Work Travel With A Colleague: Who Picks The Hotel?

I’ve written a fair amount about my personal travel which almost always involves my family. But I also travel occasionally for work, so I have a bit of perspective on the corporate travel world, both from my own work travel and from chatting with my colleagues, a few of which are borderline road warriors.

On a recent work trip, I faced a conundrum that I bet affects many of you, and I’m curious to know how you handle it. I was accompanying a colleague on a site visit. It was to the middle of nowhere Indiana, so we would be flying in together and then sharing a rental car for the long ride to our destination where we’d spend a couple of nights. Fortunately, he picked my preferred airline, or I might have refused to go. Just kidding. Maybe not.

But for the hotel, he selected a Fairfield Inn by Marriott. 

The Fairfield Inn whereI stayed.
The Fairfield Inn whereI stayed.

I don’t have anything against Marriott per se, I just find that Hyatt and Starwood’s program is much more rewarding — despite the fact that Marriott seems to be racking up Freddie awards right and left. As a result, I will go out of my way to stay at these brands. The irony is that I now even have Marriott Gold status courtesy of RewardsPlus from United! Even so, they just don’t excite me (unless they are running the real MegaBonus promotion, not the crappy version that rolled out this spring). While they make a good backup program because they are everywhere, I prefer to stay elsewhere when all else is equal.

In this case, all else was equal.

This town had a Hyatt Place with exactly the same price as the Fairfield Inn. The only difference was that the Fairfield was near the freeway while the Hyatt Place was in town. I’m pretty sure that my colleague didn’t pick the Fairfield for that reason though, but rather it was suggested to him by our corporate travel agency which seems to have an affinity for Marriott. Basically, if there’s a Marriott available, that’s what they recommend. As a result, if my colleagues have any status at all (most do not), it’s with Mariott.

Now for sure, if he had had status with Marriott, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought as that’s as good a reason as any to stay somewhere and I definitely support working to earn status with somebody as opposed to nobody. But I knew that he didn’t have status.

The Hyatt Place where I could have stayed....
The Hyatt Place where I could have stayed.

Moreover, I have found that Hyatt is perhaps the most consistent at their low end brands like Hyatt Place and Hyatt House. I really don’t mind staying at these properties, even if they are a bit boring. Most importantly, I struggle to requalify Hyatt Diamond on stays, usually hitting exactly 25, so literally every one of them counts.

So what would you do in this situation when your colleague picked a hotel somewhat randomly? Would you suggest that you stay at your brand? 

In the end, I went along with the Fairfield Inn. In this case, he was the program manager and more senior than me, so despite the fact that I don’t think he really cared where we stayed, I let it go. Had the Hyatt Place been across the parking lot (like the Holiday Inn Express), I absolutely would have walked over and stayed there. But we were along the freeway and the Hyatt Place was in town, so that really wasn’t an option.

Adding insult to injury, this particular Fairfield Inn was pretty awful.

I did get a bit of vindication the next day at our meeting when one of our counterparts said that he had stayed at the Hyatt Place in town and had received wonderful service. It took all of my willpower to keep from giving my colleague the stink eye.

Since I’m sure many of you have been in this situation, what would you do? When traveling with a colleague, how do you decide when to stay at their brand vs. yours? What if your colleague doesn’t have a preferred brand? Do you take the opportunity to teach them about miles and points?


  1. If I’m more senior or only slightly junior, then I pick the arrangements, always. If I’m very junior, then I will persuasivley suggest my hotel of choice and then go with what the senior person decides. I find that people very senior to me generally don’t care where we stay and are greatful for the suggestion.

  2. A quick solution, I mention that I just googled the hotel and the first post was that it had bed bugs… May I suggest this other hotel.

  3. Timely post for me because I am right now in a Marriott on business, despite the fact that there is a Hyatt Place that I would have preferred across the street. (also a Radisson that I would have taken to get my 30,000 bonus points.). But, I’m traveling with the boss so I have to defer. In most cases with other coworkers they tend to defer to my suggestions because they view me as more of a travel expert. I don’t even try to make suggestions with the boss because he is never satisfied with any hotel- and I certainly don’t want to get the “blame” for something he hates.

