Just like airlines who occasionally overbook, sometimes hotels overbook and leave some guests hanging.
It’s one of the unfortunate realities of traveling but in a lot of cases you can prevent this from happening or at least make it very unlikely that it will happen to you.
In this article, we will walk through several different ways that you can avoid getting walked by a hotel.
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What does it mean to get walked by a hotel?
Getting walked by a hotel means that whenever you show up to the hotel, the property has already sold out of guest rooms and has chosen not to honor your reservation.
In other words, you will have to stay at another hotel for the night.
Typically, when this happens the hotel will help you arrange your accommodation for that night.
For example, they may cover you for a “comparable” room and sometimes even provide transportation for you.
We will talk more about how to deal with this situation in a later article but right now we’re just focusing on how you can avoid the situation from happening in the first place.
Ways to avoid getting walked by a hotel
Keep tabs on inventory and events
Sometimes you can get walked out of the blue but other times you can see it coming from a mile away.
If you have an important stay coming up, keep tabs on the inventory at the hotel.
If you see that the hotel is constantly sold out in the weeks before and after your stay, that should raise a red flag that you could be walked.
Also, try to stay aware of major events taking place in the area.
For example, if there is a major event in the convention center next-door to the hotel, that hotel may be sold out above capacity for that weekend.
Tip: If no other days are sold out except for the weekend of your stay, that might be an indicator that walks will happen. That’s because it’s possible the hotel is not accustomed to that level of occupancy and they might be more prone to overbook.
Related: Why Do Hotels Overbook?
Contact the hotel
As pointed out by Frommer’s, if you know that you will be arriving late, it’s a good idea to contact the hotel and let them know about your expected late arrival.
That should give you a bump against a “faceless” guest who never contacted the property.
If you have a high suspicion that the hotel is going to be very busy, it might even be a good idea to contact the hotel at two different times in the day.
You could contact them in the morning to give the morning shift early notice about your late arrival. That way, your request could trump other similar requests that could come in later.
And then you could call back after 4 PM or 5 PM to speak with someone who will likely be working whenever you arrive so that you will have some type of relationship with that person.
Hopefully, at that point you have charmed them enough so that they won’t want to “let you down.”
Make sure there is room on your credit card for the hold
Whenever you make a reservation, you probably will have to submit credit card payment details. This is the case even when you are not pre-paying for your stay.
If you are arriving late and the credit card on file does not have enough room for the hold at the time of check-in, the hotel may drop your reservation and decide to walk you.
Give the hotel full details of your stay
Another solid method for avoiding getting walked is to give the hotel details about your stay.
For example, if you are staying on a special occasion like an anniversary, honeymoon, birthday, etc., you could send along a short email to management before you arrive or simply call them.
This could also be really useful if you’re staying at the hotel for some sort of medical purpose.
If the management is worth anything they should notate your file and should not even think about walking you under these circumstances.
Or if they do walk you, you could request some fat compensation.
Booking directly with the hotel’s website might be one of the best ways to avoid getting walked by a hotel.
Hotels are known to give preference to those who book directly versus those who book through something like an online travel agency (OTA) such as Expedia or Hotels.com.
That means getting better upgrades and better odds for things like late check out.
But it could also mean reducing your odds of getting walked.
Check the right boxes
The New York Times noted that men have a higher chance of being walked than women and that it would be more likely that a solo traveler is given the boot instead of a couple or a family.
It’s always a good idea to indicate additional guests staying with you in your room even if adding them does not affect the price. That’s largely for emergency purposes and for elite benefits but in this case it can also help you avoid getting walked.
Book a non-walkable rate
In some cases, you might be able to find a rate that has a guarantee that you won’t get walked. For example, you might see this when booking a corporate rate.
It’s probably a good idea to screenshot something like this just in case you need to refer to it later. But be aware that even in cases like this, things happen and you could still get walked.
Book a prepaid rate
While you can certainly still get walked if you book prepaid, your canceled transaction might be more complicated to deal with compared to someone who has not already paid for their stay.
