I’ve long enjoyed The Finicky Traveler weekend column at the Wall Street Journal. It’s one of the few print columns that isn’t afraid to say when a luxury hotel falls short of expectations—or downright blows it.

“In more than 10 years of writing this newspaper’s Finicky Traveler column, I’ve had my share of unpleasant experiences: the famous hotel in Venice with green mold on the carpet, the pricey Caribbean resort with toxic odors from a local dump, the luxury hideaway in Southern California where our room was next to a city excavation project.”

A recent column departed from the usual first-person review, however, telling readers they may get what they deserve if they don’t speak up now and then. Travel expenditures can be major, so treat them that way. “For some reason, hotels (especially some of the grander ones) seem to cast a spell on people: Folks who wouldn’t shy away from sending back a $60 bottle of wine that tastes off, or returning a defective product, somehow turn into sheep when it comes to a hotel room.”

Read the full article to get all the tips, but here are some of Laura Landro’s key points on making your stay better.

1) Ask for upgrades upon check-in (especially if things are slow).

2) If you’re not happy with your room when the bellman opens the door, ask for something more suitable.

3) Call ahead with special requests and speak to the concierge ahead of time for reservations and experiences that are important for your stay.

4) Check your bill carefully before checking out. (Just this morning I found a mistake on mine, with a minibar bottle that was never removed.)

5) Vote with your feet. Unless you’ve prepaid your entire stay—often not a good move unless you know the hotel well—then move down the street if problems can’t be resolved.

See reviews of the best luxury hotels in Latin America.