10 hotel booking mistakes (and how to avoid them) (2022)

10 hotel booking mistakes (and how to avoid them) (1)

Booking a hotel seems pretty straightforward, right? And most times it is: Pick a destination, choose your dates, enter payment info and voila, happy travels!

However, there are some big blunders you could be making when it comes to hotel reservations. From booking on the wrong sites to forgetting to check some vital information, these mistakes could easily make or break your trip. Read on to find out what you must avoid when booking that hotel room.

Always expecting the best room

I was recently chatting with a front-desk agent about how her hotel chain distributes rooms at check-in. Curious, I asked what method her staff uses to determine who gets the best-located rooms. She revealed this surprising tidbit: Those who book through the hotel website or are hotel loyalty members usually get first dibs on room assignments, with the better views and quieter locations. Travelers who book through online travel agencies (OTAs), like Priceline, often receive "run of the house" rooms (what she called "ice-machine rooms," or basically whatever is left). The agent couldn't tell me just how many hotel chains do this, but she said it was a "fairly common practice" and that it sweetens the deal for travelers who book at regular rates.

The fix: Joining hotel loyalty programs is often free, and being a member can guarantee better room placement, free nights or helpful amenities like complimentary breakfast or Wi-Fi.

If having the best possible room is key to happy travel, then book directly through the hotel's website. But when those low, low OTA prices can't be beat—we know the feeling—you can always make a request for a certain type of room or location.

Expecting requests to be guaranteed

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King bed or two doubles? High floor or low? Non-smoking? Water views? Three single red M&Ms? When reserving your hotel, most booking engines will allow you to make requests or add comments regarding your stay. However, in the teeny-tiny fine print, most hotels also say that your requests aren't guaranteed.

The fix: The old adage "Expect nothing and you'll never be disappointed" holds true here, but it's cold comfort when you really wanted a certain amenity. First, know that hotels will generally try to honor your requests. If, at check-in, you find your double beds have become one or you were placed in a smoking room, speak to the front-desk agent and request a change—politely. Also, it's well worth calling the hotel before you arrive to confirm your requests, especially if any were made for medical reasons.

Using incorrect arrival and departure dates

Of this travel sin, I am guilty as charged. On an overseas trip several years ago, I noted that my flight left on May 14th, so I booked my destination hotel starting the night of May 14th. Rookie mistake. I completely neglected to check that my flight was a red-eye that landed early in the morning of the 15th. This means I paid for an expensive (and nonrefundable) room that I didn't need.

The fix: Unlike your hapless writer, make sure you have your flight itinerary on hand when booking, and double-check the dates of your arrival and departure. Also consider time zones. If you're crossing the International Date Line in transit, yes, your check-in dates could be different than you expect. It's also not a bad idea to have someone look over your booking before you hit "confirm" or "pay," just to ensure that the dates you have selected are correct.

Not using a credit card

When booking a hotel, credit cards are king. Not only do credit cards offer rewards like airline miles, free night stays or cash-back bonuses, but they also offer certain guarantees that debit cards and cash do not (such as fraud protection or immediate refunds for mischarges).

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Another tip that many travelers don't know? Most hotels will require an incidental deposit if you use a debit card to protect themselves against overdraft fees if your account has insufficient funds. These additional deposits can add up: I once paid a $100 deposit in Las Vegas that wasn't refunded to my account for two weeks.

The fix: If you are wise with money management and choose the right type of credit card, you could see plenty of benefits when booking accommodations. NerdWallet rounds up the top credit cards with travel benefits. Also make sure to scope out Tim Winship's Miles & Points column, which SmarterTravel runs each week. In it, Winship lists current credit card promotions.

Making reservations for the wrong hotel

Travelers, beware: A misleading hotel name or location description could lead you to book an airport hotel when you think you're getting centrally located accommodations. You would be surprised how often travelers see the name of the hotel and reserve it quickly without checking to see if it's located in the right place. After all, some hotels may call themselves "located near the heart of downtown," but a quick search could reveal that it's located at the airport … two hours away.

The fix: Check the mailing address and find the hotel's exact location on Google Maps. Always enter the hotel's address and see how far it is from popular attractions and restaurants by foot, by car or by public transport. Try entering the addresses of some attractions you'd like to see while in your destination and map the route. You may also want to explore the neighborhood with Google Maps Street View. And if there are multiple hotels by the same chain in that city, make sure you have booked yourself at the property in the correct neighborhood—the Hyatt Times Square and the Hyatt Flushing are very different indeed.

Not accounting for taxes and resort fees

Back in March, contributing editor Ed Perkins reported one of the most outrageous resort fees we'd seen yet. At a hotel in Colorado, the decent $170 room rate was artificially inflated with a $35 cleaning fee, a $40 resort fee, a $10 pool-and-spa fee, and a $5.10 processing fee. Ouch.

