I’ve had a bit of a stressful day today and it really got me thinking about keeping expectation at bay to avoid major disappointments. And I find that this is especially true when it comes to traveling. I work as a social media admin for a hotel management company in Orlando and one of the most frustrating parts of my job is having to answer to online reviews about our hotels. And that is not because the process of answering reviews is incredibly boring, but also because people can be SO unreasonable and petty when it comes to planning a vacation and building expectations. You can almost feel all of the stress these people experienced during their vacation just because a few things went differently then expected. So in an effort to help people build better expectations, I decided to offer a few tips that can really help you have a wonderful vacation despite of what happens during your trip:
- Research: The first and most important thing you can do to ensure your vacation goes as expected is doing some research. I seriously have had people ask me for an ocean view in Orlando before. You can probably imagine how disappointing it would be to request something like that just to later find out that Orlando doesn’t even have an ocean, let alone an ocean view. I mean, came on! At least know where you are going before booking a destination. Look for a website and social media channel for every business you are interested in booking. Then, read online reviews, read a few more reviews and a few more after that.
- Read the fine print: Your research must also include reading the fine print of EVERYTHING you purchase, book in advance or plan on doing. Hotels may have resort fees, charge extra for parking, for wi-fi and for housekeeping. Airlines may charge for extra bags or even first bags. Car rental may charge absurdly high fees for insurance or for that dent that they claim you caused when you return your vehicle. So, know what you are getting yourself into.
- Ask questions: Piggybacking on the “fine print” topic, don’t expect the businesses to offer you all of that information up front. Sometimes the fine print is seriously hidden just enough for business to avoid a lawsuit, so you have to take it upon yourself to find out where the hidden charges are, what amenities you should expect and what your rights and obligations are. Do that
- Be polite: When asking your questions and practicing your due diligence, please be extremely polite. Hospitality employees already deal with enough rudeness from guests all day long, so they really don’t need one more person yelling at them. It’s quite refreshing for an employee to actually have a guest be nice to them while carrying on a conversation and that means they will return the favor and be extra nice to YOU. I remember a long time ago when I used to work as a front desk agent at the extinct Peabody Orlando and I had to check in this elderly man into a smoking sofa-bed room when he had booked a nonsmoking king. It was a sold out night and we did not have his room type available. I was by myself at the front desk as I worked the night shit and was already stressed expecting to have to walk 10 more guests to a different hotel because we had no way to fulfill their reservations. When I broke the news to him he simply smiled and told me, “honey I am an army veteran and have slept in way worst conditions than a sofa bed. I really don’t mind.” And then he proceeded to ask how my day was going and all. I actually wanted to CRY! Nobody had ever been that nice to me when I told them I was putting them to sleep in a dump room. He had every right to be outraged, but he clearly understood that there was nothing my little self could do to change the fact that the hotel was sold out. This man made an impression on me. And you know what I did? He was staying with us for a few days, so as soon as we had some vacant rooms, I upgraded him to a much nicer suite than he had booked, gave him club room access and bought him dinner at our most expensive restaurant. He might have gotten all of that stuff anyway if he had been a screamer, but I would have had to involve a manager, escalate, waste more of his time and the whole situation would have just been uglier. Employees like helping nice people, so be nice.
- Tip: Give tips when appropriate. And especially, tip at the beginning of your tip. The bellman, valet, runner and all other tip employees always take the time to learn who the generous tippers are. And if you can’t afford to tip, then you shouldn’t be going to that hotel or eating at that restaurant. Simple like that. You really can’t justify not tipping the staff because you think the hotel is overpriced or the food portions were too small. Seriously. Tip the people serving you! You will have a much nicer experience. You can actually even tip the front desk staff as well. They barely ever get tips, so you can possibly expect an upgrade (if available), or much faster service with anything you need during your stay.
- Manage expectations: Please realize that if you book a hotel for $69 a night in an amazing location when most other hotels are charging $109, you most likely will be forfeiting some kind of comfort. Don’t expect the cheapest hotel to serve you like the Ritz would. They’ll probably have cheaper towels, be a little slower responding to maintenance calls or not offer the amazing city view you were hoping for. I am in no way saying you should be accepting of dirty rooms, rude staff or an unsafe environment. But if the wall has a couple of chips on it, you really shouldn’t hold that against the them. Have real expectations when it comes to value. You get what you pat for.
- Let go: I am sorry to break it to you, but things WILL go differently than expected. Sometimes it rains, the plane is late, the sofa bed is uncomfortable, the water pressure is not high enough, the room is noisy, the food is too spicy and 1000 other scenarios of small things that can go wrong, but won’t ruin your vacation. Unless you LET them ruin your vacation. And don’t get me wrong. I am a planner. I am an extreme planner that like for things to go as planned and get upset at the little things, but we really must learn to let goof the small things.
- Be reasonable: If things go wrong and you decide to ask for a manager and seek compensation, please refer to rule number 4 first. Then… be reasonable. If you didn’t get the view you asked for, that may grant you a free late checkout. (Requests are not guaranteed after all, so the hotel really doesn’t even owe you anything). If you booked to rent the cheapest car and they run out of that model, they should offer you the next model up for the same price, but don’t expect to get the Camaro for the same rate because of “the inconvenience.” Once the business has offered you some kind of compensation you can sure bargain, but please be reasonable and be thankful. Things happen, so don’t hold a grudge for too long. Refer to rule number 7 if you are still unclear on this. But if you actually have a real issue like bed bugs in your room, a break in, or something serious to complain about, then be firm with management, write down the names and times of everyone you speak to about this issue and keep following up until you find a fair resolution to your problem.
- Go online: If your trip has been an absolute disaster and talking to the manager has gotten you nowhere, then it’s time to hit up the online community. First, check if the business you are seeking compensation from has an online presence. You do that by looking them up on Google first. If they have a website, go there and look for their social media icons. Then visit their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and check which account is more active. Do they post content on it? Do they engage? Do they respond? If yes, then first message them privately through social media and ask for a resolution to your problem. If no answer is given, post a review that everyone can see stating why you are upset and asking for someone to contact you about this issue (don’t use threats or foul language). If the business cares about their online reputation, they will be sure to answer you right away to make things right. If they do, rectify your review. The borderline is that things go wrong, but as long as you see that a business is doing their best to accommodate you and make things right, then that’s all we should care about.
- Make a choice: Even when things go wrong, take a moment to digest the news and then choose to let go and be happy. Put things in perspective. So what if you didn’t get the high floor renovated room? At least you are on vacation, with friends or family, able to have a great time, relax, recharge. Get rid of the “first-world problems” and choose to have a great time. Adapt and smile. If the wi-fi isn’t strong enough, disconnect for a bit. If it rains, go get a massage in the indoor spa. If the room is noisy, buy earplugs. It will be fine. Just enjoy the company you are with and choose to be happy.
Now, I will be the first to agree with you that practicing all of those behaviors can be hard when you have spent the last year saving money to ensure you have the perfect vacation. But we owe ourselves to make the best out of any situation. Otherwise, we might spend our whole vacation pouting over what went wrong, hunting down managers, wasting hours on the phone with customer service or something alike. Enjoy the moment and learn to at least pick your battles! Happy vacationing, everyone!
Thanks for reading!