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Hotels - How to Book a Hotel Reservation | Concierge Tips and More

Updated on July 6, 2015

How to book a hotel reservation? Sounds simple but this is one of your family's largest expense items for a vacation. Having a few inside tips will save you both time and money.

As a former front desk agent at a premier hotel, I can guide you from behind the scenes. As a frequent traveler who has traveled the world from Canada to Mexico to Australia to New Zealand, China and Dubai, I have had the luxury of both the 5 star hotels and the worst of the worst. I will spare you my stories of trauma and tribulation but I will share with you tips to avoid major obstacles on your travels.

A former front desk agent provides you with great insight and over 14 must do's for booking a hotel reservation.  Check out the  inside tips on how to obtain a free upgrade to basic safety items and stay with us til the end for our poll and for some wonderful travel quotes.

From three simple steps for a free upgrade to special needs accommodations, to knowing what questions to ask when, let me provide some tips on booking your next hotel reservation.  Travel well, travel conveniently, travel safely.


Decorative Words Concierge with Brass Bell
Decorative Words Concierge with Brass Bell | Source

Tipping Guidelines for Hotel and Travel

Be aware that tipping is expected for most of the services offered by hotel staff:

  • Concierge

  • Front Desk Agent

  • Bellhop

  • Tour Guide

  • Maid

  • Car Valet

Know Your Concierge

Know Your Concierge - if you are traveling to a resort or to a high end hotel, take the time and spend the few extra dollars by befriending the hotel concierge.  This is most under utilize asset in the hotel industry.  A Concierge will save you both time and money.  A must for those seeking to carefully manage their travel expenditures and their valuable time.

A Concierge is a title derived from the French word attached to the meaning of "gatekeeper". Originally the "keeper of the keys". The position was created in the times of castles and palaces in ancient France. Leave it to the French to be organized and refined. The sole purpose of the Concierge was to attend to the needs of the guests and provide access to the extensive castle grounds and rooms. Today, the "key" remains the symbol for the concierge and as days of old, the position is more of knowledge than just physical opening of doors.

The National Concierge Association (NCA) defines "the title of Concierge as an individual whose principal occupational responsibility is to facilitate, or to arrange for the facilitation, of any request placed by a client, visitor, guest or tenant..." There are approximately 17,000 concierges employed in the United States and some are certified. Concierges are a new addition to American hotels. The United States did not embrace Concierges until the 1970s and today they remain underutilized and perhaps not fully understood by the American traveler. Concierge are an important resource that can save you a substantial amount of time and money. Vacations and business trips are pressed for time. Making the best choices is one of the Concierge's many job duties. Choosing the right activities, timing the travel, making the travel arrangements can make or break a trip and/or the budget. Use your time wisely and learn to be a savvy traveler and rely upon the expertise of the Concierge.

“It used to be a good hotel, but that proves nothing - I used to be a good boy”

Mark Twain quotes

GmaGoldie Safety Tip

Be travel savvy - "If it is valuable, it must be locked; if it can be moved, it will walk."

Reservation Do's

  • Do plan early
  • Do confirm your room 2 days beforehand
  • Do set up Google alerts on both the city and the hotel of your choice
  • Do know the events for the month you are visiting
  • Do know the events for the days you are visiting
  • Do know the occupancy level anticipated for that weekend (historical data is a click away)
  • Do speak with your hotel's Concierge beforehand
  • Do mention any special anniversary or birthday celebrations
  • Do ask for an upgrade IF occupancy is NOT full
  • Do book 6-8 weeks ahead of time for a Saturday night stay
  • Do book as early as possible to obtain the best rates
  • Do know the cancellation policy
  • Do ask about cash discounts
  • Do ask about discounts offered - especially if you are a senior or a teacher or a member of a large association
  • Do sign up for the loyalty plans - they will save you money
  • Do take advantages of packages - again they will save you money

Convenient Check Ins:

  • Do ask what the recommended time for arrival (busy hotels and resorts often run late in delivering rooms during busy seasons, planning on arriving after dinner may save you and your family substantial headaches)
  • Credit cards are needed to hold the room
  • Be aware - Some online hotels services charge the room at the time of the reservation
  • Be aware - Some online hotel services do not offer refunds on cancellations
  • Debit cards will typically charge the entire cost of the room at the time of check-in
  • Paying up front with cash is always possible - typically will need a supervisor or more experienced front desk agent for this transaction
  • Do ask for a cash discount

Convenient Check outs:

  • Packages - review the charges very carefully
  • Retain a written copy of your quoted rate
  • Do ask the bell person to store your luggage

Safety Tips:

  • Do use the hotel safe - typically this is a free service
  • Be advised, if it is valuable, it must be locked, if it can be moved, it can and will walk
  • Do lock your luggage when you leave
  • Do store cash in the hotel safe
  • Do store unworn jewelry in the hotel safe
  • Do not take your jewelry off - it must be on your person or locked at all times

Standards of Excellence

If you do not like your hotel room, do politely and very nicely explain why to the front desk agent.  Ask to be moved and ask for help with your luggage.  Do tip the bellhop. 

