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Tips on How to Book a Hotel Room

Booking a hotel room usually requires some homework. Whether you're planning a vacation, a quick getaway, or need extra space for visiting relatives — you want to find the best combination of features, quality, and price.

Getting a good deal on your hotel stay is important, but you should also be aware of your legal rights as a traveler. Consumer law extends to hotel guests, and knowing these regulations can help ensure a smooth and stress-free experience.

This article shares tips for finding the best deal on the right hotel and protecting your rights as a traveler. Learn what to look for in the fine print of your reservations, tips for finding the best deal, and more.

Finding the Best Hotel Deal

Savvy consumers usually only book a hotel stay after thorough research and comparisons. Maximize your efforts by taking advantage of travel sites, consumer reviews, and travel agents.

Use the following guidance to book the best hotel at the right price:

Use third-party booking websites and apps wisely. Many travelers find and book hotel accommodations through commercial web pages and apps like ExpediaTravelocityOrbitzPriceline, and Hotels.com. Generally, these third-party booking sites allow users to compare prices, read reviews, and make reservations through the third party instead of the hotel directly.

Still, there may be better deals than booking through a third-party site. Always check with the hotel directly (either by calling or checking the hotel website) for discounts or promotions unavailable on third-party sites. Booking with the hotel directly may also allow you to apply credit card points or specific deals (like AAA or military discounts).

If you book through a third-party site, be cautious and read reviews from other travelers to ensure the reliability and legitimacy of the platform. Stick to reputable platforms to avoid potential hotel booking scams.

  • Tip: Use third-party booking sites for research, then look up the hotels you like directly. If the third-party site still has a lower rate, screenshot and contact the hotel to see if they will price match. Or, ask if you can pay the same price for an upgraded room. This is often a successful tactic as it financially benefits the hotel to get the booking directly.

Take a look at cancellation policies. Understand the hotel's cancellation policies before making a reservation. Ensure you know the penalties or charges associated with cancellations or changes to your reservation. Cancellation periods without a penalty can vary — don't make assumptions based on hotels you've stayed at in the past.

  • Tip: Put a reminder in your phone calendar the day before the free cancellation period ends. If you need to make changes, you can do so without fees or sacrificing a room refund.

Read the reviews. Check out consumer review sites (like TripAdvisor), which gather reviews of hotels by former guests. TripAdvisor is a good resource because it organizes reviews by type of stay (couples, business travelers, or young travelers). This feature lets you search for people like you and see what they say about the hotel.

You can also search for reviews on Google Maps, Yelp, and the hotel's Facebook page.

If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. It can feel like your lucky day when you find a substantially cheaper hotel than surrounding hotels. But there is usually a reason for this:

  • It's under renovation
  • Amenities are temporarily closed or unavailable (like the restaurant, lounge, or gym)
  • The area directly around the hotel is under construction and difficult to access
  • It is a high-crime area
  • The building is in poor condition

Look up the location. If you have a target geographic area, put the address into Google Maps. You can zoom in to see exactly where it is and the surrounding area. The map will also show you surrounding stores, restaurants, and other entertainment.

  • Tip: Use Google's street view feature to see what the hotel and surrounding area look like.

Call ahead. Once you've targeted a hotel or narrowed it down to a couple, it helps to call the hotel directly and ask questions about your specific needs and concerns. For example:

  • How big is the pool, and is there a lifeguard on duty?
  • Is there a microwave and fridge in the room?
  • What is the speed and reliability of the Wi-Fi?
  • How secure is the hotel? What hours is the front desk staffed?
  • Can the restaurant and room service accommodate any dietary restrictions?
  • What is the total price after taxes and fees? Are there extra costs, like a resort fee or parking?

Ask the concierge all your questions so you can book with confidence.

  • Tip: Hotels are subject to accessibility laws just like other businesses. If you have specific accessibility requirements (like wheelchair accessibility or a roll-in shower), the hotel must provide an accessible room (if available) without an upcharge. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for a hotel to charge more for a room based solely on its accessibility.

Contact a travel agency for overseas or remote destinations. If your trip involves an overseas or remote location, there are advantages to hiring a travel agent who knows the area, culture, and businesses.

Travel agents have expertise in travel regulations, visa requirements, and entry restrictions for various destinations and other countries. They can help ensure you have the necessary documents to enter the area you are visiting legally. They can also help you secure travel insurance and negotiate hotel and airline contracts.

Before Booking and Arrival

Once you're ready to book a hotel room, there are still a few more actions you can take to avoid hassles and headaches preemptively:

Request the type of room. When you make the reservation, request the room type you want. For example, if noise is an issue, you'll want a room away from elevators and ice machines and not facing the street.

If it's a resort with a nightclub at the pool, you'll want to be on a side not facing the pool. Whatever your needs, communicate them clearly to the concierge.

Confirm the deposit details. Most hotels need a bank card for reservations and may place a temporary hold on the card for incidentals. Clarify the amount and duration of the authorization to avoid any unexpected charges.

  • Tip: Book your hotel with a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit cards offer consumers far more protection in the event of fraud. If there is a fraudulent transaction, the credit card company will fight the wrongdoer on your behalf and cover expenses incurred on the card. If you paid with a debit card, you will likely have to fight the entire charge alone.

Confirm the reservation. Make a phone call a few weeks before your stay to confirm the hotel has your reservation and special requests (like a room in a quiet hotel area).

Your reservation is a contract. Under contract law, most hotel reservations are a legal contract between you and the hotel. When you make a reservation, you are entering into an agreement with the hotel. Both parties have certain rights and responsibilities.

The hotel will outline the terms and conditions of the reservation, including cancellation policies, payment, check-in and check-out times, guest age restrictions, and pet restrictions. These terms form part of the contractual agreement.

  • Tip: If a hotel cancels your confirmed reservation for reasons outside your control (like overbooking or room maintenance), they are generally required to issue a full refund. Always hold on to your booking confirmation in case this happens. If a hotel cancels your confirmed reservation and doesn't provide full reimbursement, you may have grounds for a consumer rights claim.

Trouble With Hotel Management or a Booking Site? Get Legal Advice

Not much can spoil travel plans faster than a last-minute hotel cancellation or learning you fell for a booking scam.

Most travel mishaps, while inconvenient, usually don't need an attorney. But, some situations warrant help from a consumer protection attorney well-versed in state and federal laws protecting consumers. Hotels and booking sites are subject to consumer protection laws. If you feel someone has infringed on your rights, contact a consumer protection attorney in your area today.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified consumer attorney to assist with protecting your rights with regard to travel rules and contracts.

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