Hotel Walk Policies Explained for Major Chains (Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, & Marriott)

Getting walked from a hotel is rare but when it happens it can be one of the most frustrating experiences for a traveler.

Some hotels make it relatively easy for you to figure out the process for dealing with getting walked while others are not so forthcoming.

Below, I’ll take a look at some of the hotel walk policies from major chains like Hilton, Marriott, IHG, and Hilton.

I’ll break down what these policies are all about and give you some tips and insight so that you’ll know how to best go about dealing with them.

Related: 15 Ways to Avoid Getting Walked by a Hotel

What do hotel walk policies usually cover?

As you take a look at each hotel policy below, here are the different elements that will stick out.

First night covered

The standard policy for walking hotel guests is that the property covers the first night of your stay (wherever that ends up being).

Some even report also receiving a refund for the booking although that seems to be the minority.

But what happens if you have a multiple night stay?

In some situations, the hotel will just cover the first night at a different property and then request for you to come and complete your stay back at the original hotel.

But in other situations the hotel could just pay for your first night and then expect you to make a completely different reservation for the remainder of your stay.

Most likely, the most convenient option for you will be to move to a different hotel and then stay there for the remainder of your stay assuming that you like the accommodations.

So you could request for the hotel to pay another hotel for the same number of nights that you originally booked.

Some hotels will agree to do this so I would push for this if you feel like it’s a good option.

“Comparable” hotel

Some of the policies state that the hotel will provide a free night for you at a “comparable hotel.”

In some situations, the hotel may already have arrangements with other properties and so they will simply ship you off to one of those.

Presumably, because guests are constantly transported to these same properties they would qualify as comparable hotels to most paying customers. Otherwise, there would be a lot of uproar.

There may also be a protocol where the hotel first searches for another room at another property of the same brand.

Indeed, this appears to be the policy at some Hilton brands like Hilton Garden Inn which reportedly states:

If the hotel cannot honor any confirmed or guaranteed reservation, the hotel must make a special effort to find suitable accommodations at another Brand hotel. However, if there are no Brand hotel accommodations in the area suitable to the guest, the employee must offer to find other suitable accommodations within the Hilton Portfolio of Brands. If there are no other hotels available, suitable accommodations for the guest should be secured.

So if you were staying at a Hilton Garden Inn, maybe the hotel tries to put you in the nearest Hilton Garden Inn.

If that doesn’t work then they may try to find a hotel within the Hilton chain as a hole which could mean spending a night at a Hilton Doubletree, for example.

If they still can’t do that then they could transfer you to a hotel belonging to a different chain such as a Marriott Courtyard. This can be a common practice when the properties share the same management or ownership. 

Often times, the comparable hotel determination will be made on the fly, based on current availability, and it can be a major subjective determination.

Relevant factors that would go into this include:

  • Price
  • Comparable brand tier
  • Location (safety and general appeal of the area)
  • Convenience (distance from original hotel and/or from the city or airport)
  • Amenities at the hotel (breakfast, lounge)
  • The room type you will receive

Obviously, price is going to be a major measuring stick for a comparable room.

But we all know that price does not always dictate quality and it surely does not always take into account convenience.

So if you do end up getting walked, try to state your case as to why the hotel is or is not comparable based on some of the factors above.

Transportation

In addition to getting your room covered, you may be able to get transportation covered.

Some hotel will cover you to the hotel they are moving you to while others claim they will cover transportation both to and from that hotel.

The method of transportation may just be dictated based on the circumstances.

It’s possible that you could be shuttled to a different hotel or perhaps you work something out with a taxi or rideshare service.

I’m sure public transportation is on the table for many hotels as well, but if you have a lot of luggage you may be able to push back on that.

Other “necessary expenses” incurred by the change

Some of the hotel policies will offer to cover necessary expenses that are caused by the change.

This again can be a very subjective determination based on the context.

For example, one could argue that if you lost your breakfast benefit you’ve now incurred a necessary expense because of the change.

Don’t be surprised to get some pushback when you go for these but if you can articulate why an expense became necessary due to the change, you may have some success.

Extra compensation

Some hotel chains will offer extra compensation to elite members. Sometimes this can come in the form of cash or in the form of points or potentially both.

These offerings can be pretty generous (such as $200, a free night certificate, etc.) In some occasions, you might be able to negotiate for something like an upgrade to a suite on your next visit, spa credit, etc.

So getting walked can result in a nice little come up.

Stipulations

Some hotels may only trigger the reservation guarantee policy when you don’t have a room due to some type of “typical” overbooking situation.

But this leaves some people hanging in different scenarios.

For example, there’s been situations where hotels close due to coronavirus or for other random reasons, as illustrated by posts like these.

There, a guest was reportedly denied their room for issues related to coronavirus (although people suspect there was actually a different explanation).

When the guest inquired about compensation for the walk, the hotel responded with the following:

With regards to your claim for the IHG promise, I would like to explain that this applies to operational hotels that cannot honor guests reservations. This could be due to overbooking, wrong inventory, errors on the website/central reservation or hotel staff errors. As the hotels closure is due to the current COVID-19 situation we are still going through, we can not classify the cancellation of your reservation in any of the reasons I mentioned.