For that reason, an agent might prefer to walk someone else.
Book a longer stay
Hotels might look to walk guests only staying one night versus those with multiple nights booked.
It’s just easier for them to arrange the alternative accommodation for people staying one night and they will probably make more money per night off guests staying multiple nights.
With that said, sometimes the hotel will walk you when you book multiple nights.
They may even try to get you to come back to the property after the first night but I would always push back on that given the difficulties involved with hopping around each night.
Avoid discounted rates
It’s possible that when a hotel is forced to walk a guest, they will start with those who booked the cheapest rates. This ties into the OTA point above, since some of those offer discounted rates.
These are usually less profitable guests who are also probably less loyal to the brand or chain. Losing them as a potential guest will cost the hotel a lot less in the long run.
Have a loyalty account
Just having a loyalty account opened with a particular hotel chain could give you preference over someone who does not have a loyalty account.
It takes two seconds to open up these accounts and it’s free so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t do it.
Have status with a hotel
Having elite status generally helps resolve any kind of disputes and situations with a hotel.
For some programs like Marriott, they even have specific protocol for getting walked from a hotel based on your elite status.
It’s really easy to get a bottom or middle level elite status with hotel credit cards.
These statuses don’t always confer the biggest benefits but at least they give you a seat at the elite status table.
The key is to bring up the status without sounding too entitled. Sometimes you can call the hotline dedicated to your elite level which makes things easy.
But when you’re getting walked, you probably are dealing with a night auditor or management at the property in a face-to-face setting.
So in a situation like that you could simply ask if your elite status can prevent you from getting walked.
If they still insist on walking you, you can then shift your focus to getting compensation by saying something like, “As a Hilton Diamond member, am I entitled to receive compensation for this inconvenience?”
That tends to win people over more than the do you know who I am approach.
Power in numbers
There is power in numbers.
If your reservation is part of a large group booking then the odds of you getting walked are probably nil. It just wouldn’t would be worth it to walk a huge group.
You may not be able to make a group reservation but there is another way you can take advantage of numbers.
If you approach the front desk when no one else is around, an agent might feel more comfortable walking you versus if you approach the front desk when other people are around.
The reason is that they could expect you to get more worked up if they are walking you but allowing other guests to check in right in front of your face.
Check in early
One of the most common ways that people get walked is that they show up late for check-in. As already mentioned, you can contact the hotel and let them know about your late arrival.
But a better way to avoid getting walked is to try to check in early.
You don’t always have to get access to your room whenever you check in early, either.
Sometimes just showing up and letting the hotel know that you are there could be enough to secure your room even if it is not ready at that moment.
If you can’t physically show up, consider just checking in with the mobile app.
If you’re able to secure a digital key, you’re probably good to keep your room but if you can’t get that, your digital check-in may not mean as much.
Return to a familiar hotel
Many properties give strong preference to returning guests over first time visitors. This is especially true for VIP level guests.
So if you had the choice between a hotel you have stayed at before versus a new property, you might be able to lower your odds of getting walked by going with a hotel you have already stayed at before.
Hotels will flag guests as those chosen to be walked before they ever meet them and get a sense of their personality, mood, etc.
But then, whenever they have that face-to-face encounter, the agent realizes that this is not the type of person who is going to receive the news very well and they decide to walk somebody else.
I would never advocate being disrespectful, threatening, or anything of that sort because getting security called on you tends to not work out in your favor.
But I also don’t think that you always have to be so agreeable to things like getting walked.
If you’re someone who can “convey your disagreeableness” without resorting to being menacing, it could be a way for you to avoid getting pushed to another hotel.
What do if you’re walked
Hotels have different policies for what is supposed to happen whenever you are walked. You can check out these policies online but sometimes they are not the easiest to find. We put together a guide that breaks down the walking policies for different hotels so be sure to check that out!
Getting walked can be a pretty frustrating experience especially if you are already exhausted from traveling and not expecting it.
But if you take some of the tips above into consideration, you can probably reduce your odds of getting walked by a large degree.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.