When booking a hotel stay, having the right rules of thumb in mind can help you get the most value from your booking and ensure a smooth, enjoyable stay. From budgeting tips to strategies for earning and using loyalty points, there are some key best practices to follow.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top rules of thumb for hotels that every traveler should know. You’ll get insider tips that can upgrade your entire hotel experience.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to the key rules of thumb for hotels: Book refundable rates when possible, join all hotel loyalty programs, use points for high-value redemptions, request upgrades at check-in, avoid resort fees when you can, and always read reviews before you book.

Book Refundable Rates When Possible

Gives flexibility if plans change

One of the key rules of thumb for maximizing your hotel stay is to book refundable rates whenever possible. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes plans change at the last minute. By opting for a refundable rate, you give yourself the flexibility to modify or cancel your reservation without incurring any penalties or fees.

This can be particularly advantageous if you’re unsure about your travel plans or if there’s a possibility of unexpected events arising.

Often only $10-20 more per night

You might be hesitant to book a refundable rate, assuming it will be significantly more expensive than a non-refundable one. However, you’d be surprised to know that the price difference is often minimal.

In fact, many hotels charge just a small fee, usually ranging from $10 to $20 more per night for a refundable rate. Considering the peace of mind it offers, this additional cost is well worth it.

Well worth the extra peace of mind

Choosing a refundable rate is a smart decision that provides you with an extra layer of peace of mind during your hotel stay. It eliminates the stress of potential cancellation fees or penalties if your plans change unexpectedly.

Additionally, having the option to modify your reservation without any hassle ensures that you can adapt to unforeseen circumstances without any additional worries.

According to a recent survey conducted by Travel + Leisure, 80% of travelers prefer booking refundable rates for their hotel stays. This statistic clearly indicates the growing importance of flexibility in the travel industry.

Leverage Hotel Loyalty Programs

Hotel loyalty programs are a fantastic way to maximize your hotel stay and enjoy exclusive benefits. By participating in these programs, you can earn points, status, and perks on every stay, making your experience even more enjoyable.

Here are some key rules of thumb to make the most of hotel loyalty programs:

Join programs for all major chains you use

When it comes to hotel loyalty programs, it’s important to join programs for all the major hotel chains that you use. This way, you can accumulate points and benefits across different brands and have more options when it comes to choosing a hotel for your stay.

Whether you prefer luxury hotels or budget-friendly accommodations, there’s likely a loyalty program that suits your needs.

Earn points, status, and perks on every stay

Once you’ve joined the loyalty programs, be sure to take advantage of every opportunity to earn points, status, and perks. This includes staying at participating hotels, dining at hotel restaurants, and even utilizing hotel amenities.

The more you engage with the program, the more benefits you will unlock, such as complimentary upgrades, late check-out, or access to exclusive lounges.

Use points for free nights, upgrades, etc.

One of the major advantages of hotel loyalty programs is the ability to redeem points for free nights, upgrades, and other benefits. As you accumulate points through your stays, you can use them to enhance your hotel experience.

Imagine treating yourself to a luxurious suite or enjoying a free night at a top-notch hotel – all thanks to your loyalty program points.

It’s worth noting that each loyalty program has its own redemption rules, so familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions to ensure you make the most of your points. Some programs also offer partnerships with airlines, car rental companies, and other travel-related businesses, allowing you to use your points for more than just hotel stays.

By leveraging hotel loyalty programs, you can enhance your hotel stays and enjoy a range of benefits and perks. So, if you haven’t already, join the loyalty programs of the major hotel chains you use and start accumulating points for amazing rewards!

Redeem Points Strategically

When it comes to maximizing the value of your hotel stay, one key rule of thumb is to redeem your points strategically. By doing so, you can make the most out of your loyalty program benefits and enjoy a more luxurious experience.

Use for high-end properties to maximize value

If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck when redeeming hotel points, it’s generally recommended to use them for high-end properties. These luxury hotels often have higher room rates, making them a great option for maximizing the value of your points.

By using your points for a high-end property, you can enjoy a more extravagant stay without breaking the bank.

Did you know? According to a study conducted by Travel + Leisure, redeeming hotel points for high-end properties can provide an average savings of up to 40% compared to paying for the room outright.

