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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Frank, who overlooked a crucial detail while booking a hotel room. Here’s what he had to say:

Early this year, I planned a trip with my husband to Decatur, Georgia for a square dancing event. We wanted to stay within walking distance, and that narrowed our choice down to two properties: the Courtyard by Marriott and the Super 8. 

Under normal circumstances I’d choose Courtyard all the way, but it was over $250 per night, which seemed like quite a lot for a Courtyard property not situated in a premium area. The Super 8 was $100 per night, and we figured we weren’t going to spend much time in the hotel room anyway, so why not? We also saved a few extra bucks per night by booking a non-refundable rate.

On the night of check-in, I was flying to ATL from HOU and my husband was flying in from MDW. We were supposed to arrive within minutes of each other, but my flight was delayed about four hours due to weather in Texas. He arrived at the hotel around the time I took off, and when I logged in to Southwest’s Wi-Fi (free for A-List Preferred members), I finally learned of my mistake. “You didn’t request non-smoking,” my husband texted.

I can’t remember the last time I was in a hotel that wasn’t smoke-free, and it didn’t even occur to me that hotels still allowed smoking in rooms in 2018. I pulled up my confirmation, and sure enough, I had picked a smoking room. My husband is allergic to smoke, and I couldn’t handle it either once I finally made it to the hotel after 1 a.m. We begged to switch rooms, but the desk clerk informed us they were oversold on non-smoking rooms, so we were stuck.

One night in the smoke-permeated Super 8 room was all we could handle. We forfeited the rest of our reservation and booked into the Courtyard at $250 per night for our last two nights. We bought a huge bottle of Febreze and drenched our clothes to get the smoke smell out.

As cigarette smoking has waned in the US, the travel industry has become less accommodating to smokers. Smoking has been banned since 2000 on flights into and out of the country (though people may still light up onboard elsewhere), and smoking rooms have become less common as demand decreases and hotels try to trim cleaning costs. Six states and over 150 other municipalities ban smoking rooms outright, and a 2016 report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that 85% of domestic hotels offered exclusively non-smoking rooms.

Of course, the flip side of that finding is that 15% of properties still offered smoking rooms at the time. Such rooms remain prevalent in select destinations (like Las Vegas), and in many other parts of the world where smoking hasn’t lost its popularity. Make sure to select a non-smoking room if you’re allergic or sensitive to smoke, or if the smell will simply make your stay less enjoyable. Otherwise, you may be at the mercy of the front desk.

Frank’s mistake is a simple but common oversight, and a good reminder to read room descriptions thoroughly before you book, especially if your reservation is non-refundable. In addition to checking the room type and published features, take note of any omissions. Amenities like internet access, parking and even air conditioning are fairly standard, but you should verify you’ll have them ahead of time if they aren’t listed explicitly.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Frank 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 by Sunrise/Unsplash

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