As summer approaches, vacation planning is in full swing—it’s the perfect time to get away from it all and take a break from your routine. Unfortunately, accidentally booking yourself at a bad hotel can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare.
To see which U.S. cities have the worst hotels, PlanetWare analyzed 7.8 million TripAdvisor reviews for more than 9,000 hotels across 95 cities. In order to be considered a hotel by TripAdvisor, a business has to either have an official license identifying it as a hotel from a local governmental or tourism authority, or meet the following criteria:
- The front desk is open and staffed 24/7.
- Check-in hours can have a start time, but not a designated end time.
- Daily housekeeping is included in the room rate.
- Each unit has a private bathroom.
- Guests aren’t required to stay more than three nights.
So, which cities have the worst hotels? Before you start planning your summer vacation, take a look at PlanetWare’s findings below.
U.S. Cities With the Worst Hotels
According to PlanetWare’s research, the top three cities with the worst hotels in America are Myrtle Beach, SC, Atlantic City, NJ, and Virginia Beach, VA. One in 5 visitors to these cities left negative reviews for area hotels, which is a high volume of low ratings when you consider how frequently visited these destinations are.
Of the three, Myrtle Beach was the absolute worst, with 20% one to two-star reviews. The analysis also found more than 130,000 mentions of bed bugs in reviews for local hotels, which, in addition to being one of the worst things for a tourist to encounter, suggests that many area hotels aren’t very clean or well-kept.
Just behind Myrtle Beach are Atlantic City and Virginia Beach, both with 19% one to two-star reviews. For Atlantic City, the analysis found 168,000 mentions of bed bugs and nearly 100,000 mentions of having a horrible experience. Virginia Beach wasn’t much better, with 30,000 reviews saying the lodging was the worst.
The Top 5 Complaints in Bad Hotel Reviews
With all this talk of bad experiences, you might be wondering what makes a place a “bad hotel.” Here are the top five complaints mentioned by reviewers in their negative reviews.
- The smell of smoke in rooms: Though smoking bans have been in place in most hotels since the early 2000s, that doesn’t mean guests always adhere to them, or that establishments updated their interiors after the fact.
- Not enough toilet paper: There’s almost nothing worse than finishing up your business and realizing that the roll is out—and that there isn’t another roll somewhere within reach. This is certainly not something that helps a person relax or feel luxurious.
- Bed bugs: These pests are a risk in any high-traffic area, as hotel proprietors well know. A good hotel will take special precautions to ensure that rooms and linens are clean and uninfested, especially when they’re turned over between guests. Bed bugs, though, are still a persistent problem in many hotels. If you wake up with the telltale line or group of swollen, itchy red bites, you’re probably dealing with an infestation. Having to visit urgent care in a strange place and blast your clothes on high heat can really put a damper on your vacation.
- Thin walls: You’re never exactly alone in a hotel, but it’s still reasonable to expect some peace and quiet. If your walls are thin enough that you can hear your neighbors, it’s much harder to relax.
- Poor service: Even if a hotel has great amenities, poor service from the staff can really sour your experience.
Cities With the Worst Service
As mentioned above, hotel service can make or break a guest’s experience. While friendly hotel service can make you feel like you’re part of a family, poor service might leave you feeling awkward, unwelcome, and, in some cases, without basic necessities.
Based on keyword mentions in bad reviews, the top five cities with bad hotel service are:
- Miami Beach, FL
- Montauk, NY
- Cape May, NJ
- Siesta Key, FL
- New York, NY
Two of these top five are Florida cities, and the other three are from the New York/New Jersey area, suggesting a potential pattern of bad service in these states.
Your summer vacation should give you a well-deserved break from the stress of daily life. Don’t let a bad hotel stay pile on stress and take away from your time to have fun.
Most of the cities on our lists are pretty heavily traveled destinations, so don’t be deterred from visiting. There are always exceptions to bad hotels and bad reviews. Just make sure you do your research before you book a hotel, especially if you’re planning to visit a popular summer spot like Myrtle Beach or Atlantic City. Good luck and happy travels!