These Are the Most Ridiculous Fees in Travel

Photo by ViDi Studio / Shutterstock.com

Eric Hochstein found something unusual on his bill at the Gregory Hotel in New York City recently.

No, it wasn’t the mandatory $35-per-day resort fee that covers local and domestic calls, a 24-hour fitness center and coffee and tea. And it wasn’t the $259-per-night room rate, which was below average for Manhattan.

It was that the resort fee — which the Gregory calls a Tailored Fee to fit its garment theme — included a donation to charity to “save the Garment Center.”

“Pretty unique, eh?” says Hochstein, an international business development consultant from Barrington, Illinois, who says that other than the fees, he liked staying at the Gregory.

Travel companies are coming up with all kinds of new charges these days, which is hardly a surprise. The travel industry’s business model relies on fees to generate extra revenue. The real shocker is the way they justify the new fees, claiming that people asked for them or that they’re there for your convenience.

Hochstein asked a receptionist at the Gregory about the fee. “She couldn’t tell me how much of each night’s fee went to the charity, and she said ‘It is about fashion,’ but didn’t know the name of the charitable organization,” he recalls.

The Gregory did not respond to requests to explain its charitable donation.

Travelers are ‘socialized’ to accept fees

In the past two decades, airlines have pushed the limits on surcharges, adding new fees for everything from checked luggage to seat assignments. Other segments of the travel business — including hotels, car rental companies and vacation rental companies — are still playing catch-up.

Laura Mandala, the CEO of Mandala Research, a travel research firm, says travelers are now “socialized” to accept fees whenever they travel. The biggest argument for imposing new fees is that they’re adding a convenience — for example, a GPS unit on a rental car or a premium snack on a plane.

No one needs to explain these fees, she says. “Most customers realize by now, added convenience comes with a cost.”

But when a travel company struggles to explain a new fee — well, that’s when things get interesting.

A new room-service charge?

Consider Carnival Cruise Line’s recent decision to begin charging between $2 and $5 for room-service items, except for breakfast. A sandwich, a side and a dessert used to be included in the cost of your cruise, but under the new plan, room service would cost upward of $10 before gratuities.

Among the reasons, Carnival said it wanted to “find effective means to continue to reduce food waste.”

But passengers didn’t buy it.

“At some point it just becomes greed,” Jordan Diaz, a passenger from Las Vegas, wrote on Facebook. “I get it’s a business. But, the successful business model we all fell in love with appears to be doing a 180.”

Tanner Callais, who edits the cruise site Cruzely.com, says many loyal customers were put off not only by the fee but also the explanation.

“Needless to say, many passengers weren’t buying it,” he says.

Just a few days later, Carnival announced it was putting the price increase on “hold.”

Why do I have to pay for a safe?

Some hotels charge a fee, usually only a few dollars per room, for an in-room safe, claiming it’s an amenity that customers have requested.

“It is, by far, the most ridiculous fee,” says Courtney Blacher, a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in family travel. “So, I have to pay you additional to keep my items safe in a room I already paid for? Absolutely not!”

I’ve spoken with many guests who have negotiated the in-room safe fee off their bills. (Just say you didn’t use the safe and never asked for it.)

Maybe travel companies should just be honest: We need to make more money so we’re adding a new fee. Or maybe they could just do what other businesses do and raise their prices.

When a hotel, airline or cruise line employee can’t adequately explain a fee, you’re in an excellent position to negotiate a quick refund. Allow the representative to hem and haw, and then politely ask to remove the charge. Most of the time, you’ll get it — along with an apology.

These are the most ridiculous travel industry fees

Here’s a short list of travel industry fees that are difficult to justify:

  1. Mandatory hotel resort fees: These fees are almost always added to your rate after the initial price quote, making the room rate appear cheaper than it is. They’re also charged to your room whether you use the amenity or not.
  2. Airline seat-assignment fees: It costs the airline virtually nothing to reserve your seat. So, why charge seat-assignment fees?
  3. Vacation rental “cleaning” fees: These extras should be included in the rate but are separated in an apparent effort to make the rental look less expensive. Of course, who wouldn’t want a vacation rental cleaned? But you don’t see hotel or car rental cleaning fees because they’re included in the price.
  4. Car rental fueling fees: $9 per gallon to refuel the car? You must be kidding.

Christopher Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). This column originally appeared in USA Today.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
14 Products That Keep Foods Fresh Longer
14 Products That Keep Foods Fresh Longer

We’ve rounded up innovative Amazon purchases to lengthen the life of your favorite foods and beverages.

What’s the Difference Between FICO and VantageScore Credit Scores?
What’s the Difference Between FICO and VantageScore Credit Scores?

There are lots of credit scores out there, but if you’re keeping an eye on your credit, here’s the one to watch.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

If My Spouse Dies, Can I Get Her Social Security?
If My Spouse Dies, Can I Get Her Social Security?

If a spouse dies, will the survivor collect the other’s share in addition to his or her own?

8 Products That Solve Everyday Annoyances
8 Products That Solve Everyday Annoyances

These items put an end to the daily irritations that bug you the most.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security
This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security

Both men and women are most likely to start receiving Social Security benefits at this age.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s
6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s

We love Trader Joe’s for plenty of reasons. But think twice about this handful of products.

7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home

Tired of possessions weighing you down? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet
11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

It’s scandalously easy to overspend in these areas of your life.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value
9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

Homeowners, beware these mistakes that can drive away potential buyers.

18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them
15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them

Retailers mark up products by hundreds of times their cost — but you don’t have to pay the premium.

Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security
Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security

Growing numbers of seniors are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits, but you might be able to avoid this fate.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.