17 Terrible Mistakes to Avoid When Booking a Hotel
You could be losing a lot of money with these common errors.
Booking a hotel doesn't seem all that hard, right? Whether you head directly to a hotel's website or you use a third-party platform (think TripAdvisor, Expedia, or Hotels.com) to see available options in your destination, all you have to do is set your date range and hit search. While the process seems simple on paper, there are loads of possible pitfalls that can end up costing you time, effort, and cold hard cash. Keep reading for the mistakes you don't want to make.
Not asking for a price match.
There are tons of third-party hotel sites out there. While some are admittedly more trustworthy than others, it's always worth doing a price comparison before locking yourself into a rate. One thing to note: Some sites are able to ensure lower rates by getting you to book a non-refundable stay (more on that below). Before doing this, try calling the hotel to see if they will price match the online listing. While some hotels may not honor the price, others could discount the rate even further in order to get you to book directly.
Not booking directly through the hotel's site.
Ok, so we did just tell you to look at third-party sites to find the best deal, but sometimes—if the hotel's rate is nearly as good—it's worth it to book directly. Guests who book via the hotel's site are almost always prioritized when it comes to room assignments, so if you're looking for a stellar view or a higher floor, you'll have a better shot.
Not bundling your vacation bookings.
If you're really trying to stick to a budget, booking your hotel, airfare, and car rental all at once can save you a pretty penny. While package deals aren't the best bet for every vacation—you should always compare individual prices first—they can come in clutch for last-second getaways and peak-season travel. Just keep in mind that these deals are often set in stone, so if you need to change one thing (like the time of your flight or the type of rental car) they won't be as flexible.
Not accounting for resort fees.
So you found the absolute perfect hotel and your room comes in under budget. It's finally time to breathe a sigh of relief, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but until you fully check out, it's impossible to know how your rate will be inflated with resort, cleaning, spa, and processing fees, not to mention additional taxes. If you book online, hotels will usually include an asterisk and a tiny line like "additional fees may apply," but it's always a good idea to call ahead and know how much you should expect to shell out.
Booking a non-refundable room.
Non-refundable rates are often lower than regular ones, and while they seem like a great deal at first, they're a high-risk option that isn't always worth it. Say you're dealing with a family emergency or your flight is delayed a day or two thanks to a natural disaster, you could end up eating hundreds or thousands of dollars should you need to cancel or amend your stay.
Neglecting to sign up for a hotel rewards program.
Hotel loyalty programs are often free to join, so there's no reason not to—especially if you're a repeat customer of a specific brand like Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, or Wyndham. While perks are different program to program, members can earn points to use on free hotel stays, flights, cruises, and more. Plus, being a member almost always guarantees a better room assignment and extras like free in-room Wi-Fi or complimentary breakfast.
Forgetting to check the currency you're booking in.
So you used your credit card to book your hotel in Spain, but you didn't realize the rate was in euros. What now? While some banks will automatically convert to dollars using the market conversion rate, others can charge a hefty foreign currency fee. For this reason, it's always best to make sure your search is set to your own currency.
Not booking with a credit card.
Travel is expensive, so why not earn a few dollars back with a travel rewards credit card? While perks vary card to card, you can often earn double or triple the points on travel-related purchases, enjoy waived foreign transaction fees, and get free access to thousands of airport lounges. Beyond the perks, many hotels also place a pre-authorized hold of $50 to $200 on your card to ensure you can cover incidentals like mini bar snacks or cocktails at the lobby bar. While these deposits should be cleared from your card within 24 hours after checking out, it can often take longer and in the meantime, you could be out a good chunk of change should you use a debit card.
Not checking the location of the hotel.
No matter how confident you are of a hotel's address, it's always a good idea to do a quick search on Google Maps just to make sure. Many hotels will tack "city center" onto the end of their name or mention how they're "within walking distance of the beach," which sounds great until you get there and realize you're more than 45 minutes from either.
Not asking for a better room.
So you were hoping for an ocean-view king and you ended up in a first-floor double near the elevators. While this might have happened no matter what, it wouldn't have hurt to ask the front desk for a better room upon check-in. While you have to be realistic in your request—you likely won't make off with a top-floor suite if you booked a budget-friendly twin room—you can often finagle a view or higher floor if you're nice and have no expectations.
Not calling the hotel ahead of time.
If you book through a third-party site, you can often make note of special requests be it for a rollaway bed, extra towels, or a quiet room that's nowhere near the elevator or ice machine. Read the fine print, though, and you'll see that these requests are never guaranteed. Rather than waiting to see what happens when you show up at the hotel, call ahead and see if arrangements can be made.
Booking based on rate alone.
It's easy to get swept up when you find a great rate, but don't let that solely determine where you end up staying. Take a step back and consider the location, on-site amenities, and whether or not it includes convenient extras like breakfast or an airport shuttle. Often, it's worth paying more for all the above.
Booking too early or too late.
We all know that last-minute booking often comes at a price, but did you know there's risk in booking too early, too? While there's no exact best time to book, you should try to keep seasonality in mind and make sure you check rates a few times before booking as they can drop even within a day or two.
Not double-checking your arrival and departure dates.
It might seem like a rookie mistake, but it's one that's all too easy to make—especially when taking long, international flights that get you in at the crack of dawn. Before you book a stay, double and triple check your dates as most properties will charge in full for any extra nights you've booked—no matter how much you beg for an exception.
Not reading guest reviews.
Every hotel sells itself as a slice of heaven, but all too often their photos and descriptions exaggerate the truth. This is where OTAs (online travel agencies) like TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Booking.com come in. Not only can they help you secure a cheaper rate, but they amass thousands of guest reviews where you can find out if the hotel is actually well-located, clean, quiet, or anything else it claims to be.
Not reading the fine print.
Hotel policies aren't the most riveting things to read, but we'd advise you to at least give them a once over. This way, you know how the property handles taxes, resort fees, cancellations, check in/out times, and loyalty program points. Say the hotel has to cancel part of your stay or you back out a day early to beat some bad weather on your way home—it's important to know how this affects your bill.
Being rude to the front desk associate.
Front desk associates have a lot of sway when it comes to room assignments, late check-out, and other non-guaranteed perks. Suffice it to say if you start out on a bad foot, they won't be as willing to go the extra mile for you.
But before you reserve that dream suite, make sure you know these 17 Horrifying Myths About Hotel Rooms That Are 100 Percent True.