cost to you. If your hotel doesn’t have room for you when you arrive, ask if they have a sister property in town where you can be rebooked at no extra charge. You should also ask for a transportation voucher to get there. And if the property where you’re rebooked isn’t the same standard as the original hotel, ask what they’ll be refunding you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a restaurant credit—what will it take for you to be satisfied? Don’t hesitate to have that conversation.
3 Tips to Avoid Hotel Booking Issues
1. For peace of mind before you travel, the best strategy is to call the hotel a few days before your arrival to verify your reservation. Even if you booked through a third party, you can call the hotel directly to confirm this – I do it every time!
2. If you plan to arrive late, advise the hotel so they’ll know to hold your room.
3. In addition, always have a printed copy of your reservation confirmation.
If you have any travel questions, let me know! We’re happy to help you here at Travel Smart Blog.