Last week I wrote about some of the new and different ways airlines are collecting fees, rendering many base fare comparisons moot. Well, as it turns out, a similar phenomenon has also been affecting a different part of the travel sector for years. I speak, of course, of the hotel industry.
Just as looking on third-party travels sites for flights can sometimes cause you to overlook the true cost, there are a few semi-hidden hotel fees that also increase the cost of your stay significantly. With that, here are just a few of the fees you should watch out for when booking.
First, what is a resort fee and why are you forced to pay it? Like the question of how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. And yet these fees are becoming more and more common, leading to a potential pay-up surprise when you arrive for your stay.
All joking aside, the theory of a resort fee is that you’re paying a premium for some of the amenities a property offers. Unfortunately you’ll be forced to pay this additional nightly fee regardless of whether or not you actually make use of these amenities. In that way, many view these resort fees as a way for hotels to lower their at-first-glance rates and appear competitive with other properties when searching on booking aggregators like Expedia, Priceline, or others.
The good news is that you can find information about these fees as long as you know where to look. On Expedia and Priceline, the hotel listings page (the one you reach after you click a hotel name from your search list) will note the required nightly resort fee under the regular room rate. Additionally Expedia includes a fees section where resort fees are disclosed and, speaking to my earlier joke, they also tend to list out what some of these amenities you’re paying for are — including things like pool access, in-room bottled water, and much more. Meanwhile, even on sites like Hotwire that keep the name of the property a secret until you complete your reservation, you can still find resort fee disclosures listed under the “Know Before You Go” section at the bottom of each listing.
In most cases, these resort fees will be collected at the time of check-in even if you prepay for the rest of your stay via one of these travel sites. Therefore you’ll definitely want to be aware of these added costs and factor them into your travel budget.
Plan on driving to your destination or renting a car when you get there? Well, you may want to double check that you won’t be spending an arm and a leg just to park the vehicle on the hotel’s property.
Unlike resort fees, parking fees may not apply to every guest but they can still serve as a way for hotels to keep their rates low while still turning a profit. Also unlike resort fees, parking fees may not be as clear when booking on third-party sites. On Expedia, self-parking and valet parking rates will usually be displayed under the fee section and even let you know if the property offers in and out privileges (some hotels will charge you each time you leave instead of offering a flat day rate). Over on Priceline, you should be able to find parking rate info located in the “Hotel Facilities” section.
As for Hotwire, you may need to do a bit more detective work to know what you’re in for. If parking is free at a given hotel, the site will note as much in their “Complimentary” section. However, if it doesn’t say free parking, assume you will have to pay. Personally I’ve found that using tools like BetterBooking.com to narrow down which properties a listing could potentially be is super helpful as I can then go view listings for those hotels on other travel sites or their official websites to find parking rates. Due to the mystery element of Hotwire and similar sites, you may be taking a bit of a gamble, but I’ve found that parking prices among comparable hotels tend to be similar enough.
Yes, even in the year 2018, there are still some hotel properties that charge guests for WiFi access. Even more confusingly, some locations will offer free WiFi in public areas but charge you if you want to connect in your actual hotel room. To me, this is all a bit ridiculous, which is why I make every effort to book a hotel with complimentary internet access whenever possible.
Of course, there may be times when your best option is a hotel that does charge for WiFi. In these upsetting instances, there may be a loophole you can look into. For example some chains may waive WiFi fees (or offer upgraded connections) for members of their loyalty programs. What’s more, these programs may be completely free to join — although brace yourself for promotional emails on a regular basis. Hopefully something like this will apply to your stay but, if not, consider other options like nearby coffee shops or even turning your phone into a mobile hotspot as a way to get around these annoying charges.
In an age when travel comparison sites have forced hotels to compete on price while still making money, it’s important that travelers do a little extra digging before booking. From the dreaded resort fees to things like parking and WiFi, these often unexpected fees can severely increase the price of your nightly stay and should be considered when picking the best hotel option for your budget. So stay alert and happy travels!
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