Dear Roxy: Oh No! Is My Reservation Really Guaranteed?

Dear Roxy: Oh No! Is My Reservation Really Guaranteed?

Dear Roxy is Sharing Travel Experience’s biweekly columnist answering your questions about getting the best value and best experiences during your next hotel stay.

Today, Roxy is talking the topic of “guaranteed” versus “confirmed” reservations. Got a hotel question?
Just ask Roxy.

Hi Roxy –

I’m hoping you can clarify something that has been worrying me. Via the hotel booking tool, we found a great advance rate for hotels for our east coast road trip – we’re trying to plan our budgets by booking our hotels several months out. Anyway, my question is… one of our bookings is a “non-refundable confirmed reservation” and in the fine print, it says our room is not guaranteed. Is that normal for a room to not be “guaranteed“? Isn’t the hotel legally required to give us a room if we have a reservation?

I’m not freaked out, but – ok, maybe I’m kind of freaking out. I was going to call the hotel, but I was curious on your opinion and wanted to see if this is a common occurrence?

Thanks, Roxy.

– Janice from Chicago

what kind of reservation do you have?
It’s okay, Janice, don’t panic! If you have a room that is a “non-refundable, confirmed reservation,” that means they have billed you for at least one night’s lodging. If you cancel this lodging, you will not receive a refund. You will not pass GO, you will not receive $200…or whatever the deposit was! There are several online booking sites that utilize this method because it’s less work for them than trying to maintain proper inventory that re-enters the system due to cancellations. It is not a bad method. Just make sure your plans are in stone before clicking the button on this one or it will be a bad shake for sure! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist continuing the Monopoly reference.)

If you have a “non-guaranteed reservation” at a hotel, (also referred to as a “4/6 PM hold”) and you are not there to check in by the agreed-upon time, they have every right to cancel your reservation and sell your room to someone else. By saying your room is not guaranteed, I believe they mean the particular room number/type is not guaranteed. So if the hotel is made up of one-quarter specialty rooms, say with a certain sought-after view that you’ve requested, they’ll try to honor it, but they can’t guarantee it. Make sense?

The thing to remember about the fine print is… READ IT! Sometimes things happen, hotels are run by humans and we all make mistakes. If you have a reservation that is guaranteed with a credit card or cash deposit, you shouldn’t need to worry. Always pay close attention to the arrival and cancellation policies. If you have fulfilled your part and the hotel is in the wrong, they will be obligated to obtain lodging for you in a similar establishment. This is called “walking” a guest. The hotel will often times pay for this to make up for their error. (And since they are paying, they tend to do this only for single-night guests.)

I trained my staff to live by one rule: Never guarantee anything to anyone at anytime. That being said, we tried to honor every request that we could – we just were not making promises! People use request and guarantee interchangeably, and in the hotel business they are worlds apart. So to put your mind at ease in the future:

  • Use a credit card (never debit/check card!!) to guarantee reservations and for deposits.
  • ALWAYS get a confirmation number when booking by phone.
  • Print out the form if you’re booking online and bring it with you to check in.
  • Make sure you understand the arrival, departure, and cancellation policies.
  • When booking more than a week out, call the hotel and confirm your reservation. Document the day/time of your call and the name of the person who confirmed it. After all, if you booked at Boardwalk you don’t want to get stuck in Baltic! (Sorry, Roxy loves Monopoly!)

Got a hotel question? Just ask Roxy.

Dear Roxy: Oh No! Is My Reservation Really Guaranteed?


Roxanne ("Roxy") is the easily distracted, multi-tasking right brain of Fresh Air Lodging. After twenty plus years on the front lines of the hotel industry, she is now in search of socially responsible hotels and other businesses.

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