What To Do If You Get To Your Hotel And It's Overbooked

The prospect of a long-awaited getaway is exciting. Depending on where you're going, picking the perfect hotel for you and your traveling crew was likely part of the vacation planning process. A lot of time and attention goes into this aspect of travel with good reason. From the hotel room amenities and property location to the preferred floor and view, details can make a big difference in your overall experience.

Booking your stay can feel like an accomplishment. This is what makes it so disappointing when you arrive at your hotel only to be told they're overbooked. When there's no room for you to stay, what are you supposed to do next?

Unfortunately, an overbooked hotel isn't an uncommon situation. There are a few typical reasons a hotel might end up overbooked even with your reservation in place. Hotels frequently overbook on purpose as a revenue strategy. Overbooking accounts for no-shows and ensures the hotel stays at maximum capacity even when travelers cancel last minute. Sometimes, an overbooked hotel is the result of an unexpected maintenance issue on-site where blocks of rooms have to be closed off during repairs.

If you arrive at your hotel only to be told they're overbooked, there's no reason to panic. You have a few options available and the first is to ask to speak with the manager. Ultimately, they are going to have more decision-making power than a front desk receptionist when it comes to deciding who gets rooms and who is transferred elsewhere.

It's okay to play the sympathy or loyalty card

When you find out your hotel room has been overbooked, don't hesitate to let the manager you're speaking with know exactly why you're there. Sometimes, a little tugging at the heartstrings can actually go a long way toward getting the stay you wanted all along. This is especially effective if the overbooking is merely designed to keep occupancy rates at a maximum. For example, if you're in town for an important multi-day family reunion or perhaps a honeymoon, there's a better chance you'll be selected to stay over travelers who are just in town for a night on a last-minute sightseeing adventure.

If sympathy around your reason for being there doesn't get you as far as you'd like, you might have to go the loyalty route. While the fine print on many hotel reservations allows the hotel to cancel your stay for any reason, this isn't always the case if you're a hotel loyalty member. Make sure to look over your reservation to double-check if your loyalty status with the hotel guarantees your room of choice even when faced with overbooking. Pointing this out to on-site staff might just be enough to have you settling into your room in no time.

Ask questions if you're moved to another hotel

When your attempts to stay in your hotel fail, you'll typically be moved to a room in an associated hotel. The hospitality industry refers to this as being "walked." Fortunately, you still have some options available to customize your stay.

First, be sure to confirm that the cost of your new accommodations will be compensated. Your hotel will typically offer to pay for transportation to the new destination too. At a minimum, expect to be offered discounts towards future stays or upgraded amenities at your new location. Don't shy away from asking about both.

If you booked your hotel stay through a third-party site, you'll want to reach out to their customer service team as well. It's not uncommon for third-party sites to compensate guests who are walked in one way or another. It's usually a smaller amount, but it's still something extra to make up for the hassle.

Keep in mind that the type of hotel room you're moved to will depend on the resources available. It's often harder for smaller hotels to provide guests with comparable accommodations as opposed to larger chains. According to Hotel Tech Report, Wyndham has the most properties to its name globally for guests, while Marriott International has the most robust portfolio of hotel rooms followed by Hilton Worldwide. Opting for a larger hotel if you're worried about overbooking could give you some peace of mind, even if you can't entirely control the situation.