Hotel Tips for your Summer Vacation {from a Frequent Business Traveler}

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Hotels and I have a long-standing relationship. Wait, that sounds a little risqué. Let me try again. For nearly 20 years, I have worked in the hospitality industry, and I have gained a lot of inside knowledge about hotels, specifically. One of the biggest learnings for me was that summer travel season often brings the highest NEGATIVE ratings for hotels. A reason often cited is that travelers who are less experienced travelers and who have higher expectations are visiting hotels during the summer season, so they are more critical and want more from their stay. To help you enjoy a summer hotel stay that delivers on your expectations, here are a few tips from my experiences.

Read reviews and choose carefully.

I’m a huge fan of TripAdvisor and their travel forums. In those forums, you can read answers to specific questions, like “Which neighborhood is closest to the most tourist attractions?” or “How do I choose between the three hotels on the same corner?” On TripAdvisor you’ll be able to read reviews of hotels and explore destinations in a way that helps make decisions. For instance, don’t mistakenly choose an adult-style resort for vacationing with your kids and then wonder why all the adults are looking sideways at your loud children. Be sure to dive deeper and read hotel reviews, both on a site like TripAdvisor and on the hotel brand website. I look for a good rating and then dive into the poor reviews to determine their impact. For instance, if all the poor reviews are about cleanliness, then I would steer clear, but if the poor reviews are about a less-than-stellar check-in experience, I would likely overlook those as not being completely relevant to the hotel’s quality. Everyone has an off day when greeting guests, but you should always expect a clean, functioning hotel room.

Book wisely.

I admit I’m biased, but use “direct.com” sites to book hotels, such as ihg.com or marriott.com. These sites give you better coverage for cancellations and resolutions at the hotel than third-party sites like hotels.com or Expedia. When you book through one of those sites, you are essentially paying the room fee not to the hotel but to that booking site. They give a pre-determined amount to the hotel and that is all the hotel will capture. For you, it is just a hotel booking, but to the hotel, a booking through a third-party site is one that comes with certain restrictions and limitations and a set payment. (Plus, you won’t receive loyalty points from the hotel brand for these reservations.)

Be sure to read the rate details and understand the change opportunities and cancellation policy as well as the taxes and fees. You also want to pay close attention to things like daily parking fees or resort charges. Most sites do a good job of providing the details, but you may need to click on an information icon to see the specifics. Life happens, but it is up to you to book the rates that give you the flexibility you need (similar to airlines).

Address concerns with hotel management first.

Something will go wrong – after all, hotels are operated by humans and you’re hanging out in close proximity to lots of other humans. When it does go wrong, address the issue with the hotel’s management BEFORE you go to social media or call the 1.800.COMPLAIN customer service line. Give the hotel a chance to make it right with you. They are looking for an opportunity to make you happy in the moment when they can actually move your family to another room or offer a free drink at the bar or even a discount on the room rate. If you leave without addressing the issue but insist on raising it later, the hotel loses that opportunity to make it right. I would also highly recommend that you keep your request to repair the issue in line with its severity. If you start demanding a free room night because there was a spotty glass on your coffee bar, you’ll likely end up walking away disappointed.

Use hotel apps and learn how to access WiFi.

Nearly every hotel brand offers free WiFi access, particularly to their loyalty members. Be sure to join the appropriate loyalty program and download the company’s app, which can make accessing WiFi even easier. For instance, with IHG.com and their app, you are instantly connected to IHG Connect WiFi in their hotels where that service is available. And please, get appropriate headphones for your kids. Everyone in your family can listen on their own devices when you’re together in one room, and when you’re in public spaces, no one really wants to listen to the latest children’s show with your kids. You have probably learned to tune out and turn it into background noise, but for those around you, it is intrusive.

Remember you are not the only ones on vacation.

Hotel hallways are notoriously loud sound chambers that amplify noise. Please ask your children to be quiet in the hallways, to close doors quietly, and to walk, not run. Generally speaking, make your children aware that the hotel is not theirs alone, but that they are sharing it with hundreds of others in close quarters. Just a little bit of awareness can go a long way to making the shared spaces more enjoyable for everyone.

Nothing can ruin a vacation more quickly than a hotel that doesn’t meet your family’s needs or live up to expectations. But if you choose carefully and book wisely, you’ll be on your way to a better hotel stay.

Looking for more recommendations? See these tips from other BMB contributors.

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Born in Wisconsin, Chris moved South with her family, first to Richmond, Virginia, and then to Birmingham when she was 12. She loves being a girl raised in the South, and her only remaining Midwestern traits are a love for the Packers and a fondness for bratwurst. In 2010, Chris reconnected with Christopher, a former Birmingham-Southern College classmate, after a random meeting in the cereal aisle at Publix. They married in 2011, not realizing that they were bringing together a perfect storm of teenage angst with their three children. Today, Chris is the center support that keeps the seesaw of her family balanced, leading a blended family of three young adults and enjoying an empty nest. Before the pandemic, most days were busy managing client relationships for a corporate event production company, but after six months of unemployment, she has become the parish administrator aka “the church lady” for her church. When she's not working, she loves reading a rich historical novel, volunteering with her sorority, and planning their next wine-tasting excursions.