No hotel is perfect, but unfortunately, some out there are so imperfect that staying there can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare. Travel experts share the signs that the hotel that you’re booking—or that you’ve just walked into—is not all it’s cracked up to be.
The photos are doctored
You may not realize a hotel is iffy until you arrive, and spotting many of the bad hotel signs is sometimes as simple as just doing your research on the hotel’s website.
Firstly, give the photos on the hotel’s site a good look. “Hotels with a good reputation and nothing to hide will ensure that the quality of their photos is professional, accurate, and not overly edited,” says Janet Semenova, co-founder of Boutique Travel Advisors. “Hotels whose photos are misleading or heavily photoshopped generally have something to hide.” For instance, look for gradient lines that indicate that colours were touched up. Another technique you might see is the use of a fish-eye lens. “If their pictures are all taken with a fish-eye lens, they may be trying to make small rooms appear larger,” cautions Grainne Kelly, travel expert, former travel agent, CPST, and founder of BubbleBum car travel innovations. A quick Google image search for the hotel should quickly make it clear if the photos on the site aren’t giving the whole picture.
And it’s not just what you do see—it’s the photos that are not there, too. If the website only shows photos of the exterior of the hotel, there’s almost definitely a reason that there are none of the inside. Even leaving out photos of a significant aspect of the rooms—think the bathrooms or the beds—can be a red flag.
The website and Google disagree
Once you’ve confirmed that the photos of the hotel are to your liking, head over to Google Earth for one last check. If the “Street View” of the hotel’s address looks nothing like the pictures on the site, there’s a problem. “Google Earth…will give you a very good idea of where the hotel is located and what is around it,” says Patricia Hajifotiou, owner of the touring company The Olive Odysseys and author of Travel Like You Mean It. “For example, if you are going to Santorini, you are going there for the caldera views. If your hotel is located on the back side of the island, you might have sea views in the distance but you will not be sitting on the cliff looking at the volcano (which might be fine for you). Make sure your hotel is really in the location it says it is!”
Check out these 10 signs you’re about to fall for a bad Airbnb listing.
The price just doesn’t seem to fit
Of course, there are plenty of ways to score great deals on hotels. But there’s a difference between using a legitimate technique to get a markdown and an up-front price just seeming… off. “If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is,” warns Leona Bowman, luxury travel blogger at Wandermust Family. “If you are getting a five-star hotel at a two-star hotel price, it is worth doing some more investigating. Double-check that there aren’t any renovations or local building works that are affecting the property and are causing the price to drop.”
Cassandra Brooklyn, founder of the travel planning and group tour company EscapingNY, also recommends taking a quick look at the price of other, similar hotels to see if the charge seems reasonable. “If the hotel is much cheaper than surrounding hotels with similar amenities, there’s probably a reason that the hotel can’t charge higher, [such as] construction, paper-thin walls, bed bugs, or terrible service,” she tells RD.com.