4. Let’s book it!

Once you’ve done all your research, you’re ready to make the reservation. Some hotels and travel sites offer discounts if you pay up front. This option can save you money, but keep in mind that if something comes up last minute, you will not be refunded (even if you have a sob story). However, if you make a reservation and secure it with a credit card, you can usually cancel up to 24 hours in advance without a charge.

I highly discourage you from booking directly through the hotel website or 1-800 number. Compare prices online and call the front desk at the actual hotel. On numerous occasions there was a special promotion going on that wasn’t listed online, and I never would have known if I didn’t call ahead. Also, the clerk on site can tell you what kind of rooms they have and notate any special requests.

Also to note: it pays to be a AAA member. A membership card can get you valuable discounts on hotels, car rentals, activities, and even at some restaurants.

Another way to get discounts is to join loyalty programs. Enrolling in a loyalty program can be a great way to rack up points if you go narrow and deep with a particular hotel brand. You can get their credit card and earn points on all your purchases, in addition to your stays, which over time will result in some free stays. Definitely worth checking out. Hilton Honors, Marriott Rewards are a couple just to name a few.

5. Print and file.

Once you’ve made your reservation, print out the confirmation and put it in your trip bible for safekeeping.

6. Be ready to think on the fly-sometimes even the best-laid plans can fall apart.

Sometimes, even with the best research, you can end up driving to a hotel that is way below your expectations and “just doesn’t feel right.” As a single mom, when this happens to me, I call the hotel to cancel. I would rather face a cancellation fee than stay in a place where I feel unsafe. Of course, there are ways around the fees, too. Often times a clerk will cancel the reservation just like that. Other times I’ve had to get a little creative to avoid the one night charge. Sometimes it might involve a story about my car being stalled or a flight delay, but sometimes the truth works as well. No one argues with me when I say I am a single mom and I don’t feel safe—again, the story you give is up to you.

On our last night in Nashville we booked a very inexpensive hotel near the airport. It looked fine from the outside but when we drove around back toward our room there were a bunch of drunk guys hanging off the balcony who started whistling and making suggestive comments when I got out of the car. That was enough for me to go right to the hotel office and cancel immediately. The clerk totally understood and recommended a few other places for me to check out.

When a hotel just isn’t what you expected, the best thing to do is drive around a bit and find where the newer hotels are grouped closed to a few restaurants. Your GPS can be very helpful with this. You may have to run in to a few to check prices and availability, but peace of mind is totally worth it. Always trust your gut—be safe instead of sorry.

Using Abecassis’ helpful tips with take a lot of the guesswork out of finding safe and comfortable places to stay on your trip. It’s not foolproof, but as long as you’ve done your research, and can redirect on the fly if need be, you will be fine when it comes to booking your stays. Safe travels!

About Alisa Abecassis:

After her marriage ended, she decided it was time to strengthen her family’s bonds and personal history by traveling and gaining a better appreciation all 50 United States. Abecassis is a blogger and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA. Connect with her on Twitter @ExploreAll50.

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