10 Hotel Fees to Watch Out For

by  Lane Nieset | Sep 8, 2014
Hotel Room
Hotel Room / noipornpan/iStock

Has this ever happened to you? You think you're getting a great hotel deal, only later you discover that everything from a fitness center charge to a newspaper service fee has been tacked onto the bill? Hotel fees are more popular than ever these days, and all kinds of properties, from hostels to high-end resorts, are discreetly charging for amenities you didn't even know you had access to -- and may not even want. Some of them are inevitable and rather set in stone, like resort fees. Others, like being charged for in-room safes, can be disputed. Like we always say, it's a good habit to check the fine print and know exactly what you're being charged for. Here are 10 fees to watch out for:

1. Fitness Center: Hotel fitness centers seem like a nice amenity for those trying to keep to their routine while on the road, but while some travelers take this perk for granted, many hotels are charging for access -- or incorporating it into a resort fee. One example is Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, which charges a fee of $25 per night that includes access to the fitness center, local calls, and Internet for one device. The Bellagio in Las Vegas also charges a $25 fee that goes toward fitness center access, Wi-Fi, local calls, and boarding pass printing.

2. Environmental Charge: Island vacations can add up fast thanks to hidden fees and taxes -- like the mandatory environmental tax in Aruba, which ranges from $3 per night at a hotel, or $10-$25 per night for a timeshare stay. If you stay at the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa on Eagle Beach in Aruba, for example, you'll be charged a $3 per night.

3. Service Charge: A mandatory daily service charge is also a common fee at some Caribbean hotels, which may be bundled with the hotel tax, so it's easy to overlook. To avoid tipping double, check to see if the service fee goes toward gratuities, like at Round Hill in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which adds a 15 percent charge for staff gratuities.

4. Internet: The ironic part about Wi-Fi at hotels these days is that typically the budget-friendly spots offer complimentarily Internet, while more upscale hotels charge a hefty daily fee or include it in their daily resort fee. Miami's designer South Beach hostel, Freehand Miami, and Ian Schrager's boutique and cost-efficient PUBLIC Chicago offer free Wi-Fi, while spots like W New Orleans-French Quarter charges $14.95 per day.

5. Early Departure Fee: Some hotels may charge you a fee if you check out prior to your departure date -- Hudson New York and Clift San Francisco both charge a $50 fee for early departures. You can try to dispute this, but we've had mixed results in the past.

6. Early Check-In Fee: Just as with early departures, there is a chance you can be charged for an early arrival, so be sure to ask about any of these fees. It’s also possible to secure an early check-in at hotels like the Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna, Austria, at a fee of 25 percent of the booked rate for guests who want to guarantee early check-in before 2 p.m..

7. Cancellation Fees: It may seem like common knowledge that guests will get charged for last-minute cancellations, but some hotels require cancellations weeks in advance to avoid getting charged. Ladera, in St. Lucia, requires a three-night deposit per room, and requires cancellations to be made more than 21 days in advance, otherwise the deposit is non-refundable.

8. Resort Fees: In Miami especially, many hotels charge a mandatory resort fee that includes a newspaper, Wi-Fi, local calls, as well as use of beach chairs. Some of these fees include amenities you may actually want, like at SLS Hotel South Beach where the $30 daily fee includes two beach chairs, hotel-wide Wi-Fi, fitness center access, turndown service, water, and daily coffee at the front desk. The Delano Hotel on South Beach also charges a similar mandatory resort fee of $35 that includes two beach chairs, Wi-Fi, unlimited local calls, use of the fitness center, and a poolside amenity.

9. Valet Parking: While you may have the choice to self-park or valet, there are some hotels that only offer valet parking, such as the Autograph hotel Turnberry Isle in North Miami, which charges $32 for overnight valet, and Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, which charges $39.

10. Lockers & In-Room Safe: Backpackers on a budget are also looking at increasing fees from newer high-end hostel chains like Generator Hostels, which charges 1 euro for six hours in a luggage room with lockers at Generator Barcelona. A large locker for 24 hours at Generator Berlin costs 8 Euro, for example. But even standard hotels may include fees for in-room safes -- whether or not you actually use the on in your room.

Avoiding Charges: Before booking, check the fine print on the hotel's website or call and ask about additional fees. Some resort fees are mandatory, while others can be avoided in advance or at check-out. Review your hotel bill before checking out so you can handle any of these unexpected charges in person. This way you won't be surprised when you see a larger charge than expected on your credit card. Another way to avoid fees is by joining a hotel's loyalty program. Fairmont President's Club, which is complimentary to join, includes high-speed Internet access, local calls, health club access and newspaper delivery. Kimpton's Karma Rewards Program is also free to join and guests receive complimentary Internet.

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