No air-conditioning in her Mexican hotel. Will Booking refund her stay?

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By Christopher Elliott

Yasmin Maniar’s hotel room in Mexico isn’t what she expected. But should Booking refund it?

Question

My family and I recently made reservations at the Villa Las Estrellas in Tulum, Mexico, through Booking com. When we arrived, we found that the room wasn’t as advertised.
Among the problems were accessibility for our disabled daughter. She has Down syndrome and has mobility, vision, and health issues.

The room had no air conditioning.

Our room had only one fan, which did not rotate and was at floor level. It blew air either above us or below us. The hotel offered us another fan, but it wasn’t enough and almost impossible to put at bed level with the furniture in the room. We only had two electrical outlets in the room, so we couldn’t add a third fan.

We couldn’t lock the room because with doors and windows closed it would be even more uninhabitable. The screen door did not close entirely. We had bugs galore in the room.
There was no TV in the room, but there was a common area outside with a TV. But a disabled person would need constant supervision there.

Also, nothing on Booking com mentioned that the Villa Las Estrellas was an “eco-friendly” property, where ocean water was used in the sink and for bathing. For our daughter, that is completely unsafe since she would gulp down water during bathing.

We let Booking com and Villa Las Estrellas know as soon as we arrived that this will not work for us. The hotel offered a floor-level room, which cost us extra. But the room didn’t accommodate four people. Can you help us get a Booking refund? — Yasmin Maniar, Saratoga, Calif.

Answer

I’m sorry your family ended up in a hotel room you couldn’t use. Booking com could have done a better job with the room description, but this Mexican hotel nightmare was also preventable.

EMBARK Beyond is a luxury travel advisory dedicated to creating thoughtfully designed experiences that go beyond a destination. Focused first on client needs, we have built (and continue to build!) relationships with the world’s most sought-after lifestyle and fashion brands to open the world - beyond imagination - to our clients. Find out more at EMBARK Beyond.

If you’re traveling with someone who has special needs, you might consider working with a qualified travel advisor. For example, Travel Leaders, one of the largest travel agency groups, publishes a list of agents who specialize in accessible travel. There’s also a nonprofit organization, the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, that can help connect you with a property or agent that will fit your needs. (Here’s how to find the best hotel at the most affordable rate.)

I think you did your best with the information you had. The property description seemed adequate. But everyone expects air conditioning in a modern hotel. A TV, too. I think Booking com should have placed a warning on the site if the hotel didn’t have any amenities everyone takes for granted. (Related: Free stays, new friends: What’s not to love about home exchanges?)

A brief, polite email to your online agency might have helped. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Booking com’s executives on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site.

A Booking refund is on the way

It turns out your family booked a “deluxe ocean front” room on the upper floor of the Villa Las Estrellas. Air conditioning and TV were not listed as amenities for the specific room category chosen, according to Booking com. Your online travel agency also verified that the hotel tried to help you by placing you in a room with AC and giving you access to a TV lounge. (Related: What is the secret to scoring a hotel room upgrade?)

Booking offered you a refund of $833 — half your room rate for the five days you were in Tulum — which you accepted.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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