A couple of summers ago Mike was taking his family on a vacation and they did a little side trip that included an overnight stay they didn't originally plan. After arriving at the hotel and riding through the parking lot, Mike didn't like what he saw and his family continued down the road to a different town and hotel. That's just one way to avoid a bad hotel experience, that might mess with your vacation. Here are other tips to ensure your accommodations are just what you expected.

First, Mike did the same thing my parents did during many of our family vacations years ago. He didn't like the vibe of the hotel when he saw it. He wasn't a fan of the neighborhood and noticed several things that made him decide, as tired as he was, it would be better for him and his family to drive a little further and stay somewhere more comfortable. It's simple, if the driveby disappoints, there's a good chance your gut is right. This is according to Readers Digest.

The magazine also suggests doing your research before heading to the hotel. If the photos on a hotel website look generic or fake, that should give you pause. Additionally, look for and compare photos taken by guests against those posted by the hotel. Sure, the professional snaps should look better. Yet, generally, there shouldn't be a huge disparity between what the hotel posted and what guests are posting.

Readers Digest also suggests making sure key photos aren't missing. If a hotel only has exterior photos, why aren't there any pictures of the rooms? If there are no exterior photos, but only those inside, what's going on there? They also suggest being suspicious of a hotel where it seems there are lots of closeups of things like flowers, or bathroom amenities, yet there aren't a lot of photos showing off the hotel in general.

I'd suggest reviewing reviews and ratings from websites like Trip Advisor and Expedia. I used to work with a company that booked a lot of experiences like the trips we give away on the radio. The gentleman I worked with was a big believer in Expedia ratings. He felt they were a little more accurate and screened out some reviews that might inflate or deflate a hotel's rating. I look at both and use that knowledge to help in my decision-making.

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It's also important to look at when the reviews are posted, if a hotel previously had great reviews, but seems to have gone downhill recently, that could be a red flag. A hotel that previously had bad reviews, but has seemingly improved, might be a green flag. Especially, if the person responding to the reviews from the hotel is talking about the different things they've done to make it a better experience in customer responses.

That's also something to look for, if management responses seem hostile, or not very polite, that's a deal breaker for me because it speaks to how that hotel treats it's customers. I get it, the public can be rude, obnoxious, and treat hospitality staff rudely, yet that's not an excuse to give it back to the public. Even if that guest was a big pain in the behind.

Finally, I always like to book through the hotel. The gentleman I worked with creating those listener trips always booked through Expedia and never had a problem. Yet, I've read and heard booking your room through the hotel is better. It might get you a better room than booking through a site, and if you need a favor or have an upgrade request you need to ask the front desk about, it might be looked upon more favorably.

One last thing, don't be afraid to join those hotel chain loyalty programs. They can provide you with a little bit of a discount and provide you with several reservation options when it comes to booking your room. They also clearly outline reservation policies, cancellation policies, and the like so that won't be a surprise when you're checking in either.

Hopefully, these tips will help you have a wonderful vacation in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, or wherever you choose to explore.

By the way, once you get to your destination and check in, you'll want to check your room for bed-begs, here's how to do that.

A Look At the Abandoned Once Great Millennium Hotel In St. Louis

The abandoned Millennium Hotel near The Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium was once one of St. Louis' great riverfront hotels. Since its abandonment several years ago, time, decay, and urban explorers have all taken their toll on the building. Unconfirmed reports of asbestos or other contamination in the building make it even more unattractive and expensive to rehab or tear down and redevelop. Millenium Hotels, who still apparently own the hotel, don't seem all that interested in redeveloping, remodeling, or selling the facility either.

Check out these photos, from a video shot several years ago before time began to ravage the complex. They're from a Youtube video shot by BackyardExploration seven years ago. You can check out more recent photos of the hotel's decline here.

WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

Gallery Credit: Rob Creighton

Check Out The Sad Story of One of Kansas City's Formerly Great Hotels

At one time this hotel which was located near I-435 and Front Street was one of the bigger hotels in Kansas City, and somewhat swanky. The hotel's downfall included anarchy, employees that just walked away from their post, an owner who escaped Kansas City for Brazil, and an eventual implosion of the buildings. Pictures come from Youtube videos created by Steven Downing and Exploring the Abandoned.

Gallery Credit: Rob Creighton

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