This year was my twin sister Alyssa’s last year in graduate school, so we planned what we thought we be the trip of a lifetime. Four of our closest friends, Miami beach, and six nights in a suite at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel. Unfortunately, our vacation dreams turned into a vacation disaster when we arrived at our hotel. Instead of a suite with the ability to fit six girls comfortably, we were put into a room that was meant for four or less. Ah!
Our vacation disaster and how to avoid it yourself
What We We Paid For
We originally paid $2,817.98 (or $469 a night for six nights) for a one bedroom suite which was supposed to include the following amenities:
- King Size Bed
- Queen Size Bed
- Pull out couch
- Full Kitchen
- 2 bathrooms w/jacuzzi in Bathroom
- 2 balconies
- 2 large flat screen TV’s
- Washer/dryer in unit
- 2 balconies ocean view
What We Actually Received:
Unfortunately, this is not the hotel room we showed up to. Instead our room included:
- King Size Bed
- Pull out couch
- 1 Bathroom w/Jacuzzi in Bathroom
- 1 Balcony
- 1 Flat Screen TV
According to another listing on Flipkey this is known as a junior suite. The cost for this room is currently priced at $269 a night! That’s $200 less a night then what we paid (so depressing!). On top of this, we also had to pay for a cot which cost an extra $45 a night. Ugh. One of our friends left early so this fee was only for four nights. While the above listing is from a different seller, other junior suites are also priced similarly AND our seller had a junior suite available for booking as well at a comparable price. We believe they accidentally double-booked the one bedroom room suite, so gave us the junior suite instead.
What We Did
While we were upset that we were going to be slightly cramped (one bathroom and six girls!?) we didn’t want to ruin our vacation by trying to find a new hotel room, moving, and dealing with getting a refund. Instead, we called the condo-tel room owner and asked what they could do for us. Here’s what they offered us:
- They would pay for the cost of the roll away bed – $45 x4 nights = $180
- They would give us back an additional $360
- Total Refund = $540
While we knew that we should be given back the extra $200 a night (a whopping $1,200) we wanted to enjoy our trip instead of spending it arguing, so we agreed to this compromise. Unfortunately, this also did not go as planned.
Don’t Always Trust Your Seller
Flipkey has a piece of mind guarantee that allows you to get a refund if the room doesn’t meet expectations BUT you are supposed to contact them as soon as you arrive. Since we were willing to work with the condo-tel owner we did not file a peace of mind guarantee claim. However, this may have been a mistake.
It has been over one month without the promised refund and multiple phone calls to the property owner.
4 Tips to Avoid our Vacation Disaster
Now this horror story may make it seem that the only safe way to book your vacation is directly through the hotel, but that’s not the case. We made some rookie mistakes when booking this rental and these tips will help you avoid our fate.
1. Look for Reviews – The owner of our condo-tel had NO reviews. This should be a red flag for you. This is especially true if you’re traveling with a large group that would have trouble re-booking elsewhere. Don’t book a room from someone who has not been tried and tested. For example, look for owners that have AT LEAST one or two reviews, a high star rating, and multiple properties. This lets you know that they are serious about renting property and will have more of a vested interest in keeping you happy as they will not want bad reviews.
2. Call the Hotel Directly – Before we arrived to our hotel room we only communicated with our seller via email and never directly contacted the hotel. If we had talked to the hotel directly, asking about our specific room accommodations, we may have noticed something was out of place OR may have been told the true amenities of the room.
3. Ask for a Skype Tour OR Multiple Pictures – Our listing only had three pictures so we made our decision by the description the seller had written. We assumed that the full-kitchen, washer and dryer, and extra bed were simply not pictured. If we’d asked for additional pictures or a Skype Tour of the property we may have been alerted of the difference in description and reality prior to our arrival at the hotel.
4. Compare Rental Rates – We choose to book with our seller because it seemed like a great deal…especially during spring break week! We saw other comparable rooms priced $50-$100 more a night but didn’t see that as a red flag. The difference between these rooms and ours…they were actually the promised one bedroom suite AND had reviews. Choosing to book a room based solely on it having the lowest rate may not be the best ideas…you’ll probably get what you pay for.
Don’t Worry Our Vacation Wasn’t Ruined….
This may seem like a disaster BUT we refused to let it ruin our trip. We still had the beach, the beautiful hotel amenities, and a whole week to spend together. While we would have loved to have stayed in the room we were promised OR have the extra $1,200 back to spend while there, we made the best of our situation and still enjoyed our vacation. Hopefully, you’re never a victim of a vacation scam but if you are I hope you still manage to have us much fun as we did!
Marie Hickman says
All of your suggestions are excellent. Hindsight is 20/20. Glad you had fun anyway in my beautiful home state!
I am more concerned about scam companies that tell you you’ve “won” or been “exclusively selected” for a dream vacation to Tahiti.
If I may, I’d like to share an article I wrote on this for valpak.com:
The Frugal Exerciser says
I have never been scammed and I hope I never experience having my money taken like that. I always use Trip Advisor when searching for hotels especially in other countries. Sorry you went through that but it seems like you still had a good time.
Not a scam but please watch out for this. I arrived at my hotel and got my to my room I found it was occupied by another person. Went down and told desk I had been given the wrong room /key and they looked and apologized deeply that ANOTHER person with same/similar name had checked in also. At checkout time I found that I had not only my room on the charge but charges for 10 other rooms the OTHER Jim Russell had booked. That person had left paying only for one room while I had to spend a considerable part of a morning proving I was not the Jim Russell from the local school system who had decided that honesty was NOT the best policy. So, my suggestion is if you know someone else is in the hotel with your name insure that there will not be further errors in billing and room key assignments and check your bill very closely before leaving