Unfortunately, the fees you need to watch out for will typically change from stay to stay, since fees are a competitive price point hotels often use to lure customers away from competitors. But if I’m paying, I want to pay as little as possible, which means I always try to scout out extra fees before I even book my stay. If the hotel offers any kind of customer loyalty program or club, I always ask about joining. Many times you can get certain fees, like Wi-Fi or valet, waived just by waving around your loyalty card. You can also accrue points towards future, free stays at the hotel. If your hotel doesn’t have a loyalty program, watch out for these oh-so-common fees you should never pay.
High-end hotels are especially bad about advertising free Wi-Fi and mentioning only in the fine print that this perk is offered in lobby or hotel bar/coffeeshop areas only. But if you’re being asked to pay $13 in your room and it’s free in the lobby, why not just go to the lobby if you need to get online? You’ll save and still be able to surf freely!
Valet is nearly always going to be the most expensive option (unless your customer loyalty membership covers this fee). Find out about self-park options—preferably before you book your room. Also be attentive to any options to park for free on the street or in a nearby lot—before leaving your car, just be sure they don’t tow!
3. Mini-bar, mini-fridge and in-room safe
Can we say fees, fees and fees? If you get back and are parched, you might spy that large bottle of fresh, cool, spring water just innocently sitting on the counter in your hotel bathroom. But don't drink until you check the little hanging tag around its neck—I've seen bottled water go for $5 or more in high-end hotels! Same goes for those tasty snacks and beverages in the mini-bar and for the so-called "safer storage option" of the in-room safe. If you’re really worried, take it with you or better still, leave it at home. If you suspect you’ll be hungry or thirsty while in-room, check out the hotel vending machines. While still pricey, they won't charge you half of what you’ll pay for the convenience of snacking without having to leave your room. Or bring it with you—that way you can completely control the price.
4. Extra guest fees
These fees often cite the need to bring in an extra bed or a rollaway sofa bed to accommodate an extra guest. But they’re really just a paper-thin excuse to charge you more because someone might actually sleep on that second queen-sized bed in your "single" room. So just say no. Experts advise that you can get this fee removed with just a gentle reminder to hotel management of your "free speech" right to post a bad review of the hotel…or to exercise your option to stay elsewhere from now on.
Yes, service personnel depend on gratuities (tips) for part of their livelihood. KCL has some great posts about how much to tip whom and when, but don't forget to check first to make sure gratuity hasn't already been included in what you’re paying! Some hotels will automatically add tip to room service and room-stay bills (supposedly to cover the cost of delivery, maid service, etc.). You can contest these charges if you like, but whatever you do, make sure you don't pay them twice!
6. Fitness center
While it used to be standard protocol to offer a fitness center membership for free to any paying hotel guest, those days are long gone. Here’s another place where joining the free customer loyalty club can often come to your rescue—or just bring your jogging shoes and take a walk or run outside.
7. Early or late cancellation and other fees
Finally, if you want to check in early, stay later than your room permits or do anything that falls outside the black-and-white lines of the hotel’s posted (or not posted) guidelines, you can expect an attempt to charge you. Before taking advantage of any of these options, ask how much they cost. Unless you’re in a bind for some reason, free is the only acceptable answer here. Cancellation fees are another matter. The hotel will nearly always reserve the right to charge you a fee if you cancel at the last minute (typically within 24 to 48 hours) and will also usually disclose this fee at the time you book your stay. If you’re unsure, ask before you book—and certainly ask before you cancel!
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