I’m here to bestow my best knowledge and tips when it comes to preparing and arriving for a hotel stay. Had I not had direct experience with the hotel industry, I would definitely not known most of this information, because they definitely are not things you would think of while planning a stay.
Different brands of hotels will obviously have different operation methods, so keep this in mind and do not be afraid to ask questions (within reason) with whichever particular hotel you book with.
PREPARATION FOR BOOKING A HOTEL
Booking online will almost always give you a better, cheaper rate than booking over the phone with reservations or front desk. Many hotels will offer different rates and discounts for many different things, such as a AAA discount, senior discount, reward program rates, and more! It also doesn’t hurt to see if the hotel has a special rate for the company you work for, but this is typically more so for businesses local to the hotel.
I would personally say to avoid booking through third parties such as Expedia, Priceline, etc. Some hotels do not have the access/authority to cancel these reservations, so if you were to call the hotel to cancel, you would be instructed to cancel through the other site. No one wants the hassle of jumping through hoops to complete a simple task. Be mindful if you do chose to book through these sites, as if they are a prepaid reservation, there is a high chance you will not be able to have your money refunded should you need to cancel.
Become a rewards member to the hotel in mind. Reward memberships are almost always free to join and the benefits can be great. Rewards members can get room and internet upgrades, free snacks (oh hell yeah), and even free stays! I’ll link some information to various brands’ programs below.
Browse the hotel’s site for amenity and room availability details. I’m going to be blunt here and say do not be lazy. Do your own research before calling the hotel directly. If there is something you cannot find the answer to, then call. I say this because imagine if you are in line someplace waiting for something and the person working takes a phone call. Alternatively, imagine calling someplace and not getting an answer immediately or getting an answer and being put on hold. This happens so frequently and leaves at least one party unsatisfied. These kinds of phone calls can be lengthy and ultimately unnecessary with a little further work on your end.
Pro Tip: Look at travel review websites to see what other guests are saying about their stay. There may be valuable information about inconveniences of location, outside noise out of the hotel’s control, and other experiences that you should consider before booking. You do not want to get to a place and be blindsided that is located near a noise producing environment, when this fact is known and is all around the review sites and with simple further research on your end, you would have seen. Do you think the hotel is going to tell you when you arrive, “Hey, by the way, we got some loud ass neighbors. Sure you wanna stay here?” Absolutely not. Be smart and be prepared.
HELPFUL BOOKING FACTS: Guarantees and Authorizations
Brands may ask for a credit card to ‘guarantee’ the reservation. Now, this is to ensure there is a form of payment to charge you should you no show. This ‘guarantees’ you will pay for the room in some form no matter what. Hotels have to charge you for not showing up because they would be losing a room and revenue due to holding that room for you with the expectation that you would be coming in for the reservation you made. Look into the cancellation policy to avoid this. Most places are 24-48 hours before the arrival date. Unless explicitly stated, having this card on the reservation does not mean it is a prepaid reservation. Do your best to use the same card for the guarantee that you will be using to pay for the stay. I’m about to explain to you why.
You will see what is called an ‘authorization’ on the card provided to guarantee the reservation. This is NOT a charge- but it will appear on your card statement as a charge and the funds will be held like a charge. What this is, is the reservation system running your card to make sure that the funds are on the card should you not show for your stay and to, in essence, prove to the hotel that you will have the means to pay for your upcoming stay. You will see this authorization anywhere between 24-48 hours, again, depending on the hotel’s cancellation policy. Hotels will typically only initially authorize for one night’s stay prior to arrival and you will continue to see separate authorizations each day of the stay. You may see separate authorizations on your bank statement, but these separate ones will drop off and you will eventually see one large actual charge: the actual amount withdrawn from your account to pay for your stay.
For example, you may see something similar to seeing one authorization (or what is perceived and listed on a bank statement as a charge) for $219.00 before you even arrive. This $219 is the authorization for a single night’s stay, without taxes or incidentals. Then once they swipe your card at the hotel, you’ll see an additional $36.00 authorization. Many people grow upset, use an inappropriate tone, and come at staff saying “You charged me $36.00, but I didn’t buy anything. I want a refund,” when in reality that is what the taxes for your stay could total to, therefore the authorization is necessary to ensure you will be able to pay the amount of taxes upon billing at checkout.
