Stop Making These 13 Mistakes When Booking Hotels for Business Travel
Finding reasonable hotel prices can be tough.
There are plenty of travel planning mistakes that we all make at least once or twice. Especially if you’re booking multiple rooms at once for your colleagues — or you’ll be jetting off to multiple business meetings around the country — accidents can happen.
Here are 13 critical mistakes to avoid the next time you’re booking rooms. Read on to learn everything from the best time to book a hotel to which payment method to use.
1. Selecting The Wrong Hotel
Say your boss tells you to book him a room at the Hilton in San Diego. Seems straightforward, right?
You’ll probably look up “Downtown Hilton San Diego” on a search engine or travel site, find it and book.
Only one problem: you picked the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport, not Hilton San Diego Bayfront a few blocks away from your satellite office. Unless you can cancel and redo it, your boss will rack up expenses taking Ubers back and forth.
That’s why the first thing you need to do before booking a hotel is ensure you have the correct location, keeping in mind that many major cities have multiple properties under the same brand.
Always search the hotel’s listed address and compare it to the locations you or your colleague will be traveling to most often.
Discover: How to Find the Cheapest Motel for Corporate Travel
2. Booking Something Cheaper Out of Town
Speaking of convenience, don’t get suckered in by low rates at out of town hotel locations.
Granted, it depends on how large “town” is and what transportation options you have available. If you have a rental car and your meeting isn’t first thing in the morning, booking a room in Fort Lauderdale and driving to North Miami isn’t so bad.
But in cities like New York or Las Vegas, it could take you ages to get to where you need to be.
The $20 a night you saved by getting a hotel room in northern New Jersey instead of Manhattan will be squandered as soon as you pay the Lincoln Tunnel toll and park your car.
Related: We help small businesses manage their travel expenses budget.
3. Choosing a Lackluster Location
Selecting a location isn’t just about convenience to the job site or where meetings will be held. You’ll also want to make sure you’re not booking a room in a total dead zone.
Look near the hotel’s address to see what else there is to do nearby so that travelers can enjoy themselves during their downtime.
Things to look for include:
- Bars (especially those catering to happy hour)
- Event spaces or theaters
- Convenience stores
- Trails for hikes and bike rentals
Especially during a longer trip, having things to stay entertained is important for dealing with the stress of being away from home.
Of course, it depends what type of trip you’re planning. If it’s a quick in-and-out visit and an early flight is on the itinerary, proximity to the airport might be the most important factor to consider.
Tip: How to Stay Productive on a Business Trip.
4. Forgetting To Double-Check The Dates
This seems obvious, but it can be surprisingly easy to get dates wrong.
Let’s say, for example, your flight from LA to Boston leaves on the 22nd. For the best airfare, you’ve chosen a red-eye leaving at 11 pm PST and arriving at 8 am EST the next morning.
Since your trip begins on the 22nd, you might instinctively make that the first night at the hotel. But check-in should actually be on the 23rd since you’ll be sleeping on a plane on the night of the 22nd.
5. Booking Dates During Peak Season
If you have any control over when your project or meeting will occur, do your budget a favor and avoid booking when that destination will be at its busiest.
The best time to book a hotel is always off-peak, when hotel business is trending the lowest.
- Orlando: Go in September or early October, when children are back in school and the holidays haven’t started yet.
- Atlantic City: Unless your colleagues are dying to go to the beach, book that conference in February. The casinos and luxury hotels are always open.
- Caribbean: Summers are hot, but they’re also quieter and cheaper than wintertime.
Hotels in popular destinations offer better room rates — and potentially free or cheap upgrades — when there’s space to fill. For instance, booking in the Miami off-season can save you up to 50%.
6. Making a Weekend Reservation
If you can’t control the time of year for your business trip, at least try to avoid booking over a weekend if you can.
Weekends at hotels are not the best days for business travelers, when they’ll be competing with the general public looking to make their quick getaways. For popular vacation destinations, the price difference can be hundreds of dollars per night.
For the best hotel rates, arrive on cheaper days of the week like Sundays or Mondays and head home before the weekend prices kick in.
