Hotel Overbooked! – The Problem and How You Can Avoid It.

man walking away from hotel desk

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There are no guarantees in life, and that’s certainly true when it comes to hotel reservations guaranteed for late arrival. The hotel I wanted to stay at last week was overbooked when I arrived, despite having a confirmed reservation.  Although they had my reservation and authorized my credit card for a two-night stay, they didn’t have a room available for me to stay in. Fair enough, I did arrive at 12:30 AM. Although this doesn’t often happen, when it does, it is stressful and annoying especially late at night.

The problem

The travel industry is under pressure from us, the consumer, to keep prices low. This results in airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies try to sell 100% of their available capacity. Unlike stock on the shelf, the travel industries stock of rooms and airline seats evaporates if unsold. If a hotel does not sell 10% of its rooms for a particular night, that room inventory is lost for good. So, they try the same hit and miss juggling trick as the airlines, they overbook. In all honesty, hotel managers are better at juggling sales of bookings than the airlines. But on occasion, they do overbook their rooms.

When a hotel is oversold, you do not have any rights or protections.  Unlike the airlines, there is not law offering consumer protections for bing bumped from a hotel.  The hotel industry does try to implement a policy called walking. The walking policy is where the oversold hotel tries to find alternative accommodation for you at another close by hotel.  But, this is not always the case, especially if you’re staying in a rural area.

Women Making Call From Parked CarHow to avoid getting bumped from a hotel

Communication is the key, communicate with the hotel where you have a reservation. At the time of booking, if you know you’re going to be arriving late in the evening let the hotel know. On most hotel booking websites, you can key in additional notes such as ‘I will be arriving after 11 PM’. You should also guarantee your room for late arrival with a credit card. And for good measure call the front desk the afternoon or evening on your day of arrival and informed them that you will arrive late. This is especially important if you’re arriving after 9 PM. This way the hotel management will know that you are generally running late and are more likely accommodate you when they have an overbooking problem.

If your plans change on your day of arrival, for instance, a delayed flight, again call the hotel as soon as possible. Let them know you will arrive late and your expected arrival time. By doing this, you are letting the front desk staff and management know it’s your intent to get at the hotel.  Hotel management much rather bumps or walk a guest for being late than one’s who communicated their lateness ahead of time when they have overbooked their rooms.

The best thing to do to avoid being bumped or walked is to arrive between check-in time and 6 PM in the evening.

Bumped from the hotel, here what to do.

Preparation is key for when things to happen while traveling. Have a travel booking app installed on your smartphone.  Use the app to look for alternative accommodation if turned away from your hotel. The one I use is from Orbitz, which is basically the same as Expedia. You could also use or just to name a couple. These apps will allow you to find an alternate hotel room for the night close to your location.

If bumped, ask the hotel if they have a walking policy with an alternative hotel close by. You will find that most hotels do, but if they don’t, you can use your phone app to find alternative accommodation.

Always straighten out no-show fees and billing errors with the desk agent of the overbooked hotel before leaving town. Call your credit card company to check that the hotel that bumped you hasn’t billed your card for a no-show. It’s much easier to straighten out the billing errors while you’re still in town when people’s minds of fresh. Don’t wait until the credit card bill arrives as it will be much harder to prove your case.

Don’t get angry at staff or management. Hotel chains keep profiles of their guests, especially the ones who participate in their frequent guest loyalty programs. You don’t want a negative note in your guest profile.


Sometimes, showing up very late in the evening at your hotel is unavoidable. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are arriving late and have a confirmed reservation, try to communicate with the hotel’s front desk ahead of time. Hotel staff and managers aren’t mind-readers, but they do care about their guests and their business reputation. They would much rather hold a room for a guest who they know is arriving late, than a guest with a confirmed reservation who has not communicated their lateness. As I stated earlier, communication with the hotel is essential in avoiding the hotel bumping or walking you.

Has a hotel bumped or walked you? Or do you have any comments or suggestions to add? If so, please continue the conversation by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for reading,



About Colin Robinson 60 Articles
Colin works for a high technology equipment manufacture as a senior product manager. The majority of his time is spent traveling to visit clients and to teach them in using this hi-tech equipment. He has to keep up with the latest advances in computer technology and trends and has spent over 32 years in his line of work traveling extensively. He is very passionate about sharing his knowledge and experiences with others. Read more at

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