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5 of the Worst Hotel Booking Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

how to avoid hotel booking mistakes
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Traveling is a blast, but the planning that goes into it is not. Like finding which hotel to stay at, calculating the cost of airfare or gas, discovering the right babysitter for the kids . . .and more. We really do run the risk of making an error due to such a wide variety of seemingly boring yet necessary tasks.

As a result, many future voyagers are wont to click on the “reserve now” button when they get to the hotel stage of planning rather than bothering with the details. But those details can save you tons of cash.

5 mistakes that hotel bookers make

To help you better plan your next adventure, we’ve compiled several hotel booking tips based on:

The Five Worst Mistakes Bookers Make

Admit it–even as a seasoned traveler, you’ve probably made one or more yourself.

Ready to find out?

The Five Worst Booking Mistakes

Travelers, beware! Below are five of the worst mistakes you can make when planning your next outing.

1. Purchasing at the Wrong Time

Debate rages on the best time to book a hotel room, but the general consensus stands at one month.

Any earlier and you risk missing out on deals. Any later and you risk missing out on a room.

According to research, this method can save bookers 15% off peak-time bookings. If you plan on traveling in Europe, however, it’s advised you book as early as possible.

For procrastinators, last-minute deals do occur, but it’s a risky gambit. Most cancellations happen 24 to 48 hours before a stay, and there is no guarantee you’ll be offered a lower price.

Keeping in mind the general type of hotel can also lead to savings. Hotels that cater to businessmen and women sometimes offer lower rates on the weekend, while resorts are least expensive during the weekdays.

Bear in mind the busier seasons (summer, especially) will have higher prices, so try to avoid these popular times if possible.

2. Avoiding Research

Don’t be snagged by the countdowns and “book now” button. Take your time before deciding on a hotel and do your research.

Currently, hotels are scrambling to provide amenities that make them stand out from the crowd. Free wi-fi, access to fitness centers and complimentary breakfasts are all thrown into the basket, so take the time to compare what every hotel offers.

It’s also important to check customer reviews and prices before making a purchasing decision. Finally, don’t forget the importance of location. Nothing is worse than having a hotel that makes it impossible to get to that event you want to see.

Ensure you choose a location that’s near every tourist attraction or stop you’d like to visit and make sure accessing travel methods is hassle-free.

3. Forgetting the Fine Print

Only 7% of people read the fine print before making an online purchase or requesting a service. It’s not so surprising, considering research shows many people would rather read a phone book than pour over the detailed language and nuances of fine print.

Unfortunately, roughly a fifth of survey takers indicate they have suffered from this lapse in judgment, especially when booking a stay.

In the fine print, hotels include numerous additional fees that may not be tacked on until you arrive. The notorious resort fee is the most common. Where once this fee was reserved for expensive resorts, it is now being used by numerous hotels to cover extra services and amenities, such as fitness centers or “complimentary” wi-fi.

Such fees can net you an extra $65 per night, so stay on the lookout.

Parking fees are another common and unfortunate surprise hotel visitors might discover upon arriving. If you are traveling by car to and from the hotel, be sure to check there isn’t an additional parking fee. Again, this could cost as much as $75 per night.

In addition to resort and parking fees, customers may accrue additional costs through something as simple as having a safe (even if it’s not used), checking in or out early, canceling or even using the coffee maker in your room.

4. Ignoring Rewards Programs

Don’t ignore the rewards programs. These incentives aren’t just advantageous to hotel marketers; they are to customers, too.

With loyalty programs, you can enjoy free nights, complimentary spa massages and more. These bonuses are especially helpful if you travel often. However, that’s not the best part of becoming a member.

Almost all hotel chains assign rooms based on a hierarchy system, which considers how and where you booked. Members in the loyalty programs are at the top of this pyramid, and that means they usually get the best room for their rate. Closely below these customers are those who pay with platinum cards or booked through a preferred travel agent.

Hotels block off rooms to reserve them for these guests, so if you’re in a rewards program, chances are you’ll enjoy all the treats that come along with the points and a nicer room than those who purchased reservations through third parties.

5. Expecting Special Requests

Remember that fine print we were discussing? While you have the option to make specific requests, that fine print usually says they won’t be guaranteed. Even if it’s something small, such as a room with two separate beds, you may find your request is completely ignored.

This doesn’t mean the hotel managers are out to get you. Most vacationers book well in advance and the request simply gets looked over by the time your reservation date arrives. To ensure requests are processed, call after you make your reservation to double check they can be viewed.

Twenty-four hours prior to checking in, call to politely check the status of the request. Avoid calling between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., otherwise, you risk a busy receptionist assuring you everything is fine simply to get you off the line.

This trick is usually enough to emphasize you’ll be upset if the request isn’t granted. Even so, don’t be surprised if it’s not. Instead, use it to your advantage to request an upgrade or discount on services.

Hotel Booking Tips for All

Following our five simple hotel booking tips can keep extra cash in your wallet and save you headaches after a long day of traveling.

Interested in more traveling tips? Which City has it all. From blog posts to podcasts, you’ll find the tips you want and the information you need.

And if the thought of venturing to far-off places terrifies you, check out our article about overcoming the fear of traveling.

Bon voyage!


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