How to avoid hotel overbooking

November 3, 2014

Arrived at your booked hotel only to be told that you don’t have a room anymore? Avoid the horror stories of hotels who overbook by following these tips.

Overbooking is a strategy utilized by most hotels who know there are a certain number of guests who book rooms but never show up. With overbooking, hotels will accept more reservations than rooms available so that if some guests do not show up, their rooms will still be filled up. There is no way for hotels to know how many will be no-shows, so it's really a guessing game, which can lead to frustrating situations down the line for guests who are turned away.

How to avoid hotel overbooking

1. Understand you have rights

Under the Travel Industry Act, if you are turned away from a hotel that has overbooked their rooms, they must fairly compensate you, typically with a room at a hotel that is similar. Normally, “similar” means about the same quality and within a close distance. Most hotels will cooperate with this regulation, and although it may be highly inconvenient, you should still walk away with a comparable room for the night or at least fair compensation.

2. Steer clear of hotels stating they are close to full capacity

If you are booking your hotel in advance, and the hotel website states there is only one room left, this may be just a sales technique. But it can also mean the hotel may be overbooked. Why take the chance? If you have a few options for hotels, choose one that has more rooms available.

3. Check in early

Typically, with overbooking practices in hotels, they will be turning away guests that have arrived later in the day or evening, because those that arrive early will receive the available rooms first. Leaving a few hours early can save you from a major headache if you reach the check-in counter just a little too late.

4. Book your stay through the hotel

Using third party websites or travel planners can save you money, but often you may be missing out on guarantees provided when booking directly with a hotel. Some hotels even offer a price-match guarantee.

5. Keep your hotel updated

If your plane has been delayed or if you are experiencing car troubles, keep your hotel informed if you will be arriving later than expected, especially if it will be after their regular check-in hours. Some hotels will automatically cancel your reservation if you do not show up at a specific time, but if you call ahead, they will usually make a note of it and accommodate the delayed arrival.

Don’t let overbooking ruin your trip

There are no guarantees when it comes to avoiding overbooking, but the tips above can help. As an informed traveller, you will know a little more about how overbooking practices in hotels work and what you can do to ward off the potential headaches.

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