These singular authorizations will disappear from your account like I mentioned above and any additional funds that were not used will be released anywhere from 3-7 business days after your checkout. The hotel itself releases the funds immediately after checkout and it is at that point, up to your bank to release the funds back into your account. From my experience, debit cards take longer, as opposed to credit cards. If you do not see the release of funds back into your account within 3-7 business days, call the card company, not the hotel. So, if you use two different cards, one for guaranteeing and another for actual payment, you can have what is like a double charge, which if traveling, is not ideal.
If your card to guarantee declines, the hotel can cancel your stay. I have seen it happen where a guest had a declined card and the staff attempted to contact the guest, but received no answer and the hotel had to cancel the reservation, only for the guest to show up when the hotel then was sold out.
Once the reservation is made, write down your confirmation number! This speeds up the process if you have any questions or issues regarding your stay and trust me, the staff greatly appreciates this. Certain brands cannot search your stay using a third party confirmation number, however, so be ready to provide the dates of the stay so staff can search using that method.
PRIOR TO HOTEL ARRIVAL
If you have signed up for a rewards program, update your profile with preferences and possible perks choices. Hotel staff cannot read your mind and do not automatically check to see if you’re a member, and if you show up to the hotel and ask for a room with a specification, like being away from the elevator, they may not have any available due to assigning them to someone who had it in their preferences. Always ensure to have your rewards information attached to your reservation. Rewards members have more of a chance getting what they requested compared to non-members.
PRO TIP: Staff typically go through that day’s reservations and do their best to accommodate you according to preferences, but please, know that these are preferences. They aren’t guaranteed and if they are not able to accomodate you, DO NOT THROW A FIT LIKE A CHILD. I truly, genuinely, do not give a rat’s ass what level member you are, you do not get to treat hotel staff (or anyone) like shit because you didn’t get your way. No amount of money you spend someplace allows you to treat another poorly. It sucks we live in an economy and environment that fosters this kind of behavior due to being afraid of losing money, but I personally will not condone this behavior. Sorry not sorry.
It does not hurt to call the hotel a day or two prior to your stay to verbally confirm that the reservation still stands and to reiterate preferences (remember to have your confirmation number ready!). In my experience, staff will work even harder to ensure your preferences are met if you verify and state they are something you truly wish.
Download the brand’s app, if applicable. With this app, you have the possibility to access things such as digital keys and e check ins. E check in allows you to pre-chose your room prior to arrival and to speed up the check in process. Having this feature allows guests to check into a preferred room, side of the hotel, etc. Digital keys can come in handy if you are forgetful, because let’s be honest, our phones are basically glued to our hands. This eliminates the issue of forgetting your key and having to go get a replacement. The card to your room is literally on the screen of your phone and will activate within a certain amount of feet to your door.
IF SOMEONE ELSE MADE THE RESERVATION/IS PAYING FOR YOUR STAY:
You may need a ‘credit card authorization form’ filled out and sent to the hotel by the person who is paying for your stay. This is documented approval of the cardholder for you to use the card for payment without you physically having to present that card. For security reasons, hotels will need to see the card being used for payment to avoid possible fraudulent card charges and to avoid the “I didn’t say I was paying for this,” drama. Please be aware of this, especially if it is not a prepaid reservation. You may still be asked to present a card for incidentals at check in, depending on what the authorization allows.
CHECK IN AT THE HOTEL
My biggest tip for check in is please, if you are in a rush, e-check in with a digital key. I cannot stress this enough. This allows you to skip stopping at the front desk or speed up the check in process. Any member benefits will likely be pre-placed in your room for speed and convenience.
Have your ID and form of payment ready and let the staff know your last name. Staff will confirm the details of your stay and give you member benefits if applicable. Remember, try your best to use the same card you used to guarantee the reservation to avoid double authorizations.
PRO TIP: Do not sigh obnoxiously loud or tap your fingers on the desk because you feel as though staff isn’t moving fast enough or if you have to wait in line at any point during your stay. I need you all to understand that that behavior will not, in fact, speed up the process. This shouldn’t have to be said, but I’m feeling feisty and honest and it’s incredibly rude and entitled. A rush and lack of planning on your behalf does not constitute an emergency and rush on staff’s behalf. I can assure you staff is moving as quickly as possible because why would they want an upset or rude guest? Additionally, digital key issues are not the fault of the staff and staff cannot typically fix any issues considering the fact that they, ya know, did not create the app nor have access to fixing it. Do not blame them for this. Simply note it to staff, and move on.
