Q I am supposed to be going on a trip of a lifetime to mark a special birthday in April. I have booked and paid in full via an online “middleman” for five nights at a New York hotel. But I have been looking at the reviews on several sites and I am getting really concerned. They say there are rodents, bed bugs, stained bedding and unsafe electrics. I have contacted the online agent and it says it has good reports of the property but it will get involved if I have problems at the hotel. Is there anything I can do?

Christine E

A How upsetting and exasperating that, instead of looking forward to the trip to New York, you are understandably fretting about what awaits when you get there. Because of the way you have chosen to book the trip, I am afraid that your legal options are limited. Had you booked flights and accommodation in a single transaction, it would have constituted a package – with all the consumer protection that bestows. The provider of the package is legally obliged to ensure that your accommodation is clean and safe, and to take appropriate action if it is not.

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As things stand, suppose you check in to your room and your worst fears are realised. The first stage is to ask the front desk to move you to a different room. Given the high occupancy rates in New York that may be no easy task, and even then the hotel management may simply refuse. If so, gather evidence in the form of photographs or videos and contact the intermediary who sold you the hotel.

I recognise that such a palaver is absolutely the last thing you want when you should be enjoying all that Manhattan has to offer. So I wonder if I can offer any reassurance by pointing out that not everything written on online review sites is accurate? Furthermore, if criticisms are made, then a decent hotel management team will try to address the problem. And if they don’t, then New York’s robust public health authorities may well take an interest between now and April. I believe the chances are high that you will have a happy birthday trip.

Every day our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles a reader’s question. Just email yours to s@hols.tv or tweet @simoncalder

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