There’s something in all of us that makes us want to be the first one to do something. It’s human nature, or whatever. The feeling you get knowing you’re the first person to see something, or stay somewhere, or eat somewhere or just to travel to an exotic destination.
It’s for the same reason that people love to go to, and read about, brand-new things. New hotels. New restaurants. New bars. New theme park lands and new cruise ships.
If you’re a regular traveler and don’t need to go somewhere right when it opens, do yourself a favor and don’t. Leave that stuff to the travel bloggers who love to go to and write about these events, regardless if they’re good or bad. The easiest location to avoid around a grand opening is a hotel because you’re usually booking before the opening date and there’s some notice that the location is not yet finished during the process.
Here are a few reasons it’s not a good idea to plan a visit around a grand opening:
The Grand Opening Date Can Change
Say you book a hotel six months in advance but the location isn’t open yet. What if you really want to be there on opening day and book for the first night available? There’s a decent chance that the hotel won’t open on time. Things happen during construction or renovations that can’t be predicted. If the hotel isn’t going to open on time, they’ll just cancel your reservation. If done in advance, there’s not much they have to offer in exchange but they’ll typically offer a room in another one of their hotels in the area. Check out these posts from The Gate and One Mile at a Time for some examples of when this has happened to readers.
Not to mention the monkey wrench this will throw into your plans if you’re traveling a great distance to stay at this hotel and have other non-refundable reservations. If you were going just to see this new hotel, you’ll have to try and reschedule your trip.
The Grand Opening May Not Be The Real Opening
The grand opening is the official opening date. However, many locations start accepting guests during a “soft opening” period. This is a gray period where things function like they’re fully operational but kinks are still getting worked out of the system.
Ben from One Mile at a Time stayed at the Le Meriden Tampa during the first day of soft opening and shared some of the positives and negatives about being at a hotel on the first day they accept paying guests.
Hopefully by the time the ribbon-cutting ceremony happens and the VIPs arrive, most of the kinks will have been worked out. However…
Things May Not Go As Planned
It’s quite possible that when a location opens, it might not be ready for prime time. An example is the mid-2019 opening of the TWA Hotel at JFK airport. Travel bloggers, reporters, aviation enthusiasts and everyone else wanting to see the classic TWA terminal come back to life visited the hotel on opening day. Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t totally finished when it opened to the public.
How would you feel if you paid full price for a room at a hotel you’ve been looking forward to for over a year and when you get there, things aren’t finished? I’d be disappointed too.
We stayed at the TWA Hotel a few months after the grand opening and had a great time. By then, they had time to fix all of the problems from opening day.
What Can You Expect?
Sometimes you either need or want to book a hotel right around the opening date. What should you expect? The first thing to remember is to bring a bunch of patience as there can be a ton of things that might go wrong. Computer issues would be the primary concern, as you’ll have new employees working with newly installed systems. That’s a recipe for delays and all you can do is wait it out.
I’d also expect some engineering problems as well. Maybe they haven’t discovered that the construction crew forgot to caulk around the shower stall in Room 425 or the outlets and USB plugs aren’t connected in the lounge.
Personally, I like to give at least a month before staying anywhere after it opens. That gives the employees a chance to get into a rhythm at their new job of working with guests at that location, and it’s also enough time to figure out which things weren’t working and hopefully get them fixed.
All of these tips go for anyplace new. Unless you have a specific reason, it’s usually best to hang back and let them work out the kinks. After all, why set yourself to be the guinea pig for their real-time experiment? Sure, there’ll be times when you want to go to the grand opening. Maybe you want to lend your support to a new business opening in the area or it’s a project you’re really excited about. Just know going in that your experience may not be optimal. Go with the flow. Don’t stress out. The new employees are handling enough stress for everyone to go around.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary