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Budget Travel : Hotel Surcharges and Fees

Updated on June 22, 2014

Hotel Fees Can Derail The Great Vacation Deal

We all know you have to be a careful consumer when you travel. It starts the minute you decide to go on vacation somewhere. You decide how much you can afford then look for things within your budget. But finding the true cost can be a little tricky. Lets talk about how hotel fees can increase the amount you pay for a trip and totally change your budget. Some of the fees are up front but others you might only find out at check out. Things you might think are inclusive you find out they are not.

The Price Of Hotel Fees

Hidden Resort Fees

You search the internet for all the great hotel deals. You see a sale for lets say, $99 a room. You start to make your reservations but you want to know is there more. But of course, this is excluding tax and other fees. You need to find out what the other fees are. A resort fee can be tacked on and can be $5 to $30 dollars a day. Excluding tax your bargain may now be $129 a day and counting. In doesn't matter if your hotel isn't a real resort. It might be called a hospitality fee or something else. Surcharges start to add up. Parking tips, internet, cleaning staff automatic gratuity ( whether they did a good job or not), telephone activation fee, charges for 800 numbers, use of safe, early check out and many others. This is a form of social engineering. You are quoted the low ball price assuming it is all inclusive like it used to be. But it is not. It is like the car axiom of the sum of the parts are worth more than the whole. Charging by the piece becomes more lucrative.

Hotels are allowed to charge these fees, but it must be stated up front before check-in. Not disclosing certain fees until right before booking makes it seem less expensive than it really is. Check the hotel web pages which will include the charges and be sure to read the fine print and call and ask. Do not assume that anything is free, even if it was previously. Things change very quickly. Then do your math.

There has been cases where a hotel gave total price up front. Unfortunately other hotels did not. People looked at those hotels as more expensive and went to the hotel that low balled them. It is a matter of perception. Now with this subject getting attention there are hotels that advertise no extra fees.

Avoid Hidden Hotel Fees

A Travel Industry Bait And Switch

I was looking for a fridge and microwave in a hotel room that I thought came with them. I asked at the front desk since I had read that the rooms came with them. Oh no she said, only select rooms and there is a surcharge. Many people have gone into hotel rooms and find one king size bed instead of two. The say that they don't have any more rooms with double beds or they don't have anymore rooms with a microwave, so deal with it. Or they just forgot to mention that they were doing major construction in the vicinity of your room. Or that the pool was closed for refurbishing. Same with shuttles, it must state complimentary or else there is a fee. You might need further clarification as to where the shuttle will take you and will it bring you back. What is the schedule? Does it fit your schedule.

You need to be careful about the term amenities. In the small print it might say not all amenities are on the premises but are close by. So the gym is where? And of course you might have an extra fee.

Most likely the bathrobes are free to wear but don't make a mistake and pack it and take it home. A recent hotel I stayed at had a price tag of $45 dollars for a thin cotton one. They also had a price list for in room breakfast which gave the price of what you wanted and said you are also charged tax plus $18 percent service charge and a $3.00 delivery fee.

Everyone uses their cell phone instead of the high priced hotel phone or at least Skype if they are using the internet. You still can be charged if you use a phone card though.

Many folks use the so called opaque sites like Priceline or Hotwire that promise you great prices for hotel rooms but you don't know the hotel until the last moment. Not knowing the exact hotel makes it next to impossible to research whether or not they use resort or other hidden fees to hide their real costs. Even if you use sites that compare hotel room rates you must remember to add in other daily prices to get a real idea of the real daily room rate.

Hotels themselves can be of help with your budget. Many of them have loyalty programs that do have good deals. With the loyalty or rewards program you are rewarded for using their brand. Most of them are chains and have many different hotels in many places under different names. You register for their cards and get points that can be redeemed for upgrades, less fees, and discounts for rooms, cruises, rental cars and even airplane seats. Using their partners helps in gathering rewards. They also offer credit cards with additional points and perks.

On The Alert

Do You Look Out For Hidden Hotel Fees?

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Check Out Your Bill Before Checking Out

You could be in for a surprise

Once while on vacation I was checking out my hotel room and was happy to see a small fridge. I opened it and was disappointed to find it was a mini bar. What I also noticed was that it was messy, with half eaten candy bars and half empty soda bottles and lots of empty space. Oh oh. I found the price card and saw there was a lot of missing things . I immediately called the front desk and told them that I just checked in and this is the way I found it and I was not responsible for any of the missing items.

In truth I bring from home my own junk food, water, juices, tea, dry cereal, hot cereal packets and other needed stuff. They said that they would come up and restock the mini bar and lock it back up. Yes lock it back up with one of those plastic locks. Apparently there is a charge if the lock normally is found broken. Eventually while I was out someone came up restocked and relocked it. Now of course I had no access to a fridge. I resorted to putting my brought from home water in a bucket of ice, old school style. The ice was free if you got it yourself. There was a couple of other things strategically placed around the room, with price placards. Luckily, they weren't on a weight sensored tray. I asked at the front desk was the paper still complimentary. As you can see I did not want to pay for anything extra. This particular hotel did not supply a coffee maker in the room, they had coffee down stairs near the lobby, yikes. Unfortunately this was before I bought the heat immerser for such an occasion. This is a heating element that will heat individual cups of water and you can make tea , instant coffee, soup etc. And of course they didn't have a vending machine anywhere. This was not a hotel I normally would pick and I was here for an evening wedding. I also made assumptions, like every hotel room has a coffee maker.

I didn't learn from my past mistake when I went on a cruise and they didn't allow irons. I was told by people that they have special irons you can use on the cruise ships they were on. When I asked the steward about it he said I could send my clothes out to be pressed, for a fee. I didn't, I just hung them up in the bathroom and tried to steam some of the wrinkles out. When I got home I bought some wrinkle resistant clothes for the next time. At least the mini bar on the cruise ship was not locked and we could store stuff in it. There also was this very basic hotel I stayed at that did not provide shampoo or gel. There was that one little bar of soap.

The wedding was lovely and now it was time for me to go home, that night I was still up late, there was a party in the next room. Someone slipped the bill under the door. I gasped as I saw the extra $250 for snacks. I called the front desk and reiterated the fact that the mini bar bill was not mine. They apologized and a corrected bill was sent up. Later that day when I was leaving I paid the corrected bill and left the hotel. That should have been the end of it but alas what do I see on the next credit card bill but that dratted mini bar bill. I called the hotel and spoke to a manager about this bill, hopefully for the last time. I kept both corrected and uncorrected bills for my record and referred to them when speaking to him. It was finally corrected and I was able to verify it on the following credit card statement.

In general it is a good idea to keep all receipts. People have been accused of not paying for services and charged double for things. It is easier to dispute charges with the receipt in hand.

Video: Extra Fees at a Resort

Books on Budget Travel - Travel on the cheap

You can go more places if you budget and get more bang for your buck.

Fee You May Be Charged

baggage hold


early check in

dial tone

early check out

mini bar

mini bar (if you accept key)

mini bar restocking


housekeeping tip

bellman tip


bottled water

bartender tip

room service delivery

room service tip


Ebay Travel Gadgets - must haves for travel

There is a fee for everything including overweight bags, carry with you a luggage scale in case the shopping is good at your vacation destination. Did you know they tested out the scales at some of the airports and found them reading out the wrong weight.

If you don't see anything here just click on the eBay logo for a wider option.

What's Your Opinion On Hotel Fees?

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    • covenantguy lm profile image

      covenantguy lm 7 years ago

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