If you are paying with cash, hotels may require payment at the time of check in to ensure payment is made. Y’all could slip out of the hotel at the time of your check out without paying. The total will often reflect the amount of incidentals, and you will receive the incidental amount back at check out after your room is checked by housekeeping for any possible damages.
HELPFUL HOTEL CHECK IN FACTS: Incidentals
I’d like to explain to you about incidentals. These are things such as on demand movies, room service, damages, or other “charge it to my room” situations. Hotels will take an additional authorization amount of money to ensure that should you want to order these, the funds are available to do so. Depending on where you book, hotels can give you the option to put a ‘stop charge’ on the room to avoid taking this extra authorization, other hotels immediately authorize for it, so this would be an acceptable question to call and ask. Even if it is a prepaid reservation, they will authorize incidental funds, as the prepayment typically only covers the room and tax charges. This authorization will drop off as any other unused authorization amount would in 3-7 business days.
DURING YOUR HOTEL STAY
Now that you’re all settled in, you may find an issue arise in your room. While letting staff know about the issue to have it be fixed, understand that SHIT HAPPENS. A hotel can randomly experience issues spontaneously just as any other place can. Believe me, things going wrong is the last thing staff wants to happen and 99.9% of the time, it is something the staff had no control over. Again, I shouldn’t have to warn y’all not to be rude, but more often that not, people lose their kindness and patience when staying at hotels. You think staff wants you to be upset? In what world? An issue might not have a fast and easy fix, especially if it occurs late at night. I challenge you to find a readily available 24-hour service for fixing things and sometimes the staff cannot always fix it. Hotels do their absolute best to fix and resolve issues because we understand it is not unreasonable to expect a smooth stay, but rude reactions won’t fix the toilet you clogged, Janice.
If you feel so inclined, it is always appreciated by housekeeping when you leave a tip and though it’s not mandatory, this small act lets them know you appreciate them literally cleaning up after you and ensuring you have a clean room upon arrival. I get that it is their job, but let’s be honest- it is a job you likely wouldn’t nor want to do, and it makes their day.
PRO TIP: Don’t want housekeeping to do a quick clean of your room or want any disruptions? Place the “Do not disturb” sign on your door. Housekeeping will not knock on your door to see if you want them to clean if that sign is there. Housekeeping will check to see if you want your room cleaned if they do not see this sign as a courtesy. You cannot get mad that housekeeping was, ya know, doing their job by checking if you wanted your room cleaned if you didn’t have this sign up.
HOTEL CHECK OUT
Check out procedures vary depending on the branch. Hotels can offer a button the phone you can use to check out, hotels will accept calls from rooms as form of checking out, others will slip a receipt under your door day of departure, and others require you stopping at the front desk prior to exiting to complete the process. It helps staff if you stop by the front desk to verbally confirm you are checking out, so there is no confusion for housekeeping to know if you have left completely or just say, went out for breakfast but will be back. Please review your receipt immediately to ensure all charges have been properly posted and to settle any discrepancies. Avoid the “Hey, I stayed at your hotel November 2016 and I’m seeing this charge and wanna know what this is about?” calls.
PRO TIP: Should you need a late check out, confirm the latest time you may stay until and ask staff if it is possible to have one. These are based on availability and are not a guarantee. Verify if there is an additional charge for one as well. Do not stay past the latest time allowed, as you could be charged for an additional night’s stay.
POST CHECK OUT
You may be sent a survey to take about your stay. This is the best way to let the upper level management know about issues you found during your stay and ways to improve the hotel. For example, if you found the rooms outdated or the setup and state of the bathroom subpar, this is your chance to let them know. I can guarantee, these are things the hotel staff have been fighting their hotel ownership to fix, but unless it hurts the hotel’s performance and reviews consistently, these renovations will be put off until the last possible moment.
This was a lot of information thrown at you, I know. I hope this makes you feel a bit more prepared for your future hotel stays and if you have any questions, drop me a line! I’ll be more than happy to help.