7. Not Checking the Cancellation Policy
When it comes to cancellation policies, hotels vary wildly. When booking a room, always read the fine print before clicking Confirm.
For instance, some hotels will accept only a 24-hour notice for a cancellation. Others require weeks or even months, if the room is refundable at all.
If one of your employees has a family emergency and needs to cancel four days before, will your company be able to receive a refund?
Especially if you’re booking for business, plans and project schedules are constantly shifting. You’ll definitely want to make sure you’re aware of the cancellation policy so that you can plan accordingly.
It’s easy to be lured by the lowest rate on the list. But watch out! That one is often nonrefundable, meaning you’ll pay the whole cost upfront with no cancellation options.
Once you pay and confirm, that’s it; you’re stuck with it.
In the pandemic age with never-ending variants and surges, it’s hard to be 100% sure if the conference four months from now will take place.
8. Going Without Travel Insurance
Whether it’s due to COVID-19, a family emergency or an abrupt business decision, sometimes last-minute changes must be made after the cancellation period has already passed.
That’s where travel insurance kicks in.
Although your company may be trying to help its bottom line, springing for the best travel insurance protection is always worth it.
For an average of 5% to 6% of the total trip cost, you’ll have peace of mind on your hotel stays.
9. Not Earning Credit Card Rewards
Today, buying online with a credit card is the norm. It’s fast, convenient and secure. Armed with the company credit card, you’ll be able to make all the hotel reservations your colleagues need.
But which credit card are you using?
Many major hotel chains and credit card companies themselves offer travel rewards cards that can get you free nights and other perks. If you’re a travel coordinator booking numerous stays for dozens or more employees, you could be missing out on tons of savings without the right card.
10. Calculating Cost Without Considering Fees
You’re used to paying sales tax by now. But when it comes to a hotel booking, beware of hidden fees that can push even the rooms with the best prices out of your company’s budget.
During your reservation process, beware of the following surprise items that might appear on your final bill:
- Resort fees: These are charged by resorts for amenities — but you can often negotiate with the hotel to have them dropped.
- Parking: Many downtown hotels will charge a daily fee for parking your car.
- VAT (Value Added Tax): An often-high mandatory tax levied on goods and services in some countries.
Not all fees are levied before your stay.
11. Forgetting to Ask About Discounts
Many hotels offer discounts to AAA members, students, alumni, senior citizens and military personnel. See if they offer these discounts before you book, and whether they’ll apply to any of your travelers.
As a travel coordinator, you’ll also get to use the power of group bookings to save even more. The hotel’s sales representative will be more than happy to offer you a deal on a block of rooms to get your share of business.
12. Skipping the Reviews
Every hotel wants to entice guests by talking themselves up on their website. Even photos can be misleading if they’re taken from particularly flattering angles that don’t necessarily capture the whole truth of the experience.
Always read the reviews to make sure you’re getting what you expect.
It’s not just about seeing what guests thought about the hotel, though. When things went wrong, how did the owners react?
Let’s face it: sometimes businesses make mistakes, and hotels are not immune.
When someone leaves a poor review on the hotel’s website or social media page, seeing ownership quickly reach out and try to make things right — instead of responding petulantly — shows a professional team that cares about their guests.
13. Using Sites Built for Tourists
Most people are familiar with the typical online travel agency booking sites, branching out and using sites that are designed for business travel can save you a lot of money and time.
Hotel Engine’s Lodging Performance Network offers access to over 700,000 properties worldwide, leveraging partnerships with top hotel brands to get you the best possible hotel deal. Becoming a member is free, and there are never any service fees.
You can also take advantage of some great tools that were designed specifically for business travel. These tools help streamline the booking and reservation management process — especially when it comes time for reconciliation.
And with the HE Rewards program, you can earn points with every trip to redeem toward free stays later. Use your chain rewards simultaneously to double up on points!
There are a lot of factors in play when you’re booking hotels for business travel. By avoiding these 13 major mistakes, you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that you got the best possible deal at a location you or your colleagues will love.
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.