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10 Ways to Avoid Hotel Fees

I’ve noticed over the past few years that the fees and surcharges that appear on my hotel bills are creeping steadily upward. I’m apparently not alone with this observation. According to a new study by Dr. Bjorn Hanson from the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies, hotel fees and surcharges will account for $1.8 billion revenue in 2011, up from $1.7 billion in 2010. The increase comes from higher fees as well as more travelers (or escapists) spending time in hotels.

This doesn’t take into account the various taxes that appear on hotel bills. On a recent trip to California, my itemized hotel bill includes an Occupancy Sales Tax (12 percent) and a Convention and Tourism Tax (0.02 percent). In addition to the taxes, if I had done anything in the hotel other than sleep, I might have seen my bill peppered with fees such as telephone calls, internet fees, early check-in fees, late departure fees, business center fees, and if the hotel had been a little nicer, a resort fee.

HotelHere are a few suggestions for avoiding hotel fees and saving money while traveling.

1. Know your fees before you travel. Unfortunately, many hotels make it difficult to have full knowledge of fees during comparison shopping. If you book your hotel room by using a website that compares rates at a variety of hotel brands, you’re only seeing the full story. Airlines have found this to be an advantage, and hotels are following suit. The least expensive hotel when comparing nightly rates may enforce additional surcharges.

One solution is to look at the individual hotels’ websites, but not every hotel is gracious enough to list all the fees that they may charge. You might have better luck calling the hotel directly and asking for the details.

2. Negotiate your rates. When I’ve put in an effort, I’ve had some success reducing the overall nightly rates and negotiating removal of some fees, particularly internet access fees. You may not have much room for negotiation if you book your travel using a third-party website or even the hotel’s own online booking system, but taking the small step of calling the hotel — and you just called to ask about fees, anyway — and asking for the best rates and fee considerations can work well. If you can pit one hotel’s offer against a local, comparable hotel’s offer, you could have even more success.

3. Bring your own internet service. If your business involves the internet, as mine does, you may find you need to be connected more often than not. Earlier this year, I decided to bring the internet with me by getting a mobile WiFi hotspot from my wireless provider, Verizon Wireless. It has helped me in a number of situations where I needed to have internet access while I was away from home. The service can be worthwhile for anyone who travels while needing to be online.

Mobile WiFi may be more expensive than a few nights each month with hotel-provided internet access, but if you need to be online on the road, the service is better than hotel room internet.

4. Avoid resort hotels. You would think that more expensive hotels would include more services. I’ve seen charges at fancier hotels for services that less expensive hotels offer for free. In a resort hotel, you may find it hard to resist the temptation to take advantage of some of the more unique services, like spa access.

5. Don’t call room service. If you’re planning for a longer stay, look for kitchen availability in the room and prepare your own meals. With a local grocery store, you could avoid dining out as well as relying on the hotel’s own expensive kitchen.

6. Stay with friends or family rather than the hotel. If you know your stay won’t be a burden, and you need to travel while spending as little money as possible, you might be successful crashing on a couch as a guest.

7. Couchsurf. Couchsurfing is one of the newest travel trends. Like the above tip, the comfort of a home often beats a hotel, and you never have to worry about hidden fees. With couchsurfing, you’ll need to trust a stranger as a host, but you can review a potential host’s references on

8. Carry your own baggage. If you are staying in a hotel, one of the great conveniences is the presence of porters who help move your bags from the lobby to your room, for a nomial fee encouraged by an outstretched palm. In most cases, this service is unnecessary. This is one of the smaller fees you may be expected to pay, but if your goal is to take the most frugal approach, it’s easily avoidable.

9. Park elsewhere. If you’re staying at a hotel where space is at a premium, within a city for example, you may be subjecting yourself to a fee for parking. If you must bring a car, you might be able to find a parking lot nearby for less money.

10. Leave yourself enough time to review your bill. If you’re rushing to check out quickly in order to catch a flight or your next appointment, you might not give your hotel bill the attention it deserves. Some hotels are kind enough to slip your bill under your door early on your check-out date, but if not, leave enough time to review your bill line by line. If there is a charge you don’t agree with, have it removed by talking to the manager. This happened to me on one of the first hotel stays I experienced as an adult responsible for paying the bill — and at a time when I probably didn’t have enough money for taking vacations, anyway.

What’s your favorite hotel fee?

Photo: kevin dooley

Updated November 9, 2011 and originally published November 2, 2011.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Some hotel chains (Marriott or Hilton) include computer access because they are considered business hotels. It may be in a specific room versus anywhere (wifi). If your company is paying for it, the rate should not matter.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

That brings me to an important point — *because* businesses often pay for hotel stays, hotels can charge whatever they want. Businesses will often pay the fees regardless of the cost. People are often much more cost-conscious than businesses — and the same is true on average. As long as businesses, as a group the hospitality industry’s biggest customer, continue to pay, hotels will add fees and prices will go up.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

A lot of the Vegas hotels resort fees. Several of the higher end hotels in Vegas have resort fees of $20/night. Even the cheap/moderate hotels there can have fees in the $5-$10 range. So you could get a relatively cheap room for $50/night and get hit with a $10/night fee.

