Booking the Wrong Number of Hotel Guests — Reader Mistake Story

Mar 23, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Joseph, who ignored one important parameter when making a hotel reservation. Here’s what he had to say:

Having just returned from a short trip in Tokyo, I can happily say my girlfriend and I had a great time exploring the city, but we also took some lessons home with us. We spent two nights at the Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay (near Tokyo Disney), and then decided to splurge at The Peninsula Tokyo to be in the heart of the city for the remaining two nights. We booked both reservations through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal about a month before our trip, using points we earned from the Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus.

The mistake I made was to select just one guest for each reservation. Having booked many hotels through Ultimate Rewards and other online systems (usually in the U.S., but also in Mexico City), I had thought that specifying the number of guests was a formality that did not impact the reservation or classification of the room. However, as soon as we checked in to the Hotel Okura, the receptionist remarked that the reservation was only for one person, and that we would be charged 1,000 yen (about $10) per night for the second guest. Thankfully, it did not require re-booking or other exorbitant fees.

We ran into the same issue at The Peninsula, where we were charged 500 yen (about $5) per night for the extra person. Both additional charges were of reasonable amounts, but were still surprising. In retrospect, it would have taken little effort to select two guests when we booked, and it may have even saved us a little bit of money. I’ll definitely be more conscientious of this small detail in the future!

Most larger hotels in North America publish the same rate for one or two guests in a given room, and as a result, a surcharge for a second guest seems peculiar to us even though it’s fairly common elsewhere. Charging extra for two guests isn’t inherently unreasonable, since more people will tend to use more resources and require more cleaning. The reality is that you often end up paying for a second guest even when the surcharge isn’t made explicit, since the extra cost is just baked into your rate. While I’m not a fan of how airlines have implemented à la carte pricing in recent years, I’d be interested to see hotels offer a genuine discount for solo travelers.

Joseph’s mistake wasn’t too costly — in fact, he may have saved by paying for a second guest upon arrival. When booking through Ultimate Rewards, the Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay cost about $8 per night more for a second guest, but The Peninsula cost about $30 per night extra. That means Joseph spent around $45 less in total by neglecting to add his girlfriend to the reservation initially. I wouldn’t recommend taking this approach intentionally, however, as I’ve heard horror stories of hotels refusing to honor reservations and charging astronomical fees when the number of guests is misrepresented. In particular, make sure to get that number right when you book at an all-inclusive property or when your stay is fully prepaid, since you’ll have little leverage if the hotel makes a fuss.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Joseph for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo courtesy of Klaus Vedfelt/Getty.

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