Tips from a Hotel Reservation Agent

I love staying in hotels when I travel.  The change of scenery, the (hopefully) comfy bed, and the maid service are all welcome treats.

When I book a hotel room for a trip, I usually choose a mid-range hotel.  I’d rather spend less money on my hotel room so I have more to spend enjoying activities and eating out.

However, I do expect to get what I was promised when I made my reservation. Whether or not I do is partially up to me.  If I don’t ask questions about the hotel and amenities it offers when I book my room, I have no one to blame but myself.  Knowing what questions to ask is crucial to booking a room at a hotel that meets your needs and expectations.

Recently, I started thinking about my next vacation.  With the changing climate of the airline industry, I want to make sure I am aware of any changes in the hotel industry.  I also want to be sure I am well-informed before making reservations for my next trip. To accomplish this, I thought it would be a good idea to get some tips to help me get the most out of future hotel experiences.

My friend, Vanessa, is a reservation agent for Hilton Hotels, so I turned to her for answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs).  She was happy to share her insights.  Here’s what she told me.

What questions should guests ask when making reservations?

Aside from the typical questions, guests should ask whether the hotel charges additional fees such as parking, resort fees, etc. If they don’t, they will be unpleasantly surprised at the time of checkout when they see fees they were unaware tacked onto their room bill.

What questions do guests usually forget to ask?

Guests often forget to ask if a hotel has any special offers or perks such as tickets, discounts, or passes to local attractions in the area they will be visiting.  Guests should also ask about discount rates.  For example, if they are members of AAA, the military, a big corporation, or work for the government, there may be discounts available to them that will lower their nightly room rate.

Have you received any strange requests from guests when booking a room?

I’ve gotten a few interesting requests.  One guest requested that their room be set to a certain temperature upon arrival.  Another guest asked about how the room was arranged to see if it aligned with their feng shui.

My hotel room at the Island Inn in St. George's Island, Maryland.
My hotel room at the Island Inn in St. George’s Island, Maryland. (c) A Traveling Broad.

Why are the rates sometimes different when you make a reservation via the hotel’s 800 number vs. directly at the hotel location where you want to stay?

Rates should be the same whether booking directly at the hotel or using the reservation hotline.

Room rates on travel websites (Hotels.com, Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, etc.) are often lower than those the hotel offers. Why??

The reason that room rates are different on third-party booking sites is that they use an advanced purchase rate.  Their rates are typically lower because they don’t provide a cancellation policy, refunds, or modifications to reservations; they usually require payment in full at the time of booking.

Although these sites sometimes offer lower room rates, guests should be aware that if they book their hotel room through a third-party site, the hotel will not be able to assist them with their reservations.  Also, guests will not receive any reward or points from the loyalty club they belong to that is associated with the brand they frequent.  [*Good to know!]

room keyHow can a guest get room upgrades and other perks?

The best way to get perks is to become a member of the hotel chain’s loyalty program.  If it is one a guest frequents, he/she can earn points that can be good for a free night and other perks.  Upgrades are usually offered at check-in as thanks for customer loyalty.

What additional services are guests unaware of but are available if they ask?

A guest can pretty much ask for anything within reason! A hotel will do its best to accommodate a guest’s needs. For example, if it’s an anniversary, a honeymoon or another special occasion, a guest can request to have champagne and strawberries waiting in the room upon arrival. [*Remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for!]

What have you learned about booking a hotel room since becoming a reservation agent for Hilton?

I’ve learned that the more details the guest gives about their stay, the better their experience will be. They might think they are booking at a hotel that meets their needs.  However, after they tell the reservation agent what’s important to them (having breakfast included, being close to a certain location, having a specific room layout, etc.), we may be able to find another hotel that can accommodate their needs better, thus increasing the quality of their travel.

Any other info you’d like to share? 

Guests wrongly assume that reservation agents don’t like to waste time helping them search.  However, we LOVE challenges and are always happy to help guests plan their stay during stops on a road trip, vacation, or business trip.  We’re here to help them have the best experience possible.
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If you have any insights that aren’t listed here, please share them with me.

Until next time, wishing you awesome travels!

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11 Comments

  1. These are some great ideas for booking a good hotel. I’ve never thought to ask about special offers to local attractions when I go. That would be a great way to save some money on our next vacation, I’m sure!

  2. Thank you for the info. I should have mentioned that we requested early check-in a few months prior, a week before, the day before, AND the morning of! We also heard others say they did the same and from what they were told had expected to be able to check-in upon arrival, the same as we did. Once there, though, they said their policy was no early check-ins. That’s why everyone was upset.

    1. Wow. That is terrible customer service!! The fact that so many guests experienced the same thing and on a holiday weekend…inexcusable. The hotel should have offered something to make up for the inconvenience. If I were you, I would not hesitate to complain to the hotel manager and post a review on social media.

    1. Kim, thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad you found the information helpful. Keep your eyes out for future posts. – ATB

  3. These are some great tips, thanks for sharing! We had the weirdest experience this weekend staying in a hotel with a 4:00pm check-in and noon check-out. We arrived early to find that our room wasn’t ready and had to wait for hours, but luckily found plenty of things to do around the town. The hotel was booked solid and every single visitor arrived early to be surprised by and very upset about this. The employees of the hotel were very kind and were only following policy, but I plan to send the hotel comments today about that part of the experience. If every single check-in is upset about not having a room until the evening it may be time to change the policy! We will definitely take check in & out times more seriously when choosing hotels in the future!

    1. Franki, thanks for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your bad experience but glad to that the hotel staff was kind. Being a holiday weekend, I’m not surprised that the hotel was completely booked. The reason hotels usually have a 4pm check-in time is to allow the housekeepers time to clean all of the rooms in the hotel. Depending on how well-staffed the hotel is, it can be a challenge to meet that deadline. If I’m going to arrive early, I find it helpful to call the hotel on the way and ask if my room is ready. If it is, great! If not, they’ll let you know. Once I know if its ready or not, I can decide whether to head directly to the hotel or grab a bite to eat and/or explore the area. If you want to give the hotel feedback, there are various social media sites you can use including Yelp! and Twitter. If the hotel has anyone monitoring their social media, I bet you will get a response pretty quickly. Hope your future travels go more smoothly! – ATB

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