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The fix: You may be able to fight some fees, such as housekeeping or newspaper delivery, if you don't wish to avail yourself of such services. Others, like resort fees, are mandatory, so you need to account for the additional cost when you book that hotel. Hotels are expected to display resort fees clearly, but OTAs may not and instead include vague language like "additional fees may apply." So call the resort and ask point-blank about additional resort fees before you book.

As for taxes? Much like security lines, you aren't getting out of those.

Not checking reviews

If you've ever taken a spin on Oyster's Photo Fakeout feature, you know that hotels go to great lengths to make their properties seem perfect. But upon arrival, that infinity pool could really be the size of a postage stamp, and those sumptuous linens could feel like sandpaper. Take anything a hotel says about itself with a grain of salt (or sand).

The fix: Do your research. Reading user reviews is a tricky balancing act. You want to read as many reviews as you can without suffering from information overload. You also want reviews to be unbiased and recent. The best way to get an accurate picture of the resort is to choose your review sites wisely. TripAdvisor and Oyster (which, like us, is owned by TripAdvisor) offer pretty accurate previews of what your hotel has to offer; Oyster's room photos are a great resource if you wonder how your room stacks up to the hotel's own slick—and possibly Photoshopped—images. Be suspicious of reviewers who have overly effusive praise, and the converse holds true, too: If you see that Bob Grump has given one measly star to every hotel he's ever checked in to, feel free to question Bob Grump's judgment.

Booking at the wrong time

As most procrastinators will readily admit, waiting until the last minute to make travel plans can have dire consequences for your credit card balance. Hotel rates can soar in the days leading up to a particular date, and you could be left without a room if everything books up (or if nothing left is within your budget). On the other hand, being an advanced planner can have its own disadvantages: Sure, you may want to have all of your travel ducks in a row as soon as possible, but it can actually cost you money to book your hotel room too early.

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The fix: There are no easy answers as to when, exactly, is the best time to book a hotel room. Rates depend on many factors: location, seasonality, convention crowds, even weather. As a general rule of thumb, booking more than 21 days ahead of your arrival date is a no-no for the most popular destinations; you'll be putting yourself at risk for jacked-up prices. Your best bet is to start checking prices at least 40 days in advance and monitor the trend. If prices seem to go up, book.

If you want to make sure you get the lowest rate, the hotel booking site Tingo (SmarterTravel's sister company) will automatically monitor your hotel and rebook you at the new lower rate if prices drop. Of course, if you have waited until the 11th hour and hotel pickings seem slim, check out the Hotel Tonight app for truly last-minute deals.

Not comparing prices

Saw a hotel you loved advertised at a "great price!" and immediately plunked down a credit card number and booked? Wrong: Without doing proper research, you could be missing out on big savings.

The fix: When it comes to prices, compare, compare, compare. Use websites that have metasearch functionality (which means that they show multiple prices from multiple booking sites in one window). Compare the rates on the property's website to the rates you find on Priceline, on Expedia, on Groupon Getaways or in travel brochures. Also look into the types of booking discounts that are available and which ones can save you the most money. (For example, you may get 10% off with a hotel chain's summer sale, but your AAA discount could be larger.) As a general rule of thumb, you should check at least three different sites for each hotel booking.

Booking nonrefundable rates

Every wondered why nonrefundable rates are cheaper than the regular rack rates, even if the room is the same? It's because the hotelier benefits from the lower price, too. Locking you in at that low rate guarantees she or he won't have an empty room, which would cost the hotelier money. Of course, trying to pinch a few pennies will end up costing you if you need to cancel.

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The fix: If there is any chance at all that you'll need to cancel your hotel reservation—bad weather, difficult connection, chance of illness—then forgo the nonrefundable rate. Yes, you'll pay more up front, but you won't be out much bigger bucks should you need to put your trip on hold. And, if you book your hotel through a flash-sale site or online travel retailer (OTA), triple-confirm the site's cancellation policy; these low prices are often not refundable, and no amount of begging will bring your money back.


What's the best day to book a hotel room? ›

“Our data shows that hotel prices are at their peak Monday through Wednesday, for both domestic and international destinations. As you approach the weekend, we see these prices start to decrease. Your best bet then is to book on Fridays and Saturdays.”

How many months in advance to book a hotel? ›

“A good rule of thumb: book hotels 1-2 weeks in advance if you're traveling to a larger, more business-travel heavy city and you're flexible about where you stay. For vacation getaway destinations, book 2-3 months in advance to get the best prices,” Hopper reveals.

