7 red flags you're about to stay at a bad hotel, according to travel experts

Franck Fife/ GettyNot every hotel is created equal.
  • When it comes to booking a hotel, there are a few tell-tale signs that you should be aware of.
  • CIRE Travel tells INSIDER you must read every review, even the negative ones.
  • You should try to call the hotel ahead of time to see what their customer service is like.
  • Stay clear of blurry or random photos that don’t show the entirety of the hotel

The internet can be deceiving, especially when it comes to shopping and commerce.

The same is true when searching for the perfect hotel. Many market themselves as five-star resorts with clean, comfortable beds and exceptional customer service, but sometimes it can all be a scam, and you may end up staying at a subpar hotel.

INSIDER spoke with travel agents at CIRE Travel to learn why they stay away from certain hotels while booking for clients.

Firstly, blurry, limited, or single photos should be worrisome

Be very critical of the pictures the hotel provides. You must stay away from hotels that only provide super close-up pictures where you can’t see the entire room. If the pictures are of random objects and not of the room itself, they are probably hiding something. Likewise, if the pictures are only of the exterior of the hotel, it’s not showing you the inside for a reason.

“If the photos on the hotel website show very generic pictures, like a plate of fruit or a city skyline, it usually means they don’t have anything exciting to feature, or that the hotel needs an update,” Jason Villacres, an agent at CIRE Travel, told INSIDER.

If it’s hard to get in contact with someone at the hotel, book elsewhere

While many wait until they arrive at the hotel to test the quality of customer service, there are ways to check before your arrival. For starters, give the hotel a call and see how easy it is to get in contact with someone. If they are easily accessible and accommodating before your arrival, they will also be helpful when you check in.

“If I call a hotel with questions and get a rude employee or bad customer service, I will not book a client there,” Villacres also told INSIDER.

Hotel room serviceFairfax Media/ GettyCustomer service is important.

When all the reviews for the hotel are old, rethink your stay

When it comes to hotels, the date of the review can be just as important as the review itself. If the hotel hasn’t received a bulk of good to great reviews within the past couple of weeks, there’s probably a reason for it. In the hospitality industry, there are always changes and turn over. A recent change in management or cleaning services may result in a slew of negative reviews.

If there’s even a mention of a single bed bug, choose another hotel

When reading the negative reviews, there should never be a mention of a bed bug. If one person mentioned them, then there have got to be others. Even if that person was mistaken, it’s better to not take the chance. If you use BedBugs Reports, you can type in the name of your hotel to learn if any guests reported a bedbug while staying there. It’s better to be safe than infested.

Readmore: Here’s why you should always check your hotel room for bedbugs, and how to do it

You should rethink your hotel choice if they often fire back at negative comments or they are defensive on the phone

Robyn Panaccione, another agent at CIRE Travel, said she never books a hotel for a client “if the owner or management is combative or defensive when responding to negative comments from guests.” If you see the hotel commenting on negative reviews, it’s most likely a sign that the hotel does not have great customer service. They should be focused on fixing the issue, not defending it.

BellhopFairfax Media/ GettyHotel employees should focus on fixing issues.

Try researching beyond travel sites

There are a ton of sites out there for hotel reviews, but sometimes it’s better to branch out and learn more about your hotel from other sources. CIRE Travel agent Esther Klijn said she likes to search the hotel name in Google News. If the hotel was recently in the news for a change in management or ownership, you must ask yourself about the reputation of the new brand.

“If the answer is ‘not so hot,’ then that’s another red flag,” Klijn told INSIDER. “I always do my due diligence, especially if it’s a new hotel or a hotel I have not booked previously.”

Lastly, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is

Hotels can be tricky in their pricing, often covering up hidden fees and charging you behind your back.

“If a rate is really low, sometimes they ding you with a ‘resort fee’ or some other hidden tax,” Eric Hrubant, president of CIRE Travel, said. “A new one I recently heard: a ‘concierge fee.’ Read the fine print.”

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