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JULY 31, 2017 — Good morning, everybody! Here's the latest from the world's hotels, motels, and mud pits. 

IT'S BECOMING MORE DIFFICULT TO CANCEL HILTON AND MARRIOTT RESERVATIONS (Los Angeles Times

In June, Marriott changed its rules about canceling hotel reservations. Before then, customers usually could cancel a room all the way until the day of check-in, sometimes the day before, and suffer no penalty.

But as of this summer, the new Marriott deadline is 48 hours in North America and Latin America. If you don't cancel your Marriott room at least two days before check-in, you must pay the equivalent of one night's rate.

It was a nasty game-changer for those of us who like to shop for better deals. Often, the best prices surface within 48 hours, as hotels begin to realize how empty they might be and slash rates accordingly. If customers don't have the chance to rebook with a better deal, they're stuck with a higher price.

And as it turns out, that is precisely why the company instituted the new rule: to prevent you from finding something better. This is something that slams leisure travelers harder than business travelers, who tend to cancel at a lower rate.

Now Hilton has joined Marriott in the 48-hour penalty rule. 

The new, ruder policy kicks in July 31 at hotels that Hilton owns in the United States and Canada. (At hotels that are owned by someone else but merely managed by the brand, the cancellation policy is up to the property manager.) If you don't cancel a reservation before the 48-hour deadline, you get charged a night.

If the industry wants to impose harsher cancellation policies, perhaps customers should respond by imposing harsher requirements for their loyalty. What's the point of being loyal to a brand that punishes you for being a smart consumer?

In fact, a Business Travel Coalition survey reported by Tnooz says exactly that is happening: Travel bookers are leaning away from Marriott for imposing harsher penalties. —Jason Cochran

MUD FESTIVAL PLANNED FOR NEW ZEALAND

The mud in most places isn't worth celebrating.

Then again, most places aren't Rotorua, New Zealand, where geothermal activity creates geysers, hot springs, and, yes, mud rich in restorative minerals useful in beauty and wellness treatments. 

This December, Rotorua will be celebrating that unique feature of the landscape with the first-ever Mudtopia Festival, a three-day event during which participants will have numerous chances to play and get pampered in the mud.

There will be muddy pools to wallow in, muddy obstacle courses to take on, a mud run, and a muddy playground where you can try your hand at everything from wrestling to something called a "horizontal mud bungy" (leave it to New Zealanders to find a way to incorporate bungee jumping somehow). 

Those in search of a more relaxing experience can opt for mud massages, facials, and other treatments, or browse locally made, mud-infused beauty products.

Live music acts and street food vendors will be on hand as well.

Mudtopia is scheduled for December 1-3; that's in the late spring in the Southern Hemisphere. You can purchase tickets here. —Zac Thompson



NEVADA CLOWN MOTEL FOR SALE (Metro)

A leading contender for the title of World's Creepiest Motel has just gone on the market. 

The Clown Motel is a 31-room accommodation in tiny Tonopah, Nevada, located about midway between Las Vegas and Reno. As you might have guessed/dreaded from the name, the place is stuffed with an enormous collection of clown paintings, prints, decor, and toys—some of which are suspended over beds.

That's right: They dangle over your bed. Smiling menacingly. With a sinister little glint in their eyes. While you sleep.

Just kidding—you will not sleep.

Here's a photo that was taken in the lobby:

(What horrible crime has he committed to end up in that cage?? Photo by Will Keightley / Flickr)

Now this nightmare factory can be all yours.

After 22 years in charge of the motel, owner Bob Perchetti says that although business remains good, he's ready to retire and spend more time with his grandkids. We assume the whole family will cram themselves into a tiny clown car and ride off into the sunset. 

In any case, Perchetti is now selling the property, clowns and all. The asking price: $900,000. —ZT

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