What are three most important things when choosing a hotel? ›

Focus on these seven factors for choosing a hotel that you will enjoy.
  • Check Hotel Reviews. Make sure the hotel you're choosing has a good reputation. ...
  • Consider Location. ...
  • Dining Options. ...
  • Consider Hotel Sanitation. ...
  • Learn About Their Features. ...
  • Work Space. ...
  • Leisure Facilities. ...
  • The Process of Choosing a Hotel Can Be Quick and Simple.
Sep 20, 2020

What do you consider to be the most important factors when choosing a hotel? ›

Location. Location is one of the most important factors when choosing a hotel. If you're thinking of visiting a busy city, focus your search on hotels that are centrally located, so you can move around freely and easily – many sights and attractions will be close to your hotel, or just a short taxi ride away.

Is it better to book hotels early or late? ›

The ideal amount of time to book a hotel room is only 15 days before your trip, according to a 2021 NerdWallet study. Looking at more than 2,500 hotel room rates between 2019 and 2021, NerdWallet found rates were about 13% cheaper when booked 15 days before compared to four months before.

Do hotel rooms get cheaper closer to date? ›

You could find that if rooms are not selling out, prices will be reduced nearer the time since hotels want to fill their properties. On the other hand, if they are getting close to full they will increase their prices.

Is it better to book a hotel in advance or walk in? ›

Unlike with flights, those who wait until the last minute to book can often score a great deal on a hotel room. We found that booking your hotel 1-3 days in advance of your stay can save you between $15-20 per night when you're staying somewhere in the US.

How do I get the best hotel deals online? ›

Compare sites and deals

Start with sites like Kayak, Expedia or Priceline.com to get an overview of hotels in your desired area, but don't rely on them to give you the full picture. Go on to research those hotels on your own. Search for promotion codes and perks such as free parking, breakfast or WiFi.

Do I count the day I check out as one of the days I'm booking? ›

Usually hotels charge per night, which tends to be measured by you checking in after a certain time on the day before your first night, and checking out before a certain time on the day after your last night. There are sometimes discounts for staying only part of a day (a "day rate").

What five things are important for you in a hotel? ›

Five Basic Services You Should Expect From Your Hotel
  • Hotel Comfort and Cleanliness. Your hotel should be clean, end of story. ...
  • Safety and Security. It goes without saying; you want to feel safe wherever you lay your head down at night. ...
  • Upstanding Customer Service. ...
  • Great Amenities. ...
  • Breakfast.
Apr 30, 2018

What skills are needed to be a hotel manager? ›

Eight of the most crucial skills that every hotel manager should have include excellent communication, interpersonal skills, oriented to detail, operational knowledge, leadership, team building, financial skills and flexibility.

What are important features of a good hotel? ›

5 Characteristics of a Good Hotel
  • Location of the Hotel. The first attribute you've to consider for the ideal hotel of your choice is the hotel's location. ...
  • Quality Customer Service. ...
  • Comfortable and Well Equipped Rooms. ...
  • Clean and Tidy Environment. ...
  • Free Internet Access.

What can influence people's choices of hotels? ›

Among the factors that influence the choice of hotel, we highlight some competitive advantages in the present study such as location, hotel facilities, the recommendations of friends/tourist agency, personal experiences, price and advertising.

What happens if you don't show up to a hotel reservation? ›

Most every hotel has a cancellation window. If you don't show up, for your stay, yes,they will charge you at least one nights stay. If you have extenuating circumstances, try calling the hotel manager and seeing what they can do for you.

Will hotel prices go down in 2022? ›

Hotel rates in 2022 are expected to increase 13 percent globally year over year and a further 10 percent in 2023, according to the Global Business Travel Forecast published Wednesday by CWT and the Global Business Travel Association.

Why are hotels so expensive right now? ›

Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, the hotel industry has bounced back alongside the larger travel industry thanks to pent up demand, delayed trips and increased consumer savings. That hot market has led to rising room prices, something major hotel chain executives say will not subside soon.

Is an Airbnb cheaper than a hotel? ›

In general, Airbnb is cheaper than hotels because Airbnb does not have to pay for the overhead costs of a hotel or the general management of such a large operation.

What does mobile only price mean when booking a hotel? ›

Mobile-only rate plans mean direct bookings

By restricting a rate plan to mobile-only, users will only have one choice if they want the deal. They won't be able to book via desktop or an OTA, only through your booking engine meaning you reap the rewards of an ever increasing global mobile market.

Why Early booking is important? ›

Save Money

It's a common knowledge that booking ahead often means cheaper tickets and smaller fees. Booking even five weeks in advance can significantly decrease the prices. You can also try to book tickets for the next year around Christmas – many budget airline offer early birds very decent discounts at this time.

Can you book a hotel with cash? ›

Typically, you cannot make a hotel reservation with cash, a personal check or a money order. These payment options are usually reserved for paying your final bill, as hotels generally require a payment card to secure your reservation and will often require a deposit on that card.