  4. Depends on who I’m traveling with. Some partners are happy for a suggestion. Others have definite ideas. Know your audience. It’s worth missing a few points not to have “picked” the crappy place.

  5. At my job everyone knows I’m the travel expert. Yet most seniors when planning a trip say “book yourself at this hotel”. When that happens I ask no questions and do it. Others prefer my input and when that happens I share it. When I travel alone then it’s on me, as long as price is reasonable. Keep in mind that if your company has a group rate with certain hotels then you really can’t justify another one unless price is within range or benefits make up for it. I have stayed at Hyatts and paid the difference between my hotel and our group rate elsewhere. Depends where you work.

  6. Off subject a bit but has there ever been a blog written on how these corporate travel programs are designed or what they are based on? They all seem to have a slant given to a specific airline or hotel, car company, etc. What drives the corporate execs to pick a specific program? (there is a personal motivation to my question: I am about to be forced to start “buying” from Egencia, our program, and I am concerned about learning how to play the system to make sure I can still get my hotels and airlines of choice)

  7. I find it is best to be proactive. Look ahead for probable trips and scope out the possibilities. So long as your choice is not much more expensive, and you can justify any additional expense in terms of convenience (e.g. closer to destination, closer to freeway, decent breakfast so no need to go out), then suggest it as soon as the trip gets firmed up. Most people are relieved to not have to do the research.

  8. Maybe I missed something here, but why did it take “all of [your] willpower blah blah”? He didn’t reject your input; it was your choice to not say anything, at least based on what you wrote.

    Do you feel that he willfully chose the worse accommodations to spite you? Or is it more likely that he simply didn’t know any better, and he made the decision based on the information that the one party willing to speak up provided?

  9. Pretty sure you can use one sentence to answer this question : “In this case, he was the program manager and more senior than me”

    What if your manager like to stay at Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental? Both of them are bad in rewarding members…

  10. last night, i stayed at a fairfield inn in MA for the first time in my life. and probably will be the last.
    it had no gym on the premise. the desk clerk said i have to drive 10 minutes to their designated gym. wtf?
    well, i’m only doing this to get the free night(stay 2, get 1 free) for new members.
    my next stay will be at a courtyard.

  11. I generally will acquiesce to a require by someone more senior, but generally I make my own arrangements and we work transportation around that. Most of my colleagues find it amusing that I will stay in 4 hotels over the space of a week to qualify for status based on “stays”.

    My one rule is that I can’t be more than 5-10 minutes out of the way of where the others might be staying as it will inconvenience them.

    Ray in my experience the corporate travel programs tend to steer you towards the brands that the company has negotiated rates with. For example my company has a CDP with Hertz, so they’re using first choice for rental cars.

  12. If you “let it go”, really let it go – don’t give a stink eye later. There was opportunity to talk/suggest Hyatt Place earlier, and while I perfectly understand wanting to avoid any and all risk of upsetting your senior that bringing this up earlier could have posed, you can’t criticise them because you chose not to try and influence your senior here earlier (mind readers are far and few between).

    If travelling with colleagues, either hold your tounge or speak early regarding your wishes (but don’t hold people hostage to them). I don’t even see a problem about talking about splitting hotels (staying in different ones) if it comes to that, even if they aren’t close to each other, as long as it’s not a problem for your group.

  13. It would be nice to see a business travel focused blogger on Boarding Area, but I digress.

    My company is big enough with enough premium travel to get a variety of good deals. I find that I can almost always fly on a Oneworld carrier with a little due diligence. For example, I’ve been making many trips to India this year. My colleagues all prefer the non-stop EWR-DEL flight, which, with our corporate rate, prices out between $5500 and $6500 RT. I have found that Qatar Airways offers I class fares from PHL to DEL for $3700 RT, so even adding a second ticket to get from NY to PHL I end up spending far less money than they are spending. No one is going to complain about that and I get the miles I want.

    I usually pick my own hotel, even if it is different from where the rest of our team is staying. We arrange a van and driver when we are in DEL and it is easy enough to have him get me first and drive to the hotel to get the rest of the team.

  14. Just to be clear, I didn’t actually give him the stink eye….. it was more of me thinking to myself “I could have told you so”. I certainly didn’t talk to him about it at all — mostly we just laughed at how awful the Fairfield Inn was, LOL.

