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5 Hotel Scams That Could Ruin Your Next Vacation

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We so badly want to trust our friends in the hotel industry, but it seems like every time we get close, one bad egg does something shady and ruins the whole batch

You might assume that you would see a scam coming from a mile away, but the tricksters these days have gotten increasingly clever. As we’ll show you, something as simple as ordering a pepperoni pizza to your hotel room can come with irreversible consequences. 

1. Scam: Fake delivery menu

Coming across a random delivery menu or flier in the hotel might seem like a lucky find, but it could just as easily be a scam.

Here’s the scene. You’re at Disney World, and you arrive back at your hotel room exhausted after a long day of walking around the parks. You see a flier for pizza delivery, and after the day you’ve had, a no-frills dinner is just what you need. You call for delivery, give them your credit card number, and wait for your pizza to arrive. In reality, the pizza restaurant doesn’t exist, your pizza is never coming, and the culprits just walked away with your credit card information.

That’s one way to make the trip memorable.

Solution: Do your research

First, talk directly to your hotel’s front desk staff and ask for suggestions for dinner. They know what’s in the area and where other guests have had success. Disney World, which actually warns guests about the possibility of fake fliers in its hotel rooms, can offer up legitimate pizza options if that’s what you’re looking for. If you plan to order off of a flier, it’s probably helpful to do a quick Google search. If the restaurant appears on Google Street View or on review sites like Yelp, chances are it actually exists!

2. Scam: Wi-Fi skimming


Be wary of free public Wi-Fi connections, even if the network sounds legit. 

People will trip over themselves to get free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, criminals will use this to their advantage. Wi-Fi skimming involves using a free Wi-Fi network to steal information from unsuspecting people, and sadly, it’s becoming more and more prevalent.

The scammer simply sets up a hotspot named “Free Wi-Fi” in a hotel, park, or popular public area. Once you start using the connection, any data you use will be sent directly to the host/scammer’s computer. This means the offender will have access to your usernames and passwords of your favorite websites.

Solution: Fight the urge

Although it’s tempting, never click on a network that says “Free Wi-Fi.” If you’re staying at a hotel with free Wi-Fi, be sure to use the correct network, which usually requires a password, such as your room number. Ask someone at the front desk to prevent any confusion. Some phone carriers allow you to use your smartphone as a hotspot, so if you travel a lot, it’s worth considering this feature. It will add a few bucks to your bill, but it’s better than getting your identity stolen.

3. Scam: The late night call from the front desk 


If you get a call from “the front desk” you can’t always be sure of who is actually on the other end of the line.

After you check into a hotel, you typically rely on the front desk personnel to have your best interest in mind. So if they call, claim there was a problem processing your credit card, and ask for the card number over the phone, it may not seem alarming. But it should be. This is just one scam being used to steal money from unsuspecting people. The thieves call late at night from an untraceable number, and by the time you realize that you’ve been swindled, your bank account is empty.

Solution: Make all payments face-to-face

First, it’s important to never give your credit card number over the phone at a hotel. If you receive a call claiming there is an issue with your reservation, take the time to go to the front desk and discuss it in person. 

Second, always book your hotel with a credit card instead of a debit card. Many credit cards have fraud protection, and this will prevent the thieves from emptying out your checking account.

4. Scam: Paid for beachfront, but you can’t see the beach


The view from your hotel room might not be exactly what you had envisioned. 

Nothing completes a tropical vacation like having a beachfront view from your hotel balcony. And often, you pay extra to ensure that you’ll be able to watch the sunrise over crystal blue waters. But while some hotels do have views of the water, they aren’t actually overlooking the beach. There may be a marina, highway, or strip mall between you and the ocean. This might not ruin your vacation in paradise, but no one likes to be misled.

Solution: Visit before you visit

Google Street View is an amazing way to check out the location of your hotel. It allows guests to take a 360-degree tour of the hotel’s exterior before they even get there. It’s also important to check out websites like TripAdvisor, where many guests post photos of the view from their rooms.

