Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Like airlines, hotels are charging fees for many things that used to be free. In 2012 consumers spent more than $2 billion dollars on hotel fees. Here are tips on how to avoid or minimize lodging fees so you wonít get hotel sticker shock upon receiving your bill.
The surprise hotel fees created such a problem that the Federal Trade Commissionóthe FTC-- in Nov. 2012 issued a warning to 22 hotel chains that room rates that exclude mandatory extra fees and surcharges may be deceptive. The result: some hotels and booking sites are showing the mandatory added fees along with the basic room rate on their sites. But some are not.
Interestingly, more upscale hotels and resorts than mid-range properties tack on additional fees. Moderately priced chains promote free Wi-Fi, Continental breakfast and parking as a way to entice customers.
Follow these tips to minimize extra hotel fees.
Telephone fees: In-room telephone calls can come with a $1 or more surcharge per call. Only use the in-room phone to call the front desk. Otherwise, use your cell phone.
Internet fees: These charges range from $10-$15 per day. By joining the hotel chainís loyalty program, you can do away with these fees. Fairmont and OMNI give members free Internet access. Starwood and Marriott offer this benefit after youíve reached a certain level of membership.
Mini-fridge fees: Before you touch the soda cans, water bottles and beer inside, make sure they arenít connected to sensors. Many huge hotels such as the ones in Vegas use sensors in their honor bars to automatically track charges. As soon as you pick up an itemóeven if you put it back--the sensor registers a purchase.
If the fridge is sensor-free, then remove the hotelís 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.
Resort Fees: These range from $20-$60 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 and spa. Some hotels bundle the Internet charges in with their resort fee. But your loyalty program might give you free Internet anyway. Some resort fees include tips for housekeepers and bellmen. Make sure you know whatís covered so you donít pay twice.
In-room safe fees: Even though hotels list in-room safes as an amenity, 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-$25 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 departure fees: 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 wonít charge for this, but some might so be sure to ask.
Also, check online as well as call the hotel to ask if the property is full. If the hotel isnít full, ask about the likelihood of being able to check in early or depart late. The front desk might be flexible and accommodate you without a charge. However, if the hotel is packed and you really must check-in early to take a nap or to shower before a meeting, then consider paying the fee to get a guaranteed early check-in.
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 wonít be charged fees for safes and other silly items.