Is it better to pay for a hotel online or in person? ›

You can often find better rates by booking directly, too — a concern for budget-conscious travelers. By calling a hotel directly, you find out about any specials perks or packages they have available. In some cases, you can get a better room for the same amount of money.

What is a cheap hotel called? ›

▲ A cheap hotel or boarding house where many people sleep in large rooms. flophouse. fleabag. doss-house.

What is opaque booking? ›

Opaque Sites are booking channels and OTA websites where the supplier (in this case the hotel) remains hidden until after the purchase is complete. The customer sees only the product category (destination, star rating of the hotel) and the price but not the brand.

How can I live in a hotel for cheap? ›

Staying in hotels could work out to be cheaper for your budget.
So, here are five tips that will help you to live in an extended hotel.
  1. Find Out the Cost When You Plan On Living in a Hotel Long Term. ...
  2. Pick a Hotel that Offers Quality Services. ...
  3. Choose a Convenient Location. ...
  4. Select a Large Room. ...
  5. Bring Your Food Supply.
Nov 20, 2019

Can I check-in a hotel at 3am? ›

Even though you arrive at 3am.. you are basically not entitled to check in until the scheduled check in time. The hotel has every right to refuse you to check in... till maybe 9am at the earliest. A hotel "day" is typically 3pm (or so) to noon (or so) the next day.

How do I get an early check-in at a hotel? ›

Early check-in is based on availability of rooms, so your best bet to get it is to contact the hotel in advance and express your request. This can be done by simply calling the front desk to ask about the status of your room.

How many nights is 8 days? ›

So "8 days, 6 nights" means you will have ~7 days at your destination and will spend one night on a plane.

What are the 3 things we can do to improve the hotel? ›

Hotel guest satisfaction tips and best practices
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize.
  • Post-booking communication.
  • Offer freebies and complimentary services.
  • Implement in-room technology.
  • Be proactive in your service.
  • Reward repeat guests.
  • Offer multiple communication channels.
  • Create an inclusive experience for all.

What is the most important aspect of a hotel? ›

The standard of equipment, additional attractions, quality cuisine, and a discreet, professional, helpful and friendly service are the most important elements which convince guests to the hotel brand.

Who is hotel supervisor? ›

A hotel supervisor is generally responsible for ensuring the operations at the front desk are running smoothly, that guests are checked in and out, and assigned appropriate rooms. The supervisor also helps to resolve any problems, make reservations, and monitor the cash flow of the front desk.

What is the duty of a hotel manager? ›

Hotel Managers are responsible for managing employees and for planning, marketing , coordinating and administering hotel services such as catering and accommodation facilities. Hotel managers are responsible for making sure that all areas of a hotel environment run smoothly and work together successfully.

What are the main duties of a hotel manager? ›

Typical responsibilities include:
  • recruiting, training and supervising staff.
  • managing budgets.
  • maintaining statistical and financial records.
  • planning maintenance work, events and room bookings.
  • handling customer complaints and queries.
  • promoting and marketing the business.

What are four items that are commonly requested by guests? ›

10 Essential Guest Room Items
  • Extra towels, blankets and pillows. Everyone has different needs. ...
  • Wastebasket. ...
  • Clock. ...
  • Space for clothes. ...
  • Door hooks (over-the-door or door-mounted ones) ...
  • Iron. ...
  • Tissues. ...
  • Basic toiletries.

What are hotel standards? ›

Hotel Standard means both the operational standards (for example, staffing, amenities offered to guests, advertising, etc.) and the physical standards (for example, the quality, condition and utility of the Fixtures and Leased Personal Property, etc.)

How do you talk to a hotel? ›

You need to describe a hotel where you have stayed. If you pick a famous hotel, your description should be close to the original facts regarding this hotel. But you are free to pick a hotel and give a superficial description as well. Mention the name of the hotel first and then tell your reason for staying there.

Why do hotel prices change daily? ›

When the need for rooms is high and the availability of rooms is low, room rates go up. Hotels have a limited number of rooms that they can “sell” each night. And when the expected occupancy rates are higher than usual, they can afford to price those rooms at higher rates.

Will hotel prices go down 2022? ›

Hotel rates in 2022 are expected to increase 13 percent globally year over year and a further 10 percent in 2023, according to the Global Business Travel Forecast published Wednesday by CWT and the Global Business Travel Association.

Is it better to book a hotel in advance or walk in? ›

Unlike with flights, those who wait until the last minute to book can often score a great deal on a hotel room. We found that booking your hotel 1-3 days in advance of your stay can save you between $15-20 per night when you're staying somewhere in the US.

How do I get the best hotel deals online? ›

Compare sites and deals

Start with sites like Kayak, Expedia or Priceline.com to get an overview of hotels in your desired area, but don't rely on them to give you the full picture. Go on to research those hotels on your own. Search for promotion codes and perks such as free parking, breakfast or WiFi.


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