Just like airlines, hotels like to maximize their profits by achieving 100% occupancy or as close to it as possible.
Because a certain percentage of hotel guests never show up or cancel at the last minute, many properties overbook to compensate for the vacant rooms.
If you happen to book a stay at a hotel that is overbooked, you may run the risk of getting walked.
Here’s what to do if you ever find yourself in that unlucky situation!
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Decide if it’s a “walk” or “relocation”
Your first step in dealing with the walk is to figure out if you’re actually being walked or simply “relocated.”
If you’re being relocated, the walk policy of the hotel will not apply which usually means you will need to figure things out on your own.
(Sometimes the hotels may still assist you with being relocated but you probably won’t trigger any compensation policies.)
Some hotels may only consider you walked whenever you are denied your hotel room after showing up in person at the front desk.
If a hotel notifies you before you arrive at the hotel, especially if it is multiple days or weeks before your stay, they may consider that a relocation.
The terms and conditions don’t always clarify when something is a walk or relocation so you may have to figure this out on your own but it’s worth getting the hotel to clarify.
Look for the hotel’s policy but be prepared to not find anything
Once you’ve been told that you’re getting walked, try to locate the policy for that hotel chain.
Some hotels like Marriott are very transparent about how they handle walks and you can easily find their details.
But other chains like Hilton can vary property to property and you won’t always know what to expect.
At a minimum, the hotel should provide you with a comparable room at a different hotel and if you need to take transportation to get there, they should cover that as well.
Also, if you need to make a phone call and don’t have a phone that works they should allow you to make a call to notify people where you will be.
Try to reason your way out of the walk if you feel strongly about it
You don’t always have to accept getting walked.
If you’re showing up very late you may not have an option but at other times you may be able to change the mind of the person working the front desk.
The way it works at a lot of hotels is that whenever the hotel realizes that an overbooking is inevitable, they will choose certain guests to be walked based on different criteria.
This means that sometimes whenever you are told you are being walked, there are still rooms available. You will just have to persuade the agent to give you one of those rooms.
One of the best ways to do this is to emphasize how inconvenient the hotel transfer will be.
Perhaps you have some type of special circumstance that would make relocating a major problem. If that’s the case, be sure to articulate that well.
Make sure they are offering a comparable room
If you do end up accepting the walk or are forced to accept it then make sure the hotel is offering you a comparable room.
What constitutes a comparable room can be a very subjective determination.
Some of the factors that might go into that include:
- 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
Price can be tricky because you may have paid a much lower rate at the time of booking and prices could have skyrocketed since.
So if they put you in a room going for the same rate that you paid, it could mean a significant downgrade in your stay.
Therefore, shooting for a comparable brand tier often helps you get into a similar type of room. Also, putting a lot of weight on the convenience/location factor is usually a good idea.
Figure out an optimal solution if booked for multiple nights
If you have a stay of multiple nights then there are a few different ways that you could handle your walk.
The most convenient option will probably be to have the hotel pay for all of your nights at the new hotel because that will minimize your back-and-forth.
However, some properties will only cover you for the first night and some might even try to get you to come back to their property after the first night.
Reiterate your need for convenience when trying to work this out and don’t be afraid to push back on the options offered by the hotel.
Request for transportation and other necessary expenses to be covered
If you need to take transportation to get to the new hotel, the hotel should offer to cover that but you may need to ask in some cases.
You might also be able to get other expenses covered that have been caused by the walk.
For example, if the hotel is moving you to another property that will not offer you a free breakfast then you could request compensation for that lost benefit.
Don’t get greedy but also don’t be shy if the walk is truly going to impact your wallet.
Inquire about compensation
In addition to the hotel covering your hotel room, you might be able to receive compensation for the inconvenience of getting walked.
This is especially true if you have upper level elite status with a hotel. Hotels really don’t like to walk high level elite members but on occasion they don’t really have a choice.
They know how valuable of a customer you can be so sometimes you can get some very meaningful compensation. Don’t be afraid to push for value around the $200 range.
If you were told that you would receive compensation make sure that you follow up because some hotels are really bad about giving you what they promised.
I usually give the hotel management a couple of chances to get it right but when I sense that they are dragging their feet I just go ahead and transfer the matter to corporate offices to get things done.
Getting denied access to a hotel that you have made reservations for can be frustrating.
But these steps should help you sort out the process and hopefully deal with it a lot better than you might expect.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.