Tuesday, November 10, 2009

7 Hidden Hotel Fees (and How to Avoid Them)

Back in the day you could check into a hotel, spend the evening, and check out knowing exactly what you had spent. Today, however, the number of “services” and “amenities” offered by hotels has developed into a startling trend - one in which it is difficult to determine what is automatically included in your room fee and what you’re going to end up paying extra for.

Sure, your hotel wants you to have everything you need to feel right at home, but that’s part of the problem. You’re not at home, so feeling as though you are is going to come with a price tag. In some cases, it’s more than you might expect. Here are seven of the most common hidden hotel fees and what you can do to avoid them (if that’s even possible).

Avoid the Minibar

I remember feeling really excited the first time I entered a hotel room and saw a minibar. There are tons of snacks, drinks, and even adult indulgences - all calling out to me. I wanted to pick everything up and look at it and, because I knew each item cost money, I put it right back.

What I didn’t know was that the sensors detected that I had picked these things up and charged me for each one - and I didn’t check my bill until I was long gone. Solution: bring your own beverages and snacks!

Baggage Storage

What happens if you arrive at your destination before check-in time or need to stay in the area past check-out? Some hotels offer to store your bags for you, but be careful. While storing your belongings in the baggage closet is usually free, some hotels will slap an extra fee onto your bill at the end of your stay.

There’s really no solution to this problem unless you want to carry your luggage with you all day. The best think you can do is to ask the hotel concierge upfront if there are extra storage charges. That way you can be prepared for any additional fees.

The Airport Shuttle

In the past, the average hotel was so happy to have you as a guest they’d send an airport shuttle van to pick you up or drop you off before or after your flight. Sadly, what was once a free ride may end up as an additional charge at the end of your hotel stay.

There’s no way around this one either. On the upside, your hotel shuttle ride will cost less than hailing a taxi. This is another fee to ask about in advance when making your reservation.

Parking at the Hotel

Hotel parking used to be free. It should be free. Sadly, in many places it’s far from free. A few years ago I was preparing to meet friends from around the country at a hotel in Boston. They were a day ahead of me on arrival and I was startled to receive a phone call telling me that there was only a small lot at the hotel and that garage parking up the street was $20 per night minimum.

No doubt about it - this is an attempt by the hotels to nickel and dime us. Be careful when choosing a hotel and make sure you asking about parking availability when you make your reservation. Knowing about these additional costs could mean the difference between driving and taking a train.

The Mysterious In-Room Safe

In-room safes are more common than ever before - and that’s great for people traveling with a family or who need to carry extra cash of valuables. Some hotels charge you to use a safe, while others charge you to look at the safe - completely unfair.

The only thing you can do is ask your concierge upon booking your reservation whether or not there are any additional fees for safes and other amenities. The cost for having a safe in your room is pretty nominal, but it can add up if you’re staying in the area for a week or more.

Telephone Charges

Do not pick up the hotel phone to order a pizza or make a business call. Do you have a cell phone? If so, you’d better use it.

The average hotel charges around $2 per local phone call and if you make a toll or long-distance call the fees only increase. There’s nothing convenient about the phone in your hotel room unless you plan on using it to call someone else already staying in the same hotel.

Pool Towel and Resort Fees

You would think that the luxury amenities associated with a resort stay would be included in the cost of the room, right? Not always so. Some resorts will add an extra fee (ranging from $15 per day and up) to the cost of your room for using the pool, gym, and other public amenities.

Watch out when lounging by the pool, too. Those incredibly comfortable hotel towels come at a high cost. Think twice before saying “yes” to the pool boy offering you an extra towel. If he asks for your room number you can almost guarantee an extra fee is going to pop up on your bill at the end of your stay.

Gone are the days when “free” and “all-inclusive” actually meant “no additional cost.” Ask plenty of questions before booking your next hotel reservation and you might save yourself some surprise when you receive your bill at the end of your stay!


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