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5 ‘cheats’ to improve your hotel stay anywhere in the world

A holiday should be the best two weeks of the year. You’ve saved, planned, and as you walk out of the office the excitement kicks in. It’s not always rainbows and pots of gold though and the whole thing can be fraught with difficulties and frustrations, whether it be finding the best deal or unwanted surprises upon check-in. Hotel reception Here are 5 things that hotels do that can be very frustrating and how to overcome them: 1. ‘Book now for our Best Available Rate!’ BAR rates as they are known within the industry are misleading in the extreme. Not to be confused with the ‘Best Rate Guarantee’ banners you’ll see plastered on hotel website booking pages the ‘Best Available Rate’ is nothing more than industry speak for their standard rate. It really is just a BAR rate from which all others are discounted. If the hotel is running a special promotion it will be a percentage discount from BAR. ‘Advance Purchase’ rates require payment to be made at the time of booking but these too will be a percentage discount from BAR. The next time you’re shopping around for a hotel make sure you pay attention to the small print! 2. Booked a King room, given a Twin All hotels will overbook their property to maximise the potential revenue. Both cancellations and no-shows mean that even if they have oversold by 10 rooms on a particular night it would be no surprise if they close the day at less than 100% full. Every hotel has a pre-set breakdown of inventory and within the different room categories there will be a certain number of twin rooms and a certain number of king rooms. You may have booked a king room for your romantic weekend away in Paris but if the hotel have oversold (as many do, with Kings being infinitely more popular) you could be facing the prospect of a romantic weekend away in separate beds. Most companies have a way of tagging your booking internally as ‘confirmed King’ and the easiest way to ensure this is to make a point of asking at the time of reservation. 3. You can only check-in after 2pm Throughout the world the standard check-in time tends to be between 2-3pm. It may not sound like an inconvenience as you read it but for those of us (and there are many) who land in our destinations, say, before midday it can be a frustrating process. Tired after a long flight you are required to leave your bags with Concierge whilst waiting for your room to become available, when all you probably want is a power nap and a shower. The key here is providing your arrival time upon making your reservation. All hotels will employ a ‘Rooms Controller’ who, yes you guessed it, controls the rooms! It is their job to, ahead of time, look at the expected arrival times of all guests and pre-assign rooms to ensure as smooth a check-in experience as possible. If you don’t provide this information you will fall into a pool of people who are assumed to be arriving after 2pm and as such no special arrangements will be made for your room. 4. Dream holiday with a ground floor room and a view of the bins There aren’t many things worse than arriving in an exotic destination, riddled with excitement for the week ahead and the beautiful hotel you have booked only to check-in and find out you’ve been given a room next to the elevator, on the ground floor with a view of the bins. This sounds extreme but I’m sure you understand my point. The easiest way to prevent this is to sign up with the hotel chains loyalty program, even if you don’t know if you’ll ever stay in another one of their properties. The reason is simple; all major hotel chain loyalty programs, even for their entry level members, offer guests the opportunity to input their preferences. These can literally be ‘away from elevator’, ‘high floor’, ‘good view’. What’s more, as a loyalty program member your requests will be given priority by that same ‘Rooms Controller’. 5. Beware! Food and beverage prices are not all they seem OK, so this one may sound a little strange but there are things you can do to make that luxury all the more affordable. Here are two perfect example.. 1) Wine prices: Often wine’s listed by the glass will offer only a ‘regular’ or ‘large’ price but check with your friendly waiter and you will find that the menu has simply withheld the price of a small glass. As innocuous as it may seem, if you want a small glass of wine, don’t think you can’t have one! 2) You’ve booked a room but no breakfast as you’re not sure you where you’ll be dining? It’s not too late! Before you stroll down to the restaurant to enjoy your fill beware that the price the restaurant will charge you will always be higher than the price you will get at Reception. So if you do decide after you check-in to eat breakfast in-house then give Front Office a call beforehand. It may only be a $10 saving per person per day but if you’re there for a week with your family it soon adds up. So there you have it, just a few tips that take no more than a few minutes each and might just turn that hotel experience from good to great. Enjoy your holiday! Image: Shutterstock

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  1. Great article and very useful advice! I didn’t know many of these things. I will definitely try them the next time I go on vacations! Thanks!

  2. As someone who works as a Front Desk Supervisor in a well known global hotel chain, let me add a few helpful extra tips.

    There’s an old saying in hospitality, “don’t mess with the people who handle your food”. In hotels it’s the same: DON’T mess with the people who work on reception. We have FULL, UNRESTRICTED access to your guest profile, something no other department dies. In addition, that to file is shared across the entire hotel chain. So if you are a complainer or awkward guest, chances are it will be noted on your profile. With that inmind, here’s some advice for travellers:

    1) Be nice to staff, even when complaining. Nobody deserves to be talked down to or treated like an inferior person. We’re just doing our jobs, and if you’re nice to us then often we are nice back.

