Monday, January 18, 2016

Choosing the Right Reservation Options

By David C. Reynolds 

With the infinite number of ways a party can book their travel in this day and age, it becomes more important than ever to pay attention to details. Which in many cases means 'read the fine print' but also involves using some common sense. As a hotel receptionist, I am still surprised at the number of people that travel seemingly on a 'wing and prayer', sometimes landing with no idea where they booked a room, how to get there or know the details of their reservation.

For instance, it is now probable that on ANY Third Party hotel website as well as a hotels own website, you will find an option to gain an extra discount if you choose a non refundable option. Yet people still think if the weather is bad or they get sick and cannot fly that the hotels will gladly waive the prepaid, non refundable option and allow you to cancel your room. They assume if the airline cancels their flight, they are off the hook for their reservation as well. Some people simply want to change the dates of arrival but fail to realize exactly what 'non cancelable and non changeable' really means and are irate they cannot change their reservation. They are even more irate if the hotel actually allows them to change the date of arrival but insists they have to lose the extra discount because they obviously no longer had a non changeable reservation. The same is also true for air fares now. Even when an airline allows you to change a non changeable reservation, they almost always make you lose your discount and pay a higher fare than you would have paid if you had chosen a different option that allowed for changes.

This is where common sense plays a part. I recently booked one of these pre-paid, non changeable, non cancelable reservations for a guest arriving eight months in the future. Is it beyond reason to assume that perhaps something might go awry in the ensuing months and they no longer can arrive on the reserved date? It is one thing if you are booking a room for arrival in two weeks (which is still subject to problems) but assuming your plans may not change in eight months borders on faith beyond reason. I also reserved a non cancelable reservation for someone from overseas arriving months ahead in the dead of winter. The odds of every aspect of their flights and connections across the U.S. going smoothly in February are very low.

One has to weigh the benefit against the risk. In the 'fine print' of these types of reservations is found another shocker. If you are staying/reserving for three or four or five days and you attempt to cancel, you lose ALL the prepaid amount. (You can however miss the first night if delayed en route and keep the remaining days) Suppose the extra discount is 5% per night. On an $80 room, you save $4 per night. Is it worth risking anywhere from $260 to over $400 just to save $12-$20?

Most people would assume no - but when they book the reservation, they fail to read the details and are often unaware they even had already paid for the room when they arrive. This tells me that people are not paying attention when they make reservations. They are simply looking for the cheapest rate they can find and assume all will be well. It can end up being an expensive lesson to be learned. I know - I see it every week.

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