On two occasions I have kept the less than satisfactory room.  The item you must know is not all hotel rooms are the same on larger properties.  During one international conference I had to ask three times (with three different front desk agents) to be move - it was well worth the time and effort.  Having a room that you don't feel safe in or has an unpleasant smell or has noisy neighbors needs to be addressed immediately.

Speaking of noisy neighbors, if there is a big wedding staying on your floor, be careful, weddings tend to go to the extreme here in the United States.  Many a hotel guest has lost an entire nights sleep by staying on the noisy floor and the typical celebration was a wedding.

Most travel insurance policies won't cover you just because you don't want to go.”

— Jon Ansell

Hotel Amenity - Roll Out Bed

roll out bed commonly used in the hotel industry
roll out bed commonly used in the hotel industry | Source

Special Needs - Roll Aways Cribs and Refrigerators

If you or a family member have special needs, do your research about stairways and elevators. Many resorts, especially large resorts simply were not built for wheelchairs or crutches. The architecture of the site was the primary objective not the convenient access for the guests. Special accommodations may be needed to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

  • Do ask for a map of the property.
  • Do map out your room or the wing of the hotel that you are scheduled for.
  • Do request the reservation to be marked "do not move" and specify the wing or specific room.
  • Do tip the front desk agent if the specific location was honored.
  • Do plan ahead and request needed items such as refrigerators and roll aways and cribs. Busy hotels during resort season will run out - you must be first on the list. When you confirm your reservation, also confirm these added necessary items.

Travel Luggage

travel luggage
travel luggage | Source

Seasonal Concerns for Your Hotel Reservation

If traveling during a change of seasons, and you tend to be cold, make sure your room is not on the ground floor. Never leave the front desk agent without complete directions and a description of the room. A ground floor hotel room on the cement during the fall or spring is not recommended IF you tend to be cold. Be prepared and have the best room for you and your traveling companions.

"Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey."

- Pat Conro

Fees Add Up in Hotel Reservations

Sadly the price of the hotel is not the only price you will pay. Taxes and resort fees are heavy. For major cities, there are taxes assigned specify to lodging. For extended stay some of these added fees are waived. Don't be surprised if the room is advertised for $200 and you have 15-20 percent or sometimes more in fees. The largest ticket item in urban areas beyond these fees and taxes is your parking. All of these charges add up very quickly. Know the complete cost and you will stay within your budget parameters.

Beware of Low Rates and Hidden Prices and Fees on Your Hotel Reservation

We recently booked a room in a state that still allows smoking. To our surprise, there are different rates now for smoking rooms verses non-smoking rooms. And of course, the majority of us now desire a non-smoking room so those rooms like the lake room are a higher price!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

~Mark Twain

Free Room Upgrade for Your Hotel Reservation

Timing is everything - weekends, Saturday evenings are almost impossible.

Increase your chances by following these simply steps:

Ask three times very politely and very nicely:

  1. Ask at the time of booking your hotel reservation
  2. Ask at the time of your hotel confirmation (48 -36 hours before your arrival)
  3. Ask when you are checking in to your hotel room

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page."- Saint Augustine

Take Our Poll on Consulting a Concierge

Do you consult with a Concierge when you travel?

See results

Share Your Travel Tips and Experiences

All of us can learn from one another, please feel free to share your travel tips and advise with us in the comment section below.

Bon Voyage!

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    • CelebrateUSA profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken Kline 

      5 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      I never thought of the elevators - I sleep way too soundly - but you make a very important point especially during weddings. Also, never accept a room on the floor with a wedding party. Hotels are plagued with the worst guests when they host weddings events and large deposits for damages are under considerations - sad statement but true.

      I think it is interesting to hear the groups that are staying at the hotel and know who is on my floor. IF I had the money I would pay for an upgrade to have a club floor but alas the check book rules once again.

      Thank you for the contribution and very important point!

    • bobkaiser300 profile image

      Joseph Kaiser 

      5 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      A lot of good information about booking a hotel room. One to add, book a room away from elevators, unless you have trouble walking!

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      The hotel portion of the vacation is so important and such a big part of the expense, it really pays to save smart and know how to be a savvy spender. Thank you for stopping by.

    • SteveoMc profile image


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Very nice hub. I learned a couple of things with this. Good job.


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