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Five Quick Tips for a Trouble-Free Hotel Stay

Aug 17, 2007
Like many travelers today, you probably spend time on Priceline and other online sites to get the best price for your hotel room.

But did you know that just a few minutes of your time could make the difference between whether you have a pleasant stay at your hotel -- or even whether you'll have the room you paid for on online? Here I'll give you five EASY tips that could make all the difference in your hotel experience.

1. Call the hotel

An ideal time to avoid hotel problems comes prior to check in.

Phone your hotel around an hour after making an online reservation. Have a printout of your confirmation available, while on the phone. Check if the hotel has the correct dates and room type (nonsmoking or smoking) in its records. At that time, you can also request a quiet location away from elevators and soda machines.
The few minutes this phone call takes could make a big difference in your comfort at the hotel. It resolves potential problems while the hotel still has alternatives available --unlike at check in when certain room types - or the entire hotel - may already be full.
If the hotel does not have a record of your online reservation, call the customer service number found on the printout of your confirmation.

2. Bring a printout of your hotel confirmation

Be prepared for possible human or computer error. Always take along a print out of your confirmation number and reservation specifics.

Without "proof" of your reservation, you may be helpless when dealing with a hotel that has no record of you.

Your discount hotel reservation made with Hotwire or another online site actually passes through a number of computer systems, which sometimes fail to communicate. Or, you may show up at an overbooked hotel, where your reservation somehow became "lost."

3. Check in early

Try to arrive before late evening. If you must arrive very late, call the hotel that day to confirm that you are on your way.

If your hotel overbooked and is now full, this is not a problem you want to deal with, especially at one o'clock in the morning.

If you show up too early, your room may not be ready, but at least you've claimed your reservation, and can leave your luggage while you go about your business.

By the way, never leave laptops and other valuables in your room when you're not there. It's best to ask the bell captain to lock these up.

4. Dress appropriately

Dress appropriately when checking in or otherwise dealing with hotel staff.

This doesn't necessarily mean business attire in New York City, but you should look as if you belong at your hotel. Like it or not, the people who watch over hotels and restaurants judge you by your appearance.

Why is dressing well important?

For one thing, check in is the best time to secure a free room upgrade.

On the phone, reservation clerks usually refuse to move you beyond a standard room when you are paying a standard rate. Standing in front of a desk clerk looking as if you deserve an upgrade puts you in a better position. It's harder to say "no" to someone in person-especially if he or she looks important.

I never demand an upgrade. Instead, I ask how much one, such as a lake view room, would cost. In some cases, the check in clerk will simply give it to you, especially if you've been polite and friendly.

It helps, I believe, to check in with a credit card that shows you travel a lot and, if you have one, with the frequent traveler card of the hotel chain where you are staying.

American Express and airline-sponsored MasterCard and Visa cards indicate someone who may be more likely to return.

5. Be friendly to hotel staff

Cultivate good relations with the hotel staff. Unfriendly and overly assertive hotel guests lose in the long run.

Better hotels have concierges whose job it is to help you have a pleasant stay. They resolve hotel problems and obtain hard-to-get concert tickets and other items. Use them when available.

However, all hotels have people on staff who'd love help you. Ask for restaurant and other suggestions. Take the time to learn what they enjoy most about their city. They'll help you whenever they can.

In summary, ensure a pleasant stay by:
-- Calling the hotel to make sure it has your correct reservation information after you've made an online booking,
-- Taking a print out of your online reservation on your trip,
-- Checking in early to avoid problems, such as overbooking,
-- Dressing appropriately so that your hotel will want to give you their best service, and
-- Greasing the wheels by being friendly and respectful.

These small efforts on your part can almost always give you a smooth hotel stay.

Have a great trip!
About the Author
An extensive world traveler, Don Nadeau, president of BidonTravel.com, loves helping people travel "on the cheap." He often discusses how to bid on Priceline hotels.
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