|by Jason Steele|
Third party booking sites can give you great deals on hotel rooms. I happen to be a big fan of Expedia because of their best price guarantee. Unfortunately, the problem with these sites is that they cannot guarantee room choices. You have to read the fine print to see that bed selection and even smoking preference are not guaranteed. When you arrive at the hotel, the clerks will sometimes just give out the worst rooms to people who did not book direct.
This is what happened to my family on the first night of a recent trip to Florida. We arrived late and checked in, but were given a smoking room that was just horrible. Oddly, we were also given the handicap accessible room. When I asked about a room change, the night clerk curtly brushed us off and told us to complain to Expedia if we had a problem. In the morning, the staff was much more sympathetic and switched our room to an acceptable one on a non-smoking floor.
I probably will never bother to make a third party booking at a hotel that still has smoking rooms. For a little extra, we could have stayed at a different hotel down the street that is all non-smoking rooms and this would never have been a question. What I also could have done was to call the hotel in advance and speak to a manager, rather than show up in the evening and settle for what was left over.
Even if you can avoid the smoking rooms, there is still nothing stopping a hotel from sticking you by the elevator or in a similarly undesirable location, just because you booked through a third party. It still can’t hurt to contact the hotel in advance and request a quiet room, especially if you will be arriving late.
Another strategy is to contact the hotel directly, and ask them to beat the rates offered by the third party. Essentially, you are cutting out the middle man, so everyone wins.
Nothing starts a vacation off on the wrong foot like checking into a crappy room in an otherwise decent hotel. By contacting the property early, you can often save yourself self the aggravation, and leave the foul smelling rooms to the people who actually want them.