That really does not align very well with the language from the IHG policy below.

Another area where hotels can trip you up is by letting you know that they will not be honoring your reservation before you ever arrive at the hotel.

It’s what they tend to call a “relocation” (instead of a “walk”).

For example, you could receive a notification from the hotel one week prior to arrival telling you that your reservation will not be available.

The hotel may still assist you with finding a different property but you may ultimately be responsible for the new booking.

That would be considered a relocation.

There’s a lot of debate about when a relocation becomes a walk.

Some people think walking only happens whenever you are physically present at the check-in desk and then denied your room there.

Others feel like it happens when a reservation is not honored.

To me, a walk seems like it should be triggered whenever you are past the cancellation window because at that point the hotel knows you are truly committed to staying at that property.

At that time, you may have also made other travel arrangements that make an unexpected canceled reservation that much more of a burden.

The hotel owes it to you to fix the situation.

I also think many cancellations of a pre-paid booking should also be considered a walk.

That’s because when you book a pre-paid room you are showing full commitment while giving up flexibility and taking a risk.

If months later a hotel decides to not honor the reservation, rates could have spiked in the area or availability disappeared and you get penalized despite clearly signaling your commitment and making an accurate calculated risk.

But that’s just my two cents.

Award travel

So how does award travel factor into getting walked?

I’ve seen mixed reports about people still receiving points and credits when getting walked.

Some hotels have outright rejected this while others have agreed to provide points and elite night credits for what the night would have earned.

It probably helps to have higher levels of elite status in this situation.

Individual hotel chain policies

Hilton

For whatever reason, Hilton is pretty tightlipped about its walk policy.

However, from the research I’ve done it seems like you could expect a Hilton hotel to follow the standard practice of paying for the room, phone calls, and transportation.

However, not all Hilton properties go about the situation the same way thanks to the vagueness of their policy.

The one thing you can probably count on is your Diamond status helping you out in these situations, though.

If you’re Hilton Diamond member, there’s a lot of reports of people getting $200 cash for the walk. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not necessarily always offered up proactively so you may need to ask for it.

Hilton hotel front desk

Hyatt

Link to walk policy

Relevant quote:

If you book a room on hyatt.com and prepay with a credit card, Hyatt will have a room reserved for you when you arrive, or will provide, at no cost to you:


• A free night at a comparable hotel
• Free transportation to and from that hotel
• One free telephone call to advise your family where you can be reached

With Hyatt, you get the standard treatment of a free night at a comparable hotel along with free transportation to and from the hotel. And you can’t forget about the one free phone call as if you were taken into custody for the night.

Hyatt does not publish any extra benefits for elite members but you could still get something extra in some cases. Don’t be afraid to ask.

IHG

Link to walk policy

Relevant quote:

If for any reason your reservation cannot be honored, IHG will provide you with a room and transportation to another convenient and comparable hotel. And, we’ll pay for the full cost of the first night’s lodging price, plus tax. Any advance deposit will be refunded to you.

IHG maintains a pretty typical policy and I like that they throw in the word “convenient” along with comparable. That might give your argument a little bit more force when trying to request a hotel closer to where you need to be.

Marriott

Link to walk policy

Relevant quote:

If for some reason we’re unable to honor your reservation, we’ll pay for your accommodations that night at a nearby hotel and compensate you for the inconvenience.

Marriott is great about publishing its policies for walking guests and the policy is actually pretty generous.

The amount of compensation that Marriott will provide you with depends on the brand you are staying at. In addition, different levels of elite status can receive additional perks as well.

Here’s a look at how the compensation works:

BrandGuest Compensation*
EDITION®, The Luxury Collection®, W® Hotels, JW Marriott®, Marriott Hotels®, Sheraton®, Delta Hotels®, Le Méridien®, Westin®, Autograph Collection®, Renaissance® Hotels, Tribute Portfolio®, Gaylord Hotels®$200 USD + 90,000 points
Courtyard®, Four Points®, SpringHill Suites®, Protea Hotels®, Fairfield by Marriott®, AC Hotels®, Aloft®, Moxy® Hotels, Residence Inn®, TownePlace Suites®, Element®$100 USD (Platinum and Titanium Elite members also receive 90,000 points)
**The Ritz-Carlton®, **Ritz-Carlton Reserve®, **St. Regis®Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite members receive:  
$200 USD + 140,000 points

Final word

There is definitely room for improvement for lots of hotels when it comes to removing vagueness from their walk policies.

I believe this vagueness is on purpose in order to allow for hotels to have flexibility in how they deal with these situations but it can make it hard to know what to expect for guests.

I think it’s reasonable to expect to get the first night covered, transportation covered, and possibly other necessary expenses in most cases. And if you hold elite status, you can easily make a good case for additional compensation.

Just be ready for some hotels to throw you a curveball if they don’t believe the walk policy should be triggered.

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