Top Picks For You

These 3 U.S. Cities Have the Worst Hotels, According to Travelers

Be careful before you book into these towns.

Planning travel to Myrtle Beach, Atlantic City, or Virginia Beach? Check out those hotel options carefully. Planetware analyzed 7.8 million TripAdvisor reviews, and found those cities among the worst in hotel quality—as reported by TripAdvisor users—with nearly one in five visitors leaving bad reviews on the site across the hotel options in those cities.

It’s worth noting that while the top three cities had around 20% of users ranking hotels just one or two stars (out of five) on the site, that by no means indicates the cities are completely devoid of acceptable—even excellent—lodging accommodations. It simply means that the highest number of visitors to those cities who also happened to leave reviews on TripAdvisor found some sort of inadequacy in their accommodations.

A quick search on TripAdvisor—the same site from which Planetware pulled data—yielded a not-insignificant number of four-star and higher rated hotels, even in the cities Planetware called out as the worst.

The top complaint Planetware found in the reviews was the smell of smoking rooms, which at many properties is a non-issue. Several global hospitality brands like Marriott, Sheraton, and Comfort Inn are smoke-free. Other top complaints included shortages in toilet paper, bed bugs, and thin walls.

Continue Reading Article After Our Video

Recommended Fodor’s Video

Planetware’s analysis also tallied the cities where complaints specific to hotel service were made. Miami Beach topped that list, with just over 19% of reviewers complaining about service at the city’s hotels. Montauk, New York, and Cape May, New Jersey, were close behind.

While review sites such as TripAdvisor can be valuable tools to help travelers watch out for trends from multiple reviewers (like bad service or consistently unclean rooms), they’re just one of many tools travelers can use to evaluate lodging options. Review sites have their drawbacks, such as older reviews that might not reflect a property’s current conditions, unreasonable expectations from reviewers, or complaints that are inflated in the hopes of attention or compensation from a hotel’s management (hotel managers often monitor and respond on review sites).

Trusted travel advisors or guidebooks written by impartial, professional reviewers aren’t the anachronisms they may seem in the digital age. Travel advisors can often book clients at hotels they have direct relationships with, serving as powerful advocates if their customers’ expectations aren’t met. Professional, unbiased reviewers are adept at identifying whether issues are systemic or ongoing, and can speak to broad audiences in their entries.

There’s also a distinct value in selecting hotels associated with global hospitality brands, which maintain exacting minimum standards for their properties. They won’t necessarily be a cookie-cutter experience, either. With Hilton’s Curio Collection or Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio and Autograph Collection, many large hospitality groups have recently made gains in operating hotels that reflect the distinctive character of their communities. Independently owned and operated hotels that belong to more loosely affiliated consortiums like Preferred Hotels & Resorts, The Leading Hotels of The World, or Small Luxury Hotels are another good option for hotels that maintain certain levels of quality that travelers can depend on.

Travelers can also check consumer resources (such as the Better Business Bureau) prior to booking. Many countries abroad have government-standardized star rating systems, and those can also be helpful when selecting accommodations. In the United States, there’s no standardized rating system, but the diamond ratings issued by the American Automobile Association (AAA) are widely accepted as a strong (relatively objective) indicator of hotel quality. AAA also maintains certain basic safety standards for hotels to be listed in their guidebooks, so they’re another good resource for travelers.

Travelers can ultimately book most cities across the country with the confidence that there should be accommodations that will suit their tastes and needs. However, as hotels in each destination have their individual challenges—for instance, staffing, concentrated peak demand periods, and local regulations—it’s worth doing some advance research prior to booking to ensure a stay will ultimately be enjoyable and hassle-free.