    It’s just an interesting question to me, and appreciate the feedback on how others handle it.

  15. I have found that my colleagues who don’t care about status often want to stay in Kimptons. They love them. I find I am often having to fend off “let’s stay at the Kimpton” or ultimately I end up saying I am going to stay down the road.

  16. Could be worse, such as having your whole trip booked by your Senior’s admin assistant. That’s when it’s especially important to be on friendly terms with the little old ladies.

  17. Heh… I’m the one who books all of the travel for our office. I have an Excel file with everyone’s preferences (right down to pillow preferences and certain employees wanting to be near certain brands of stores / grocery stores / gyms / etc) and try to make the most people happy. I also factor in hotel reviews and past experience. Seniority DOES NOT play a factor in it, other than making sure those most senior have an excellent trip and excellent service along the way. Even if that means advancing a bribe or two ahead of their trip.

    That said, hotel-wise, it’s usually a Marriott that gets booked. Yes, the rewards program status is difficult to earn by bed-nights, BUT they’ve been very good about giving everyone in our office Silver to start with, even if they’re not earning it.

    Also, our Marriott rep’s been consistently giving us good deals. When the Hyatt Place is charging $300/night and our Marriott rep’s willing to give us $127/night for a Residence Inn it’s a no-brainer. Similarly, when our Marriott rep’s giving us sub-$200/night rates in Manhattan, is there really any other choice? Due to the nature of our work, we’re required by law and rule to provide detailed billing. Yes, this means itemized charges. When everyone else is billing $450+/night hotels & J fares and we’re posting $180/night & economy fares on B6, suddenly the industry norm looks excessive and we look quite good. Last year the company was awarded two major bonuses for keeping costs down.

  18. It is possible to split accommodations while sharing a car, you know. I once traveled with a non-driving colleague, so I had the car. My colleague chose a hotel (which turned out to be a bad choice), and I was responsible for pick-ups and drop-offs. Sharing accommodations was not an option for that trip, because I preferred to board with my in-laws who happened to live in town.

  19. Really depends on your relationship with whom you’re traveling with. Someone on my level i’d gladly press for the hotel I want. Someone higher up whom i might not be close with – i’d just shut up a deal with it. I’m sure you still have a Marriott account you can credit the stay too and really, the job is more important than the points.

  20. I’ve not found the people I work with to have any hotel preferences, only airlines. It depends where we’re flying, but as I often fly from NYC to another populated city there are many options so I’ll take a different airline but still arrive within 15-30 minutes and meet then in the airport to carry on in to town.

    As no hotel preference, I usually suggest it but I too am looking primarily at price/location vs brand. Business travel is tiring enough, so being a close as you can to where you need to be is my preference.

  21. Well, I think it looks like next time you’ll say, “Hey, I noticed that we are booked in a Fairfield Inn and I’ve found that a lot of these are real stinkers. There is a Hyatt Place in town that looks really nice and at the same price. Do you mind if we stay there?”
    Also, you seem like a nice guy, so probably the travel dept people like you. So, you might just go straight to them and suggest it. Then you could also say, “if “biggish boss” really wants to stay at the Fairfield, great, but if he doesn’t care, can you guys book us into the Hyatt Place? Thanks!”
    This really seems like one of those hind sight type situations, where I’d really be wishing I’d said something, because frankly, it doesn’t seem like a touchy subject at all.

  22. First location… Proximity to the job site as long as it’s a clean respectable hotel. Second… Points. Job > points I personally choose not to inform everyone of my hobby. I’m not TPG so it gains me nothing to get into complicated stuff. If the higher up wants hotel X and we’re together, that’s where I’ll go.

  23. I’m lucky, while I do often travel with others we all make our own hotel reservations. Most of us are Marriott & Hilton brand loyal. Due to our territory layout it seems as if one of us will be in a company car, and he who has the car….gets to drive.
    All of us are focused on being good stewards with the companies money so there’s not many nights booked at a Four Seasons.
    When I book hotels, the first consideration is price, then fitness facility and finally distance to the next mornings meeting.
    After all these years I seem to have a system that works.

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