I forgot to merge hotel reservations — reader mistake story
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Julie, who was faced with double the cancellation fees after a last-minute change of plans:
In September, I booked a long weekend trip for myself, my husband and our nine-year-old daughter from Dallas to Los Angeles. Before finalizing the flights, I booked a stay at a Hilton hotel for Friday to Monday, but we then decided to fly out Thursday night. Canceling our hotel reservation and booking a new one would have cost more than just adding Thursday night by itself, so I booked a separate one-night stay. I intended to merge the reservations so we wouldn’t have to check out and check back in to the same property, but I forgot.
The day before our flight, I received notice that I could check in to the hotel online. I wanted to pick our room to make sure it wasn’t facing a busy street, so I checked in and then remembered I needed to merge the reservations. I called Hilton, but because I’d already checked in, they couldn’t combine the reservations until I physically arrived at the hotel. A bit inconvenient, but not a real problem, as they assured me it wouldn’t be an issue and we wouldn’t have to check out and check back in.
The day of our flight, our daughter woke up with a stomach virus that was making the rounds at her school, and we had to cancel the trip. But because I hadn’t merged my hotel reservations, I was now on the hook for two cancellation fees rather than one. I called Hilton’s general reservations line, explained politely why I was canceling and crossed my fingers. I was hopeful they’d only charge me for one night, but ultimately it was on me for not combining my stays.
In the end, the rep was very compassionate and I wasn’t charged a late cancellation fee for either night. I was lucky, and I learned a valuable lesson about merging those hotel stays the minute you book them!
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Julie is partly right: if you're certain you want to merge consecutive reservations, you should do so before the cancellation deadline so you won't get slapped with multiple fees in case something goes wrong. However, there's little benefit to merging back-to-back reservations before then. Keeping them separate may be advantageous if your plans are still in limbo, since you have the flexibility to cancel a portion of your stay without altering (and likely repricing) the rest of it. Waiting to merge reservations may also increase your chances of scoring an upgrade for part of your visit, since suites and other desirable rooms are more likely to be available during shorter stays.
To merge reservations, I prefer to call the hotel directly rather than a central reservations line. Front desk agents routinely field such requests, and in my experience are better equipped to handle them. Each reservation should be for the same room type and bed configuration, and should have similar terms (such as the cancellation policy and included amenities), though hotels typically aren't rigid about this when availability is plentiful. Finally, keep in mind that breaking up a hotel stay into separate reservations won't help you qualify for elite status; you'll generally earn elite credits for a single stay unless you check out for an entire day.
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 Julie 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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!
Feature photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.