One of our first travel fails happened during a full day of travel from one side of the Yucatan peninsula to the other, from Celestun to Tulum. We had a rental car in Celestun that we needed to return to Merida. We had scheduled it perfectly to get to Merida at 11:30, allowing us time to each lunch, walk to the bus station and buy our tickets before boarding at 1:00, getting us to Tulum in time for dinner. But when we reached the Merida bus station, we learned that tickets for the 1:00 bus were sold out. So the next bus would not leave for another 5 hours later, at 6:00 pm, putting us into Tulum at 10:00 pm. We had all of our luggage with us, no hotel, with 5 hours to kill. But we made the most of our extra time in Merida by dropping off our dirty laundry to get washed and using the wifi in Plaza Grande to catch up on some things.
Since January is high season here, hotels were booking up quickly and we did not want to arrive to Tulum without reservation. Up until this point, we had done extremely well finding very reasonable accommodation, sometimes booking in advance and sometimes just showing up. Tulum seemed to be filling up so we booked the room online, paid for it, and received confirmation. However, when we were waiting in Merida, I received an email from the owner of the place informing me that the room was somehow just booked in-person by someone else and he wouldn’t be able to accommodate us. What?! We had a reservation and had paid! How does that happen? So I sent him a bit of a nasty-gram, asked for a refund, and quickly booked the next decent hotel I was able to find online.
So we’re getting into Tulum late. No big deal. Our confirmed room reservation fell through on us, but now we have a different hotel instead. Fine. So shortly after arriving, we located our hotel and went to check-in. But nobody was at the reception. The gate was locked and there was a sign instructing to ring the buzzer. We rang. It was loud. No one came. We rang dozens more times. Nothing. Finally some hotel guests began waking up and coming out of their rooms to offer assistance, but could find no staff members anywhere. We sat outside the gates of the small hotel for a good hour hoping someone would be arriving soon, but no such luck.
So there we were, having not one, but two separate paid reservations in Tulum, yet neither one could actually accommodate us. You have got to be kidding me! So we walked around from hotel to hotel. All were either booked or had no staff on duty during the late hour. It was now approaching midnight and we had no place to stay. We were completed stranded and homeless in Tulum, Mexico.
Finally I decided to go to the original place that we had booked a room to see if anyone was around there, and demand to give us the room we had paid for. Thankfully someone was there and after receiving my email they had moved some people around in order to host us after all. Thanks (sarcasm). After this nerve-wreaking long travel day, we needed a few drinks to unwind and found the best mojito ever at Batey’s, which did the trick.
We thought it was all over, but when we got up the next morning and begun getting dressed we found this little guy crawling around the floor. I hightailed it out of there and found a nearby hotel room with availability. Time to move!
There is one silver lining to our little travel ordeal. Because we used an online booking service (hotels.com) to book the hotel room who had totally abandoned us, I was able to submit a complaint with them that not only got me a full refund but also a $100 credit to use on a future hotel booking. So after all our trouble, we were actually up $100. Not bad. This is a great reason to use a booking company when possible instead of booking directly with a hotel.