Finally, there is a fantastic resource called The Beachfront Club, which has compiled some of the best beachfront properties from around the world. You can search by beach or country, and with 7,000 hotels in its database, you’re guaranteed to receive the beachfront views you paid for. 

5. Scam: Spending a fortune on the hotel’s bottled water


Beware the hotel minibar! 

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink. When you’re visiting a country with iffy water standards, it can be a stressful experience deciding whether or not the water is actually safe to drink. The issue is that some hotels are taking advantage of these fears. In certain countries, the hotel staff will warn against drinking the water even if the water is safe to drink. This makes guests want to buy the overpriced bottled water in the minibar. Even worse, sometimes the water is set out without a price attached, so guests assume it’s free. Unfortunately this realization that the bottled water is not complimentary occurs only after you get the bill at checkout. 

Solution: Check with the experts

Do your research. Before you visit a new country, consult the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for facts and warnings to help you prepare. You simply enter your destination, and the site provides health notices and tips to ensure safe eating and drinking.

If the water is indeed unsafe to drink, consider taking a trip outside the hotel to buy a gallon jug to drink during your stay. It will save you money and give you peace of mind.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Chinese New Year
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Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning February 16, China will welcome the Year of the Dog, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. THE HOLIDAY WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO SCARE OFF A MONSTER.

Nian at Chinese New Year
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As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A LOT OF FAMILIES USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CLEAN THE HOUSE.

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While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. IT WILL PROMPT BILLIONS OF TRIPS.

Man waiting for a train.
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Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS.

Colorful pills and medications
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While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. SOME PEOPLE RENT BOYFRIENDS OR GIRLFRIENDS TO SOOTHE PARENTS.

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In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. RED ENVELOPES ARE EVERYWHERE.

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An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. IT CAN CREATE RECORD LEVELS OF SMOG.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
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Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. BLACK CLOTHES ARE A BAD OMEN.

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So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. IT LEADS TO PLANES BEING STUFFED FULL OF CHERRIES.

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Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand—last year Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. PANDA EXPRESS IS HOPING IT'LL CATCH ON IN THE STATES.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
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Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

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For the First Time, You Can Spend the Night on New York's Governors Island This Summer
Michael Vadon, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Michael Vadon, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Soon, you'll be able to camp out on a 172-acre historical island without straying too far from the conveniences of a slightly bigger island: Manhattan.

This summer, visitors will be able to sleep under the stars on Governors Island in New York City's harbor for the first time, Lonely Planet reports. Collective Retreats will offer a glamping package that includes luxury tents, farm-to-table dining, and activities, which may include live music, culinary classes, wellness sessions, thought leadership seminars, or yoga.

Located a 10-minute ferry ride from the southern end of Manhattan, Governors Island served as a military base beginning in 1755, and was used most recently by the United States Coast Guard from 1966 until 1996. That year, it was designated as a historical district, and by 2006, the island had opened to the public as a car-free green space. These days, visitors can wander among 19th-century buildings, lounge in a hammock on a grassy lawn, tour two historical forts, rent bikes, and see public art.

Collective Retreats offers a premium tent starting at $150 per night. Or, you can spring for a luxury tent at $500 per night. That rate gets you a private bath with full-flush toilets and rain-style hot showers, complimentary breakfast and s'mores, and personal concierge services. Plus, your tent is stocked with a supply of filtered water, a mini library of travel and fiction books, Pendleton blankets, a chandelier, and outlets for your tech stuff. On select nights, you can take advantage of discounted rates and book a night in a premium tent for $75.

The glampsite can accommodate about 100 overnight guests total, and stays are available from May to October, when Governors Island closes for the season. To get to the island, all you need to do is catch a ferry from Manhattan or Brooklyn: rides are even free on Saturdays and Sundays until 11:30 a.m.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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