Aim for at least 1 cent per point in value

When redeeming your hotel points, it’s important to aim for at least 1 cent per point in value. This means that if a hotel room costs $200 per night, you should aim to redeem no more than 20,000 points.

By following this rule of thumb, you can ensure that you’re getting a good return on your points and maximizing their value.

Keep in mind that the value of your points can vary depending on the hotel chain and the specific property. It’s always a good idea to research the redemption rates and compare them to the cash price of the room to determine if you’re getting a good deal.

Transfer to airline partners as needed

Many hotel loyalty programs allow you to transfer your points to airline partners, providing you with even more flexibility and value. If you have a specific flight in mind or are looking to top up your airline miles, transferring your hotel points can be a smart strategy.

Before transferring your points, it’s important to consider the transfer ratios and any associated fees. Some programs offer generous transfer ratios, while others may require a higher number of hotel points to be converted into airline miles.

Be sure to weigh the pros and cons and assess the value you’ll be getting from the transfer.

Pro Tip: Websites like The Points Guy and Million Mile Secrets offer valuable insights and tips on maximizing hotel points and transfers to airline partners.

Request Upgrades and Discounts at Check-in

When checking into a hotel, it’s always worth politely asking the front desk if there are any upgrades available. While there’s no guarantee, sometimes hotels have higher room categories available and may be willing to provide an upgrade if you simply ask.

It’s important to ask in a friendly and respectful manner, as hotel staff are more likely to accommodate polite guests.

Mention status, loyalty, and length of stay

If you have any status or loyalty with the hotel chain or booking platform, be sure to mention it at check-in. Hotels often prioritize their loyal customers and may provide additional perks or upgrades based on your loyalty status.

Additionally, if you’re staying for an extended period, mentioning the length of your stay could increase your chances of receiving an upgrade or discount.

Inquire about discounts for amenities

Hotels offer a range of amenities such as spa services, restaurants, or parking. It’s worth asking the front desk if there are any discounts or promotions available for these amenities. Some hotels may have special offers or packages that can help you save money on these additional services.

By inquiring about discounts, you may be able to enhance your hotel experience without breaking the bank.

It’s important to note that not all hotels will be able to accommodate upgrade or discount requests, especially during peak seasons or if the hotel is fully booked. However, it never hurts to politely ask, as you may be pleasantly surprised by the hotel’s willingness to go the extra mile for their guests.

Avoid Resort and Amenity Fees When Possible

When booking a hotel, it’s important to be aware of any additional fees that may be charged during your stay. One common fee that many hotels impose is the resort or amenity fee. This fee is often added on top of the room rate and covers the cost of amenities such as Wi-Fi, pool access, or fitness center usage.

While these amenities can enhance your stay, it’s worth considering whether the fees are justified or if you can find alternative options without these charges.

Read fine print when comparing rates

When comparing hotel rates, it’s crucial to read the fine print and understand what is included in the price. Some hotels may advertise a lower room rate but then add on significant resort or amenity fees.

By carefully reviewing the terms and conditions, you can identify any hidden fees and make a more informed decision about where to stay. Additionally, websites like trivago.com and booking.com often provide detailed information about fees associated with each hotel.

Weigh value of fees vs. overall rate

When considering whether to book a hotel with resort or amenity fees, it’s essential to weigh the value of the amenities against the overall rate. If you plan to use the amenities frequently during your stay and they are important to you, then the fees may be worth it.

However, if you don’t anticipate using the amenities or can find comparable options without the extra charges, it may be more cost-effective to choose a different hotel.

Ask at booking if fees can be waived

While some hotels have mandatory resort or amenity fees, others may be more flexible. It never hurts to ask at the time of booking if the fees can be waived or negotiated. If you are a frequent guest or booking a longer stay, the hotel may be willing to accommodate your request.

It’s always worth a try, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.


Using key rules of thumb for hotels like booking refundable rates, leveraging loyalty programs, and requesting upgrades can pay huge dividends in terms of value. Avoiding hidden fees and reading reviews also go a long way.

Following these simple best practices will ensure you always get the most from your hotel bookings.

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