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avatar 4 shellye

Very true. Always read the fine print!

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avatar 5 Anonymous

That is why I don’t go to Vegas anymore, at least I don’t stay there. I was clipped by
the Silverton for $10 AFTER the hotel clerk told me the advertised rate was all I’d be
charged. The only 2 times I’ve been back to Vegas since then, I’ve stayed at a Motel 6,
and left town in the evening and stayed in Kingman, getting an early start on my trip home
(maybe saving myself $100 in gambling losses, LoL). At least in my case, one resort fee
has cost Vegas businesses SOME money, and bad publicity, because I tell friends about
my bad experience. Tell ‘Resorts’ where to stick their fees.

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avatar 6 wylerassociate

those are some good tips although I don’t know if i’m comfortable with couchsurfing. Whenever las vegas hotel resorts send out offers for hotel rooms that cost between 25-50 a night, they should always read the fine print because they make their money back charging those fees.

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avatar 7 qixx

My last stay in Vegas was a few miles from the strip. The list price was all i paid (they included the fees in the list price). When avoiding fees make sure you are not paying more to avoid the fee than you would pay with the fee.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

When my wife and I were on our honeymoon, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Florida and I tried to carry every bag I could in order to avoid having to tip. They insist on carrying your bags though, because it is supposed to be 5 star service. I would do my best to avoid any sort of help to save money. Note to self, if your trying to be frugal dont stay at a five star resort. :)

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avatar 9 Ceecee

Just another way to try and nickle and dime the public without them noticing. I’m afraid it is the wave of the future. It takes a village to decode a hotel bill……but they are a piece of cake when compared to a hospital bill!

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avatar 10 Anonymous

It is shocking how many fees are baked into the bill these days. The wireless fee drives me crazy. That is one reason I travel with my ipad a lot because I don’t care about wireless with the 3G. I like the ridiculous taxes and ‘resort fees’ that they charge too.

Oh, I stayed somewhere in Florida where they would only supply one small shampoo bottle for the week. After that, you were on your own. I made a nice little comment about that on Tripadvisor.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

Oh shoot, I also forgot to mention that I love how you can rarely get anything from the front desk, like a towel or a blanket. Instead, someone has to bring it up to your room at their convenience, and then I always feel like I should tip them.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

These are some good tips, I going to start looking at the fees hotels charge the next time I go away, because I’ve stayed at some hotels in the past where I was automatically charged fees for things I never used.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

I feel the need to put in my .02 cents here, because I work for a hotel company doing corporate sales, so I know firsthand some hotels do’s and don’ts.

– call the hotel and see if they have any specials or upgrades. The reservationists on the phone usually know any specials coming up, and if they like you, may give you one you are not technically eligible for. Same for upgrades. But be polite, and realize they only have so much power – they can’t drop the advertised rate by 50%.
– check your bill. hotels have many working parts, and mistakes happen. The most common one I see if mistaken mini-bar charges
– look for hotels that partner with your desired activities – say that offer discounted tours or excursions or lift ticket packages. They can often offer discounted rates since they have lots of volume.
– decide beforehand how you would like to be compensated if something goes wrong. Like all businesses, when you offer a “service recovery” as they are called, you start small and add more until the customer is happy. Normally, they can wear you done by offering many small things, to the point you think you are getting a great deal. Instead, from the beginning, tell them you believe a comp night is in order. Then they have to work backwards from there.

– call and demand to speak to the general manager about your room rate or complaint. This is akin to calling the CEO of Ford because your car broke down. Unless you are a super vip, you only will get the run around, and eventually end up speaking with a lower lever manager. Simply ask for a manager
– be surprised if the room you booked on a third party site isn’t there when you arrive. I see this all the time. Most third party sites, especially the lesser known ones, offer deals the hotel did not authorize. So when you show up, not only is there no reservation under your name, but that $99 room rate doesn’t exist. Even if you bring in your “printed authorizaton”, if we have no business relationship with that site, your SOL.
– search out alternative price discounts. Hotels loathe offering lower room rates, but you can make up some of that with a gift certificate for the mini-bar, free breakfast, discounted parking, etc. They would much rather offer that than see their RevPar (revenue per available room) go down.

Hope this helps…sorry so long!

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avatar 14 lynn

I see in other articles that our voice has been heard when we get together and oppose a fee (BofA). If this is the next wave of ‘get as much as possible from the customer’, then be vocal and/or vote with your wallet. Seems to be an effective way to protest.

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