Travel

How to Avoid Eight Pesky Hotel Fees

Use these strategies to keep extra charges off your bill.

Hotels are expected to collect a record $2.25 billion in fees this year, according to a report by the New York University School of Professional Studies. To some degree, that amount reflects a slight increase in the number of rooms that have been occupied. But for the most part, it’s a result of hotels levying more fees and charging higher amounts.

With so many fees, it’s become harder for travelers to figure out what they’ll be charged for in addition to what they’re paying for their room, says Cheryl Rosner, founder and CEO of Stayful, a boutique hotel deal site. You might not even know you’ve been hit with fees until you get your bill at checkout.

You often can avoid extra charges, though, if you know which amenities hotels typically add a fee for using. Here are eight common ones and advice on how to keep them off your bill.

Wi-Fi fee. This fee was ranked the most-dreaded charge in a recent survey of Stayful users. Rosner says that hotels often advertise that they have free Wi-Fi, but it’s only accessible without a charge in the lobby. If you access in your room, you’ll be hit with a charge – which can be $15 or more a night. One way to get around the charge is to sign up for a hotel's loyalty program, which should be free, Rosner says. Generally, you'll get privileges such as free Wi-Fi immediately. Alternatively, if you have a smart phone you can use its tethering feature to make it a mobile hotspot that can supply Internet access to your computer, says Bob Diener, president of hotel booking site Getaroom.com. IPhone users should look for "Personal Hotspot" under the Settings menu. Data charges may apply, so check with your wireless carrier to be sure this is a cost-effective option.

Parking fee. In some cities, hotels charge as much as $45 a night for guests to park in their garages or lots, Rosner says. Check for free street parking or look for nearby parking garages that charge a lower rate – especially if you use a coupon. For example, Icon Parking Systems has coupons for discounted parking rates in its more than 200 garages throughout New York City. Another option is to stay just outside the city because suburban hotels are less likely to charge for parking, says Isar Meitis, president of Last Minute Travel. Plus, you’ll probably pay less for your room.

Resort fee. These fees vary greatly by property but typically cover amenities and services such as towels and bottled water at the pool, spa or gym. Resorts don’t always disclose these fees on their Web sites until you’ve gotten to the final stage in the booking process. However, hotel booking sites such as Stayful and Getaroom.com disclose these fees upfront, so it makes it easier to compare the fees that resorts charge. Meitis says that you should tell the resort upfront if you don’t plan to use the services covered under the resort fee. Some properties will waive the fee.

Mini-bar fee. Most travelers know that the snacks and beverages in hotel mini-bars are outrageously overpriced. But did you know you can get charged for putting your own food in your room’s refrigerator? Simply moving an item in the mini-bar can result in a charge because many hotels use sensors in to detect when mini-bar items are removed. If you see a charge for something you didn't consume, show the hotel clerk that it's still there and contest the charge. Also watch out for those complimentary-looking bottles of water or baskets of snacks -- they might not be free. Even if you don't see a price attached to them, ask the front desk whether there is a charge.

Extra person fee. Check the hotel’s room-occupancy policy if you have more than two people in your party because you might get hit with a fee for having additional people in the room (rates usually are based on double occupancy). This can even apply to families traveling with children. Many hotels allow kids to stay for free, but the definition of a child can vary widely by hotel, Diener says. To avoid this fee, you need to be aware of it before you book so that you can search for another hotel that doesn't charge it.

Early check-in and late check-out fee. Check-in is typically 3 p.m., and check-out is usually 11 a.m. If you need more time, check with the front desk first to make sure you are not charged extra. Diener says you may be able to avoid the fee by signing up for the hotel’s loyalty program, which can include late check-out as a perk.

Baggage storage fee. So you avoid the late check-out fee by getting your bags out of your room in time. But you ask to leave them in storage for a couple of hours while you do more sightseeing. Just make sure to ask whether there’s a bag storage fee because many hotels are now charging $1 or $2 per bag, Rosner says. If there is, try to talk your way out of the fee, or take your bags with you.

Room safe fee. If you discover upon checking into your room that there’s a safe for your valuables, ask whether you’ll be charged for using it. Rosner says that some hotels charge guests a fee simply for having the in-room safe available, even if the guest doesn't make use of the safe. If that’s the case, ask if there’s another room without a safe so you don’t get hit with that charge.

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