Found an amazing rate on a hotel room listed as a “run of the house room” but aren’t sure what it truly means? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Even though run of the house rooms are something commonly seen on hotel and booking sites, there’s usually a surprising lack of information published for travelers to do their due diligence.
This quick guide will explain exactly what you’re getting when you book this type of room. We’ll also give you some tips to help you confidently get what you want out of your booking.
What is a Run of the House Room?
A run of the house room is a discounted booking that gives the hotel full discretion over what room a guest will receive. This means that guests can potentially receive any room in the hotel, regardless of price. Rooms are most often chosen based on availability and price.
That’s the short and sweet. Booking a run of the house room means paying a fixed, discounted price with the understanding that you’ll end up in whatever room the hotel chooses.
As with all things, there are some pros and cons (and potential pitfalls) to this approach. You could pay a low price and end up in the best suite in the building. On the flip side, you could pay a low price and end up in a glorified maid’s closet.
A little bit of research goes a long way. We’ll give you some of the basics to help you book with confidence and end up satisfied with your choice.
There are a few things you need to figure out before you can determine whether or not a run of the house room is a good idea.
Hotel Reputation is Important
The first thing you need to do is to evaluate the caliber of the hotel itself. There is a big difference between handing over your choice of room to a Four Seasons versus a Holiday Inn. (Speaking of not-so-real inns, we recently wrote an article breaking down the real differences between a hotel and an inn.)
More often than not, the staff at a higher-end hotel is going to do more to please the customer. It goes without saying that you’re much more likely to be satisfied with the customer service at a luxury hotel than a budget option.
The more accommodating the staff, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make a change if things don’t go quite as you had planned. Run of the house rooms are most commonly offered, but it is possible to see them listed with smaller operations.
Establish a “Worst Case” Room Scenario
There are plenty of hotels out there that really don’t have a bad room in the house, but there are far more hotels that have some truly awful possiblities. Determining your worst case room scenario at a given hotel is arguably the most important step to take before booking run of the house. Room sizes, bed configurations, seasonality- these are all important pieces of the puzzle.
Your first stop should be the accommodations page of the hotel’s own website. If you don’t immediately see a listing of room types, try picking a few different dates and running them through the site’s reservation finder. The goal is to identify the cheapest, smallest, ugliest room they have.
When you’ve exhausted the resources available to you on the hotel’s website, it’s time to check third-party sites. Tripadvisor, Hotels.com, Booking.com, etc. Run the same reservation checks on some random dates and see what comes up.
Sometimes there are big differences in the room descriptions you find on a hotel’s site versus the professional photos you find on a third-party site. Looking at both will give you the best odds at deciphering what room is on the lowest end of the totem pole.
Traveler Reviews and Photos are Your Best Friend
It can’t be stressed enough the importance of taking the time to do some digging through some genuine reviews and non-professional photos directly posted by travelers. This is often your silver bullet in making sense of what you can get with a run of the house room.
One of your biggest assets in your research will be the search functions built into travel sites. Tripadvisor, for example, allows you to search for specific terms in the reviews of a hotel. Type “run of the house” room into the search bar to find all relevant reviews.
Searching reviews will often give you a great idea of whether or not travelers have been satisfied with their bookings. You could find that almost everyone who has made a run of the house booking left glowing reviews because they got amazing upgrades. More importantly, you could uncover the alternative- that the run of the house bookings at a particular hotel usually leave a lot to be desired.
Many reviews will also include traveler photos of the exact room they received. In the vast majority of cases, you won’t have any doubt as to whether or not the average guest felt satisfied with their booking.
You should take a broad look at the traveler pictures as a whole. You’re probably in good shape if every single room picture looks pretty decent. However, you may want to exercise caution if you see a major variance in room quality.
Don’t Forget About Google
Websites that include travel reviews may be the easiest way to find what you’re looking for, but you still shouldn’t forget to make use of Google. Matter of fact, Google can often find those reviews for you.
The best method is to simply Google your hotel name, along with “run of the house room”. For example, a Google search for “Bellagio run of the house room” delivers a number of search results that include forums and reviews from real people.
This is a great way to access hard-to-find information, from simple reviews to full-on conversations regarding the offerings at a particular hotel.
Check Discount Travel Sites for Alternatives
If all else fails and you’re not comfortable with the uncertainty of booking a run of the house room, be sure to make the rounds on all of the discount hotel sites. Specifically, we’ve found over the years that many of the hotels that offer run of the house deals are more likely to be a part of “secret room” discounts on sites like Hotwire or Priceline.
Booking a room this way won’t necessarily tell you every detail about the room you’re getting, but it will often give you the ability to choose your bed configuration. At the very least, that will allow you to breathe easy knowing that you’re not sleeping in separate beds from your partner. Or worse- stuck in the same bed with someone you’d rather not be.
A run of the house room can be a great way to save some money while giving yourself a chance at a room that’s worth more than the price you paid. It’s much more likely though that you’ll receive the most basic, standard room at the hotel. Be prepared for either outcome, but expect that you’ll receive a room on the lower end of the spectrum.
The big thing to keep in mind is that you are always taking a bit of a risk when you book run of the house. It’s a much easier risk to take if you’re a casual, solo traveler and it’s a harder risk to take if room type is important to you or you’re traveling with others.
If you combine your own good judgment with the advice we’ve given you in this article, you should be able to eliminate some of the stress that comes with making (or not making) your booking. There’s no perfect solution, but a little bit of research goes a long way.
Let us know what experiences you’ve had with booking run of the house rooms! We’d love to know whether or not you were satisfied, along with any differences you’ve found from country to country, state to state, and hotel to hotel.