    2) Don’t expect free upgrades if you’re staying more than 2 nights. It’s a big loss of revenue for the hotel and so it’s very unlikely. Same goes if your rate is already heavily discounted.

    3) Try and avoid booking direct with the hotel. As Paul mentions above we sell at the BAR which isn’t necessarily the cheapest rate. Instead, try booking through a website such as booking.com, laterooms.com or hotels.com, all of which offer discounted and promotional rates.

    4) Join the hotel loyalty scheme. It’s free, takes less than 2 minutes, and rewards you handsomely if you are a regular traveller. Higher tier members benefits can included free upgrades (subject to availability), concierge lounge access, discounted rates, free nights, discounts of food and beverages plus many related deals with airlines and car hire firms. And if you are a lower tier member, you’re first choice when we need to upgrade people because of overbooking.

    5) Finally, give feedback when you check out. Yes I know it’s annoying having to take a minute to fill out a comment card, but all feedback is useful, since it tells us what we are doing right and wrong. And often, if a guest gives a bit of feedback which leads to a direct response from the general manager, you may soon find yourself getting invited back to the hotel to sample the results of the changes brought about by your comments. Free of charge of course!

  3. If two sharing a room and not booked bed and breakfast it’s cheaper to order continental beak fast room service and share. We normally do.

  4. 4. Dream holiday with a ground floor room and a view of the bins

    I have just returned from a one night stay at
    Homewood Suites by Hilton Boston-Billerica/Bedford/Burlington, United States.

    I am a HHonours member

    When booooking I specifically equested a higher room away from noise, as I am a light sleeper. What did I get … a room on the ground floor beside an exit door

    Sadly, being a memeber of the hotls loyalty programme does not guarantee anything at all

    On checking out, I informed the front desk of my experience in a pleasent dignified manner

  5. Great advice. I always communicate to the hotel prior to arrival if I will be arriving early. I was certainly glad I did last year after a pretty rough trip from Boston to Heathrow. Check-in was smooth as it was before the 10am check out rush and I got a room straight away. The one time I didn’t was after a flight from Paris to Wellington and I just slept at the reception area as I was shattered and just wanted to be in a room. You learn from your mistakes!

    I always treat hotel staff politely as I see how awful some hotel guests are to them. They aren’t your slaves, they are there to help you. Of course, if you get unprofessionalism then discuss it with them or the management, but no need to make a scene

  6. ..Oh yes..a very important tip: If you are really keen on having a particular type of room just call the hotel 24 hours before and make the request with the Front Desk and take their name. They will tell you that they will do their best to accommodate you if you ask nicely. Thank them graciously and tell them how much you are looking forward to your stay. Based on this I always get the type room I want. Sometimes it takes a little longer to check in but if its a longer stay then its worth it. Always make that call ahead though since then they realise how important it is to you.

  7. Thanks Daniel, for the 5 ‘cheats’.

    Unfortunately there are ’Rooms Controllers’ ignoring preferences from the loyalty program profile and expected arrival times indicated during reservation, which you would most likely only recognise after a couple of stays.

  8. I am a Guest Services supervisor At a property within one of the Major hospitality portfolios…The biggest thing is to be polite, and understanding. with almost EVERY major hotel brand, the fine print states that room types and requests are subject to availability…that means, if a room catches fire or springs a leak, you may be moved from a King bed (you booked) to a double (which you did not want) or the other way around.

    Please be upfront about your reservation-If you have special requests, please be aware they are just that, REQUESTS. We will do all we can, but we are limited by guests who are already in house, and rooms that are already booked. Also, some requests may be inclusive of room types that are at a higher price point, in this instance, if you want to be sure to get it, PAY for it…Again, we will usually honor your request for free IF IT IS AVAILABLE, but if someone is paying full price for the same room you want as a free upgrade, the guest paying for the features gets priority.

    The Front Desk, and even the General Manager is not ALL POWERFUL!!! We can comp rooms, reduce rates, and give out some free perks (breakfast, gym pass…etc) but we still have to keep the business going.

    If you book a double and are traveling with 8 people (say a baseball team) and state only 1 person is staying, you may be moved to a king…I know adding guests can change your rate, but it’s the only way to be sure to get that double.

    If you want an upgraded suite, but you are only paying for a standard room (even if you put a request in with your loyalty membership) You may have to pay for that upgrade. While upgrades are a perk of membership, they are ALWAYS at the discretion of the hotel and subject to availability-if we have one room with an amazing view left, and someone already booked it at full price, you can’t have it for free.

    That being said, if your reservation is bumped or moved, or we are unable to honor every request you may have, remember, we are HOSPITALITY workers, and will do our absolute BEST to accommodate you in some other way. A little understanding goes a LONG way, and we will remember you and do our best to make your stay amazing, in spite of not being able to get you the Grand Master Suite with the golden bathtub.

  9. As a Front Office Supervisor, I can honestly say that these tips can only do so much. I agree with my fellow FOS above that we do have access into a reservation and can leave our own comments and sometimes it may call for a blacklist. First of all, you NEVER yell at a front desk agent or supervisor or manager. We are doing our job, do not upset us at all because then we will do anything and everything to make sure you never come back to the front desk. That is not a good thing, believe me.
    Secondly, do not try to check in early and do not ask for a late check out. This makes it hell for the housekeeping department and for you. Just pay attention to the check in and check out times and DO SO. Nothing wears on the front office staff as an impatient guest who thinks check in time is whenever they arrive and check out time is whenever they feel like it.
    Thirdly, try to get bedding guarantees!! Pay extra if you have to. Do not expect a free upgrade because it’s all of a sudden your anniversary. Call ahead and let the hotel know, don’t drop this sort of knowledge as you check in on a busy day.
    Fourth, do not ever lie to the front office. Don’t say you didn’t know about a fee when it was clearly mentioned in your reservation.

    Have fun people! Life and vacations are too short to worry about the small things.

  10. Appeal to the innate snobbery of reception staff (especially in the UK) & give yourself a title, Dr, Prof, Cptn… you get the idea….works wonders!!!

  11. Great advice in this article. Being polite and respectful with the Hotel staff is the key! All the request from the customers have to be realistic and flexible to avoid problems. Calling ahead the Hotel can make the check in smother and faster. And not forget managers can not ignore or change their policies all the time.

  12. Hello, Daniel
    I always make a point of having a quick look at my allocated room prior to having my bags brought up. That way,reception are expecting me back to see them if there is something I am not happy with. I worked in hotels for many years so I understand their constraints, however as you say no one wants to sleep near the garbage room. Just ask nicely and requests are generally met. Great post. Thank you. Monique

  13. great article and good comments very informative.

    BAR rates might not always be the best, same goes with the booking or any online sites.
    always do a research, sometimes your travel agent may have a better negotiated rates.
    if you are flying with airline to that destination check out the holiday package with the airline you may have better value for your money with added extras.
    Be friendly with the hotel staff and when you check in and all the time.

  14. To get the most out of any stay in a hotel it starts with just being nice and kind to the associates that work at the property you are staying at. It does not help to talk down or be degrading to the associates since they are just doing their job. As hospitality professionals we love what we do. Problem guests will have a folio created with their issues for next time and they will receive special treatment at the expense of all the other guests. A checkin time of 2 pm is needed since housekeeping needs to clean all the rooms unless the guests wants to sleep in a dirty room!? People just don’t understand sometimes and acting foolish will take you nowhere real fast! Be kind and you will receive better service across the board!! Simple as that.

  15. A guest will get a nice room when they have earned it through loyalty and as represented by their tier status at the time of check in; sometimes if loyalty is not rewarded then understandably this is the cause of much frustration. A guest should feel free to express their frustration in a constructive manner since god knows some hotels despite their 5 star brand status can be managed extremely poorly at Front Desk and the Director of Rooms responsible for allocating does not always get it right. To say that a guest get a better room at the expense of other guests seems to show a total lack of grasp of how hotels are managed since it is all about the hotel being able to get things right to begin with ; hotels have many ways of dealing with problem guests including giving an ‘upgrade’ which is not one or providing other ‘complimentaries’. Generally if a guest is a frequent traveller and guest at the best hotels they will come with an understanding of what they are entitled to expect and what they are not.
    Many comments here seem to be written by junior hotel staff pushing the hotels interests but the bottom line is that the guest has paid for a certain level of service sometimes exaggerated in the glossy advertising of many hotel brochures and sometimes even a lack of information on charges relating to use of amenities of the hotel for e.g.. the Spa. I believe this should be advertised if there is a payment required from hotel guests as is the case for some venues in Spain/ Italy/ Portugal. If a guest is frustrated by something like this it is also to be expected. On this front, sometimes hotel staff just don’t get it.

  16. I promise you can save money, time, and I can just about guarantee a fabulous room and VIP experience if you book with a virtuoso travel advisor. We have exclusive, valuable, and wonderful complimentary amenities we offer all of our guests. They don’t have to beg for them, or plot and connive. It just takes so much energy and creates such a negative vibe. I’m not going to reveal our secret weapon – but it has to do with personal relations at wonderful hotels around the world. Try it! Once you do, you won’t want to go back.
    Sincerely, Eleanor Flagler Hardy, The Society of International Railway Travelers, proud co-owner of a Virtuoso travel agency

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