With travel season approaching, it’s worth remembering that hotels seem to have perfected the practice of surprising guests with extra fees like these:
- Early check-in fees
- Early check-out fees
- Cancellation fees
- Fees for using the room safe
- Fees to hold your baggage behind the front desk
- Automatic gratuities (tips for staff)
Hotels can be adept at hiding charges, revealing them only in fine print on a website, in the final stages of a transaction or as you check out at the end of a stay. For example, you might find a $25 charge on your bill for using Wi-Fi or a fee for storing your own yogurt in the minibar fridge.
Sadly, hotel fees may be here to stay. So, it is up to consumers to be vigilant. Here are numerous ways to spot and avoid or fight hotel fees.
1. Read the fine print
Shock and amazement may not be an effective defense when you are checking out and discover surprise fees added to your bill. Instead, find and read the rules found on a hotel’s website, during check-in and in the room. Also, ask for a list of fees when you check in.
When shopping for a hotel, keep an eye out for things like “daily resort charges” and “resort charge” in ads and promotions.
2. Call ahead
You often can avoid fees by calling ahead and inquiring about packages, many of which include fee waivers for things like Wi-Fi and parking.
3. Look up resort fees
Use ResortFeeChecker.com to find fees charged at the hotels or resorts you are considering.
4. Negotiate a waiver
Some hotels will waive fees if you tell them at check-in that you won’t be using the items — such as Wi-Fi, the gym or the pool — that are covered by the fees.
5. Steer clear of hotels with fees
The surest way to deal with hotel fees is to avoid hotels that charge them. Choose establishments that reveal all charges upfront. Booking a room in an independent hotel or motel — or a bed and breakfast — instead of a chain often can help you avoid fees.
6. Use peer-to-peer home rentals
Skip hotels entirely and instead rent a private home through sites like VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and Homestay. These typically charge a cleaning deposit and booking fee, but the companies’ websites should display such costs clearly. Incremental fees for use of equipment or amenities are uncommon.
7. Get loyalty program elite status
If you have earned elite status with a hotel loyalty program, you may be able to avoid some fees, like late check-out and internet fees.
8. Book with rewards points
ThePointsGuy says that some chains or certain hotels in a chain will waive resort fees when you book using rewards points. Read the blog post for a detailed discussion.
9. Park elsewhere
Hotels — even suburban hotels and motels — have begun charging to park in their non-valet lots. Your options include:
- Finding free on-street parking.
- Staying in the suburbs, where parking is often free or cheaper.
- Searching the internet for cheaper parking garages near your hotel.
- Using a coupon. Search online for “parking” and “coupons” and the city’s name.
10. Rethink the minibar
The minibar can be expensive. So, avoid it.
Don’t eat or drink treats from the minibar unless you are desperate, or are ready for big charges. In fact, don’t even open your room’s refrigerator. Avoiding it entirely is the best way to avoid a shock on your room bill.
Want a chilled beverage or snack? Fill your room’s ice bucket with ice from down the hall and keep your goodies in that.
11. Foil Wi-Fi fees
Fewer hotels are charging for in-room internet access. But for those that still do, here are some workarounds:
- Own your own Wi-Fi hotspot: If it’s capable, turn your cellphone into a personal hotspot. “A Personal Hotspot lets you share the cellular data connection of your iPhone or iPad,” explains Apple in this how-to. (Don’t forget to check with your wireless carrier to find out if this will cost you additional data charges.)
- Jog down to the lobby and see if you can use Wi-Fi there for free.
- Find a nearby Starbucks or local, independent coffee shop and use it as your home away from home.
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