8 Ways to Spot a Crappy Hotel When Booking Online

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Nothing can ruin a trip faster than arriving at your hotel to find it's located in a sketchy 'hood, falling apart, or plagued with one of these 99 problems. And that the amazing online deal you thought you got actually means you'll be sleeping ON TOP of the comforter and with a chair propped in front of the door.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of online tools and telltale signs (from review sites and Google Maps to weird photos and bed-bug registries) to help tip you off that you might be booking a crappy hotel. Here are eight of the them.

The photos are artsy or distorted...

It's listing a room, not curating an art exhibit. For no reason (other than being sneaky, really) does a hotel need to post creative, artsy images of its rooms. Close-up of a flower vase in the lobby, but no shot OF the lobby? Red flag. And if the photographer used a fisheye lens (which widens the shot), there's a good chance the rooms are probably small. Same goes for the excessive use of filters.


… or the photos are way too good

On the flip side, be wary of pics that look too perfect. A staged, almost Photoshopped shot of the hotel pool or an unobstructed beach with a sexy woman in a bikini seems pretty perfect, right? But what you're not seeing is the construction site next to the diving board or the pesky giant building behind the dunes, both of which have been conveniently cropped out. Take a look at Oyster's Photo Fakeout section to see some examples of deceptive marketing. And always look at actual guest photos on travel review sites, rather than just marveling at how gorgeous the place looks in the hotel photo gallery.

The website is straight outta the ‘90s

Or is riddled with typos. Or seems belligerent at times. Don't get us wrong, there's nothing like a good throwback Mistral font to elicit fond memories of the early web, but let's put it this way: if the managers/owners aren’t taking the time to present their hotel in the best light online, it’s highly unlikely that they're spending a lot of time tending to the actual hotel either.

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-287167p1.html?cr=00&amp;pl=edit-00">gary yim</a> / <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/editorial?cr=00&amp;pl=edit-00">Shutterstock.com</a>

Google Maps reveals the TRUTH

And we're not talking about Paul Pierce. To see how well maintained the exterior of the property is, plug the address into Google Maps. If the outside looks run-down, chances are the interior is in similar condition. Sure, the images may be a few years old but you can at least then call to ask whether the place has been recently renovated. Also, take a look at the surrounding area to see if the hotel really is at the center of everything. They can say all they want about location, location, location, but you can use Street View to verify whether or not that’s a stretch.

Duh, the reviews are really bad

Do your homework and see what other people have recently said about their stay. If they are predominantly negative -- and were written last week -- it’s a no-go.

And the manager is negative online

If the property's managers are responding to complaints on review sites in an aggressive, defensive, or hostile manner, they are likely unhelpful and rude in person as well. Avoid hotels on their worst behavior.


It's listed on the Bed Bug Registry

Nothing's worse than crawling under the covers to find things crawling on you. The Bed Bug Registry is a one-stop database for anyone who's encountered/reported bed bugs at a hotel. Do a quick search -- if your dream resort shows up, best abort the mission.

The website reflects the location and not the lodging itself

Red flag if you’re reading accounts of the surrounding block, neighborhood, city, etc., but nothing about the actual property. And if they're paired with photos of the skyline or beach, and not the rooms, it’s a no-brainer -- the place is a dud.