Unlocking Effortless Travels: Your Guide to Blissful, Last-minute Bookings

Don’t Pre-book

As a standby traveler, it is risky to make a hotel booking before your trip. Circumstances can change from day to day or even down to when the plane leaves. You don’t want to lose money when the boarding doors close with you on the wrong side of the door. We’ve learned the hard way that even if the numbers look great, it can be a mistake book your hotel in advance.

When we attempted to travel to Fairbanks in the winter, a snowstorm in Seattle prevented us from reaching our final destination. We had already booked the hotel that day since the numbers looked great. Lucky for us, the hotel was gracious and canceled our reservation without penalty. I doubt this would always be the case. We may have just gotten lucky, due to our hotel status with our credit card.

You Get What You Pay For

Another situation you don’t want to run into is arriving at your destination at night and finding you cannot reserve a place to sleep. This situation can be especially frightening. One time, when we were traveling to San Antonio, we made a hotel booking upon receiving our seat assignments. Upon arrival, we arranged for an Uber to pick us up and take us to the hotel we had reserved. When we got to the address, it became clear that the hotel didn’t exist. Our Uber driver had another pickup, so he was forced to leave us in a somewhat sketchy area in the dark.

As we panicked, we tried to get our money back and make another room booking. Customer service was impossible, and refused to transfer us to another one of their hotel chains despite their error. Due to our inexperience, we continued to fuss with them. We should have immediately tried to find another hotel and worried about getting refunded later.

Realizing this, we started to research other options. Hotels were filling up fast, and our situation was looking grim. We managed to finally reserve a room and called another Uber to take us there. Upon arrival, it appeared they did not have a room. I believe because of our hotel status from our credit card, the hotel’s staff was able to find a hotel room for us. It was an upgrade, and I don’t think we would have been so lucky if it were not for our status. Finally, around midnight we settled in for the night.

Research in Advance

My goal is to avoid situations like this in the future and help you to do the same. It is wise to thoroughly vet your hotels so that you won’t have any surprises on arrival. I had neglected to read reviews and had selected one of the cheaper hotels in the city. Sometimes you get what you pay for. For us, travel is more enjoyable when staying in a comfortable place. It’s hard to relax in an unclean space, falling apart or having some other unfortunate quality. Sometimes peace of mind, or safety, is worth paying for.

To be better prepared for these situations, I research hotels in advance. Lodging research also helps to see how booked the hotels are when you intend to make your reservation. You never know if there could be an event at your destination selling out hotels. Something like this would be a bad situation. In addition, you can comb through some reviews to ensure there aren’t any red flags. One bad review here and there isn’t a big deal, but if you see one after the other all complaining about the cleanliness of the room, you may want to rethink that booking.

The next step is to put together a list of your top lodging options. I usually have a favorite in mind, but it is good to have backups if the top choices sell out. Have the room booking pulled up and ready to press confirm as soon as you receive a seat assignment to your final destination. Finally, it is the moment to commit! Then you are sure you will arrive, so no wasted money, but you also will not end up stranded somewhere with nowhere to stay. Having accomplished this task, with your most important booking complete, book any activities you have your heart set on that need reservations. Have your tabs/apps open and ready to submit reservations so you don’t have to scramble last second to find each activity.

Rental Car Bookings

One booking you can go ahead and make in advance would be your rental car. If you do not prepay or give your payment information, you can schedule your rental and will not be charged for the vehicle unless you pick it up. As a courtesy, I’d let them know if you won’t be picking up the car. You may also need to call the rental company if your flight is delayed or you get bumped to the next flight due to the plane being full. They might be able to shift your reservation a few hours or would recommend making a new booking and canceling the old one.

Trip Itineraries

The trip itineraries section of my blog is designed to help tackle these issues and help with some of the research. Each post has lists of hotels, activities, and other information. Over time I am collecting a database of itineraries to make this process easier. So far, I have itineraries for Aruba, Barcelona, Winter in Alaska, and the US Virgin Islands. As my collection grows, utilize the search bar at the top of my website page to search for your intended destination.

Creating these travel lists has helped make our trips less stressful. It also prevents us from wasting time googling what to see at our destination upon arrival. You don’t want to spend valuable time in your destination looking at your phone to figure out what to do. This concept is especially true for non-rev travelers, as we often take very short trips and have to make the most of the time. When you only have a day, you want it to be memorable!

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