Our Hotel Was Closed, Permanently — Reader Mistake Story
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Daniel, who got an unwelcome surprise upon arrival during a family vacation:
Earlier this summer, my family and I (including three young kids) traveled to Rapid City, South Dakota. We had a week-long stay planned there to visit several attractions in the area, including Mt. Rushmore. I redeemed Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal to book our flights, hotels and rental car. We called ahead to confirm the flight and the rental car, but ran out of time and didn't call the hotel. That turned out to be a huge mistake.
We arrived without a hitch; our travel there was wonderful, and the United Airlines staff exceeded our expectations. The rental car agency smoothed the process of getting to our car, and the six of us piled in for the drive to our hotel. I was a little creeped out when we arrived to find no other cars in the parking lot. As I approached the front door, I noticed piles of unopened packages blocking the way, and weeds as tall as I am. To my horror, I realized that the hotel was closed permanently.
I took my family to a local restaurant to regroup, where I was informed by a waitress that the hotel had been closed for a month. Despite the hotel being operated by a well-known national chain, I received no notice that my reservation had been canceled. Thankfully, I had more Ultimate Rewards points banked, and I immediately booked another nearby hotel. Because Rapid City is popular and I was booking at the last minute, it cost me 105,000 more points to replace the two rooms I had booked previously.
Chase did refund the points from my original reservation, and I'm going to pursue some compensation from the hotel chain that let me down, leaving me in a horrible situation with young and tired children. However, I learned that it actually is important to call to confirm hotel reservations. Not doing so cost me 105,000 points.
You might think travel plans are secure once you receive confirmation, but a sea of potential pitfalls await from when you book to when your trip begins. Some arise during the booking itself, like if you pay with an expiring credit card or schedule a rental pickup outside of business hours. Others don't show up until later: for example, your airfare might be confirmed but never actually ticketed, changes might be made to your itinerary without proper notice, or as Daniel experienced, your hotel might simply not be there. The best way to protect yourself from these mishaps is to be proactive.
TPG recommends checking your reservations about a week in advance — early enough that you'll have time to clean up any mistakes, but late enough to minimize the odds of something else going awry. I prefer to contact hotels by email so I have a response in writing, but calling works fine if you just want to make sure the property is still in business and has a room in your name. In either case, it's best to engage with someone at the actual hotel rather than at a national call center. In particular, avoid talking to a third-party rep (if you booked through an online travel agency, for example), since they might not know about closures, changes in ownership or other complications.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Daniel a 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 email@example.com, 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. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!