What Happens when Travel Is Not Perfect and What You Should Do?

Let's face it. As much as we want it to be, life is not perfect. And that means our travels, too.  So, what is a traveler to do when things don't go quite as planned or as you had hoped? I don't talk too much in this space about bad travel or hotel experiences because I've been really lucky through the years.  In past years, my only real complaints seem to center around the coffee experience in a room. I hate when a coffee maker is not provided and I dislike it, even more, when stirrers are not left in the room. I get so irritated when not enough coffee, creamer or sugar for the guests are in the room either. In the scheme of things though that is just petty stuff. That's not really a big deal.

But, what happens when you plan a family getaway and the pool is closed in the middle of summer and that pool was the only reason you booked in the property in the first place? Or, perhaps you've been sightseeing all day with four kids and you go to check into your hotel and room is still not ready one hour after check-in and it's 5:00 pm. What if the room is dusty? What if the bathroom shower curtain is soiled? What if the entire hotel is just a mess?

What happens when travel is not perfect and what should you do?

Our vacations or even short one-night getaways are events we look forward to and have spent our hard-earned money for us to go.  As travelers, we all expect a few basic things when we stay in a hotel. When those basic things are not met, you need to complain, but still be respectful to staff.

That's what I did. All of the above mishaps are a true story and it happened to me and my friend on our annual kid's getaway in June. I can't complain about the coffee because the room was so dusty that I was afraid to use the coffee maker.

There is no need to bash a hotel chain because it is was just one property.  But folks, TripAdvisor doesn't lie. In some ways, I could kick myself in the butt for not taking my own advice and reading up on TripAdvisor before I booked this Double Tree by Hilton waterway property in New Bern, N.C. But, we needed the location. We liked the pool, loved being on the water and this particular hotel had the best room set-up of connecting rooms that met our needs.

New Bern Waterfront
The New Bern water-front is beautiful

This was my friend's first introduction to this hotel brand. Needless to say, she was not impressed.  I've stayed in this brand before and this is certainly not the norm. No, this is not a luxury hotel, but even with three-star properties, cleanliness and efficiency need to be priorities.
The staff could not help the pool situation. That is not their fault. It was a huge inconvenience for every traveler there. Had I known in advance, we may have canceled. In the hotel's defense, they did arrange transportation to a local YMCA that closed at 7 pm if we wanted the service.  Going to a Y pool is just what two Moms want to do when they pay over $300 for two rooms for one night for a quick getaway.

Yes, we want to lug across town to a pool that will close almost as soon as we get there. Never mind that we all wanted to enjoy a restaurant downtown then have the kids swim later in the evening when we were back to the hotel for the night. We had visions of the kids swimming after dinner while we sat poolside on the water sipping on a cocktail. I had already picked out my chairs below.

The DoubleTree by Hilton in New Bern was closed on our trip and has continued to be closed a lot this summer.
The pool was closed during our stay and has been closed a lot this summer. Not sure if it is back open or not. 

Front desk staff cannot help that the room is not ready.  But, hotel check-in is at 4 p.m. Rooms should be ready. And when rooms are ready, they should not be dusty. The entire hotel needs a renovation. Staff can't help that the tubs are peeling, the shower curtain is stained and the wallpaper is old, but they still have a responsibility to do a good job with cleaning.

Is there a positive in this story at all?

Yes, the beds were comfortable and we ended up sitting by the waterway in the evening which was nice. We were able to walk to dinner with ease.  We also enjoyed many aspects of New Bern that I will share with you later.

Plus, our kids enjoyed being together. This was our 5th year of taking an annual trip. We have had some good ones through the years. Even though this one was not perfect, being together was still fun.

Kids in New Bern property

The manager knew I wasn't happy when I kept going downstairs to check to see if my room was ready. Only one of the two were ready at 5:30 p.m. My friend was really irritated. We had unhappy kids. The desk manager asked what she could do to make this hotel fiasco up to us. I asked for complimentary breakfast for all of us. It, at least, saved us $60.

What would you ask for if you had been in our shoes?

A not so perfect travel story. What should you do if your hotel is not up to par at check-in?


  1. I've never had too bad of an experience, but we did have a room one time that was in terrible shape. I took pictures and sent them to the corporate office. I never heard back. Sad that they didn't seem concerned about responding.

    1. Hospitality is hard. I understand, but in this case, the brand needs to get on top of this franchise. It does not par well for the brand at all.

  2. We had a water view booking that we paid extra for, but they tried to tell us it was city view when we showed up. We politely stood our ground. When the manager got involved he asked if I was Linda because they were looking at the wrong booking. He totally made that up, but then kept asking us over and over how our stay was going after that.

  3. I think you handled it the best you could. We have had some bad experiences and one of those times, we even left the hotel.

  4. I've had some disastrous hotel experiences, maybe the risk increases with more frequent travel. I try to remind myself that the hotel clerk is just doing their job and be respectful. If a room is really dirty, I've asked for a change (once found a used washcloth in the tub). If the room is not ready on time, I usually ask for a comped meal as you did. I like hotels with 100% satisfaction guarantees.

  5. I think you handled the situation in the best possible way. I guess I'll always trust the TripAdvisor reviews!


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