In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning to 22 hotel chains that room rates that exclude mandatory extra fees and surcharges may be deceptive. However, the FTC’s July 2015 response to Travelers United, an advocacy group, is disappointing. While acknowledging that added fees not bundled into the room rate may be annoying, the FTC did not label the practice deceptive.
Too bad. Here are tips to avoid or minimize lodging fees so you won’t get hotel sticker shock upon receiving your bill.
These range from $20-$100 or more per day. Instead of a flat fee some properties charge 15%-18% of the room rate. Often this fee is for services that used to be free with your room, including access to the pool, spa, and gym. Some resort fees include tips for housekeepers and bellmen. Make sure you know what’s covered so you don’t pay twice.
ResortFeeChecker.com is a handy tool. For popular destinations, you can research whether your hotel charges a fee and what it covers. The Eden Roc Miami Beach, for example, charges $21 per room, per night for beach loungers, fitness classes, Internet, local phone calls, and in-room bottled water.
Wi-Fi and Internet Fees
Join a loyalty program to receive free or faster Wi-Fi. Check to see if your resort fee includes free Wi-Fi.
In February 2015, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts worldwide started offering free Wi-Fi in guest rooms and public spaces. That’s good, except that for even faster connections you pay a fee unless you have Diamond or Platinum status with Hyatt Passport, the hotel’s frequent stay program.
Starwood also began offering free Wi-Fi to its Starwood Preferred Guest members. Marriott Rewards members, since January 2015, receive free Wi-Fi in its upmarket and mid-range brands—JW Marriott, Renaissance,and Marriott Hotels. Premium bandwidth costs $5-$7 and is free to Gold and Premium Elite members.
Only use the in-room phone to call the front desk or room service. Some resort fees cover local calls. If not, use your cell phone. In-room telephone calls can come with a $1 or more surcharge per call.
Before you touch the soda cans, water bottles, and beer inside, make sure they aren’t connected to sensors. Many huge hotels such as the ones in Vegas use sensors in honor bars to automatically track charges. As soon as you pick up an item—even if you put the can back in its place—the sensor registers a purchase.
If the fridge is sensor-free, then remove the hotel’s items and replace them with bottled water, juices and whatever else you like that you have purchased at a local convenience store. Buying your own items costs less than using the ones in the hotel refrigerator and also saves you the $3-$6 restocking fee that some hotels tack on to replace an item.
In-room safe fees: Some hotels charge a fee $2-$4 a day whether or not you use the safe. We think this is ridiculous.
Extra person fees: Most room rates are for two adults. When traveling with kids, find out whether your hotel allows two children under 17 to stay free in existing bedding. Some hotels charge $15-$30 per child for teens 13-17.
Cribs and cots fee: Some properties provide a crib or cot for free, other hotels charge $25-$75 per night.
Early check-in and late departures: If you show up at the hotel at 10:30 a.m. instead of after 3 p.m., you may incur $20-$50 for an early check-in. If you depart after the typical 11 a.m. to noon check-out, you may be hit with another $20-$50. When arriving at a resort early, especially with kids, pack a small bag with swimsuits and cover-ups and ask to use the facilities. Most hotels won’t charge for this, but some might so be sure to ask.
Also, check online and call the hotel to ask about the possibility of arriving in early or departing late. The front desk might be flexible and accommodate you without a charge.
Parking fees: Valet parking ranges from $30-$60 per day. Be sure you know whether this fee enables you to take your car in and out all day, or whether you are charged $60 each time a valet brings you your car in a 24-hour period. That happened to us in New York City. When we found out it would be $180 to use the car three times in one day, we left the car parked at the hotel and took cabs. And we never returned to that hotel again.
Also, see if you can self-park for less at the hotel or somewhere else in the neighborhood.
Taxes: Remember that room rates come with a mandatory sales tax, typically 5% to 9% and sometimes the jurisdiction adds on occupancy charges of 2%-5%.
Check your bill: Allow enough time to review the charges. If concerned, go to the front desk and discuss the items. Maybe, just maybe, you won’t be charged fees for safes and other silly items.
Have you been hit with surprise fees when staying at hotels? Have you succeed (or failed) to talk the front desk out of charging you? Share your comments below or connect with us on Twitter, @familyitrips.