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Booking Hotels ~ How to Avoid Scams and Marketing Ploys

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When booking hotels, it makes good sense to research options and read online reviews. But it's just as important to protect yourself from deceptive booking sites. In 2017 alone, $5 billion was spent in fraudulent and misleading hotel bookings according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). That's a whole lotta money lost by travelers! When making a hotel reservation, you should look forward to high thread count sheets and room service meals without having to worry if your booking is fair and secure. Read my interview with the AHLA below to find out how to book a hotel and avoid scams and shady marketing ploys.

Avoid scams and marketing ploys when booking a hotel

Avoid scams and marketing ploys when booking a hotel (Photo credit: BrianAJackson,

This story is brought to you in partnership with AHLA.

What are some pitfalls of booking with untrustworthy third party websites instead of directly through hotels?

Booking with an untrustworthy third party website can lead to extra fees, special requests not being relayed to the hotel, or even lost reservations and deposits. Additionally, when booking through a third party site, travelers may not be eligible to receive reward points or other hotel loyalty program benefits. Plus, hotel policies, such as cancellations and refunds, may not be the same as when booking directly with the hotel.

Make sure your credit card information is secure when making hotel bookings

Make sure your credit card information is secure when booking hotels online (Photo credit: Rawpixel,

What are some of the scams and marketing ploys that travelers should be wary of when booking hotel stays?

Some ads, webpages, and call centers create the impression that travelers are booking rooms directly with the advertised hotel when, in fact, consumers are unknowingly booking through a totally unrelated company. For example, last December the Federal Trade Commission settled with a third-party hotel room reseller for misleading consumers to believe they were reserving the rooms directly from the hotel.

When booking with a trustworthy source, you know what you'll get when you check in to your hotel

When booking with a trustworthy source, you know what you'll get when you check in to your hotel (Photo credit: .shock,

What can travelers do to ensure their hotel bookings are secure?

Nearly one out of four consumers report being misled by third party travel resellers. It’s essential that consumers know with whom they’re booking when reserving their hotel stays. Travelers should know who is getting their information. In addition, before providing credit card information, travelers should check the following:

  • What is the cancellation/trip change policy?
  • Is it a secure payment site? The URL should have a small lock and should start with https:// as opposed to just http://.
  • Is the site, in any way, affiliated with the hotel?
A hotel stay should be relaxing, not stressful

A hotel stay should be relaxing, not stressful (Photo credit: iofoto,

What are the best and most trustworthy ways to save money when booking hotels?

Travelers can book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent. This helps ensure vacationers and business travelers get what they need from their reservation and often get a better value. Of course, not all third party hotel booking sites are untrustworthy. When in doubt, though, book direct!

Sleep soundly during your hotel stay knowing your booking is secure

Sleep soundly during your hotel stay knowing your booking is secure (Photo credit: senkaya,

What is the American Hotel & Lodging Association and what is this organization doing to protect consumers?

AHLA is the national trade association that represents all segments of the U.S. lodging industry. Hotel bookings make up 15 percent of all U.S. ecommerce, with 500 online bookings happening every minute. The hotel industry continues to put guests first to ensure they get what they want and need out of their reservation. AHLA encourages consumers to search smarter when booking their hotel stays. More information is available at

How to avoid scams when booking hotel stays!

Save these hotel booking tips!

Make sure your hotel bookings are secure by saving these tips. Just pin the image above to Pinterest. You might as well follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you're at it!

If you liked these tips for secure hotel booking, I bet you’d also like to learn how to get compensation for a delayed or canceled flight and why you need travel insurance.

Have you ever experienced problems when booking hotels through a third party? Let us know in the comments below.

Travel Mamas will receive monetary compensation related to this sponsored blog post. Responses to these questions were provided by AHLA.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Terri Beavers says

    I booked a room through someone in the past that I thought was the hotel and I won’t make that mistake again. Thanks for the heads up on how to avoid scams in the future.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Oh no! That’s too bad. I’m glad you know what’s up now so you can avoid these problems in the future.

  2. Nikka Shae says

    These are very good points here. I booked a stay on a well known travel site, and I was very disappointed with my stay. So I’m very cautious now of my hotel bookings.

  3. bohemian babushka says

    500 online bookings per minute??!!?? Wow and Woah. That’s impressive- and scary if you happen to fall victim to travel scam. Thankfully BB has managed to steer clear of them.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      The good news is…people are taking vacations! But, yes, so disappointing that there are so many scammers out there.

  4. You’ve got a lot of great information here. It can be scary getting scammed with booking hotels. I’ve heard of it happening before and I’d hate for it to ever happen to anyone. I’m glad you wrote this article so it can help others out.

  5. Crystal Mendez says

    I’ve never had issues personally but I used to work front desk at a hotel about 6 years ago. The guests that would book with third party sites did encounter issues like: we didn’t have their booking, we had sold out but the third party website still booked them with us, and if they were leaving early we couldn’t refund them directly since they booked through a third party.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Interesting to hear the perspective from someone who has worked at a hotel front desk! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Thank you for writing this…I t’s something everybody should know. I have had several instances of trouble after booking through a third-party site, most recently with attempting to alter a reservation. I called the booking company and they told me I had to work directly with the hotel but when I called the hotel they told me because I booked through a third-party site I had to work with them only. The result was that nobody would help me and I lost two nights. Heed the Travel Mamas’ advice!

  7. Hotel accommodation is an important part of any travel plan. In fact, a hotel can make or mar your travel experience. It is prudent to book only through reputed portals or travel agents to ensure a smooth experience.

  8. There is unfortunately a lot of scams that can happen out there. We do a lot of traveling and try to protect ourselves as much as possible. Thanks for these tips!

  9. We do a lot of traveling, but I leave hotel booking up to my husband. I had no idea that there were so many scams being run on unsuspecting travelers each year. That’s awful that you can’t even book a hotel without having to worry about getting ripped off these days 🙁

  10. Terri Steffes says

    Thanks for these tips. We travel a lot and have been very happy with our services. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  11. I tend to book either directly on the hotel’s website or through reputable large travel sites. It’s sad that we have to worry about things like this.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Smart lady! For sure there are some reputable third-party sites out there…and then there are the bad ones!

  12. Thanks for these tips. I have used 3rd party sites like Priceline,, and Travelocity, however those are well known websites. All the others I don’t use.

  13. You have a lot of great tips here! I travel to it and I’m always careful as to where I find my hotels. I do not need to be scammed or had my identity stolen because of a third-party website.

  14. Glenda Cates says

    I wish I could say I book Hotel stays but I can’t. Although my friend does so I will be sharing these tips with her.

  15. Kita Bryant says

    This is some wise advice! This stuff takes a few years to figure out.

  16. I book most of my travel with my best friend who is a travel agent. There are so many scams out there it’s easy to get scammed. I never heard of the American Hotel & Lodging Association but it’s nice to know there’s an agency dedicated to helping consumers.

  17. I have heard that you can book directly with the hotel and save a lot of money. Usually they will give you a good deal if you ask.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      True! I always ask if I can get an upgrade. I don’t always get one, but often I do…especially if I have signed up for the hotel’s loyalty program!

  18. These are great points. Sadly there are so many scammers out there taking advantage of innocent people just trying to take a vacation.

  19. Amber Myers says

    Good to keep in mind. I always worry about scammers. Normally when I book I call the hotel directly or make sure it is their website. I rarely go with another website to be safe.

  20. I have learned so much from reading and have learned so much. Saving this this for later use

  21. This is such important information, especially for people who may not travel all that often. There are so many scammers out there just waiting to take our money

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