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Hotel and Rental Car Rules

Consumer protection laws and travel regulations apply to certain aspects of travel and leisure. You have rights as a traveler, but are also responsible for reviewing the terms and conditions of your reservations. Savvy travelers should understand cancellation policies, check-in and check-out times, change fees, and any surcharges before booking a hotel room or rental car.

FindLaw's Hotel and Rental Car Rules section provides information and tips on booking travel accommodations or rental transportation. The articles in this section will also help you understand your rights when traveling. Learn more about:

  • Tips for booking a hotel room
  • How to resolve common travel disputes
  • Whether you must buy additional insurance through a rental car company
  • When to use a travel agency
  • Common travel scams

For information specific to air transportation, travel arrangements, airline tickets, round-trip tickets, departure times, and airfare, see FindLaw's Air Travel Rules section.

Tips for Booking Accommodations

Your hotel stay makes up a significant portion of your travel budget. Research and compare hotels before selecting and booking a room to find the right hotel that fits both your needs and budget.

Use third-party travel websites and apps to search for better prices for hotels. Compare the prices you find to what the hotel offers through its own website. Some hotels provide special offers or price packages, like a discount for staying longer or bundling a dining credit with your stay, that are only available when you book through the hotel.

Research reviews of previous hotel guests. Pay attention to what reviewers say about cleanliness, customer service, noise levels, and vouchers offered for any problems encountered. Be aware of any cancelation fees.

If you're going overseas or to a remote destination, you may want the help of a travel agent. An agent can help with more than finding accommodations. They can also provide other travel services like advising on local customs, exchange rates, recreation, and travel insurance.

When you're ready to book, use a credit card instead of a debit card. Most credit card companies can provide reimbursement for unauthorized or fraudulent charges.

Booking Short-Term Rentals

Booking a short-term rental (like Airbnb or VRBO) is sometimes a more comfortable, cost-effective option than staying in a hotel. If you need amenities like a full kitchen, laundry, or more space than what a hotel can offer, booking a short-term rental may be a better choice.

If you decide to book a short-term rental instead of a hotel, read the property's reviews and the host's profile. Previous guests' reviews will give you an idea of the accuracy of the listing and how responsive the host is should issues arise.

Make sure you understand the host's rules. Some hosts limit the number of guests you can have in the home or restrict gatherings like bachelor parties.

Review the cancellation policy and be aware that most short-term rentals require a deposit and additional fees, including:

  • Cleaning fee
  • Service fee
  • Host fee

Although the base price for a short-term rental may be less than most hotels, the additional costs can add up.

Many Airbnb and VRBO hosts are willing to offer tips or recommendations for local restaurants and recreation. These booking apps encourage short-term renters to reach out to hosts to ask questions or clarify details.

Hotel Policies and Practices

Some policies and practices are common to most hotels. Each hotel sets its own rules, so check the specific policies of the hotel you've booked. When you book a room online, most hotels provide a list of waivers and policies you must agree to before finalizing your booking.

Some common policies and disclaimers include:

  • Maximum room occupancy
  • Smoke-free policies
  • Requirement to provide a photo ID and credit card for incidentals at check-in
  • Right to refuse service
  • Not responsible for accidents, injuries, or theft

When you book a hotel room, you'll have either a guaranteed reservation or a confirmed reservation. The difference between these two types of reservations is that a guaranteed reservation is prepaid, while a confirmed reservation is one the hotel agrees to hold for you.

If it's a confirmed reservation, it's essential to check if there are any conditions in which the hotel can give up your room. For example, if the hotel confirms they will hold the room until 8:00 pm, it can give up your room if you do not check in by then.

Hotels try to accommodate requests regarding hotel rooms. However, these aren't guarantees. While a traveler might request a room on a particular floor, the hotel is not obligated to accommodate that request.

If you book a specific room, like the Penthouse Suite, the hotel's failure to honor your request often means the hotel broke its contract with you. If you decide to pursue a lawsuit against the hotel, you may be able to recover limited damages.

Booking a Rental Car

If you do not want to rely on rideshare or public transit during your trip, you may need to get a rental car. Like a hotel, shop around and compare prices from different rental car companies. If you don't see discounts online, try a phone call. Some rental car agencies may offer promotions or upgrades if you ask.

Some credit cards also offer rental car discounts or perks as a card benefit.

Other tips when booking a rental car include:

  • Check for restrictions before you book, like a minimum age for drivers or international driving permit needs
  • Review insurance options and decide if you'll buy the rental company's insurance or if your insurance company's policy provides enough insurance coverage
  • Review the fuel policy, return times, and any additional charges. Ask about any charges you do not understand or shouldn't apply to you.
  • Inspect the vehicle before you leave with it. Take photos of any existing damage, even if it seems minor. This will help you avoid disputes later.

Don't forget to review the local traffic laws of the area you're visiting.

Some rental car companies have vehicles available for customers with physical disabilities. Ask a representative if you need an accessible vehicle or one with features like hand controls or spinner knobs.

Have your driver's license ready when you book. Most rental car companies will run your license to ensure it's valid before finalizing your booking.

Issue With a Rental Car or Hotel? Get Legal Help

It's normal to hope your travel plans don't include contacting an attorney. Legal help is available if you've been the victim of a travel scam or a rental company, airline, or hotel has violated your rights.

Consumer law protects your rights when traveling. A consumer protection attorney can help resolve disputes and seek remedies for several travel-related issues, such as disputes with an air carrier or a canceled cruise. Contact an attorney in your area to discuss your legal options.

Learn About Hotel and Rental Car Rules

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Rights to Travel: Consumer Protections and Rules

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