12 ways to avoid obnoxious hotel fees

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How to Beat Hotel Fees

Hotels seem to be perfecting the practice of adding extra fees. In fact, fees in the hospitality industry are multiplying like rabbits in the spring. CNN says they include:

  • Early check-in fees
  • Early check-out fees
  • Cancellation fees
  • Fees for using the room safe
  • Fees to hold your baggage behind the front desk
  • Automatic gratuities (tips for staff)

Hotels have become adept at hiding fees, revealing them only in fine print on a website, in the final stages of a transaction or as you check out at the end of a stay. For example, you might find a $25 charge on your bill for using Wi-Fi, or a fee for storing your own yogurt in the minibar fridge.

Randy Greencorn, co-founder of ResortFeeChecker.com, says in an email:

Virtually all online travel agencies and most hotels hide or bury mandatory fees to some degree. In almost all cases, the fee is only disclosed after a consumer sees the basic room rates, decides on a hotel, and begins the booking process.

Sadly, hotel fees may be here to stay. It's on consumers these days to be vigilant. Here are 12 ways to help you find and avoid or fight hotel fees:

1. Read the fine print

Shocked incredulity may not be an effective defense when you are checking out and discover surprise fees added to your bill. Instead:

  • Find and read the rules found on a hotel's website, at check-in and in the room.
  • Ask for a list of fees when you check in.
  • When shopping for a hotel, keep a look out for "daily resort charges" and "resort charge" in ads and promotions.
  • "A reputable resort will reveal the fee on your final confirmation," says USA Today. Cancel, if you don't like it.

2. Call ahead

CNN says you often can avoid fees by calling ahead and inquiring about packages, many of which include fee waivers for things like Wi-Fi and parking.

3. Look up resort fees

Use ResortFeeChecker.com to find fees charged at the hotels or resorts you are considering.

4. Negotiate a waiver

Isar Meitis, president of Last Minute Travel, tells Kiplinger that some hotels will waive fees if you tell them at check-in that you won't be using the items — such as Wi-Fi, the gym or the pool — covered by the fees.

Check out photos of unique hotels around the world:

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12 ways to avoid obnoxious hotel fees

Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Saariselka, Finland

Stay inside an igloo -- whether you prefer ice or glass! -- for the ultimate Finland experience.

Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho

Dog lovers can sleep inside a beagle’s body (and bring along your dog too!)

Giraffe Manor Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya

​Experience giraffe encounters during your stay!

Las Cabanas del Pais Vasco, Zenuri, Spain

Tap your inner child and spend the night in a treehouse your ten-year-old self would love. 

Palacio de Sal, Uyuni, Bolivia

Stay in a Palace made of salt for a really unique experience.
 

Crane Hotel, The Netherlands (overlooking the Wadden Sea)

This is a 150 foot-high rotating crane hotel -- seriously! 

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5. Steer clear of hotels with fees

The surest way to deal with hotel fees is to avoid hotels that charge them. Choose establishments whose rates reflect all charges upfront:

  • Book a room in an independent hotel or motel — or a bed and breakfast — instead of a chain. Check local Chamber of Commerce or visitor sites for lodging options.
  • Find hotel booking sites that disclose booking fees upfront. Kiplinger likes these two: Stayful and Getaroom.com.

6. Use peer-to-peer home rentals

Skip hotels entirely and instead rent a private home through sites like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO. These typically charge a cleaning deposit and booking fee, but the companies' websites should display such costs clearly. In addition, incremental fees for use of equipment or amenities are uncommon.

7. Use a loyalty program

Loyalty programs often offer fee waivers. However, CreditCards.com notes that you probably cannot avoid all fees:

Hotel loyalty programs may give you things such as free internet access, free early check-in or late check-out, free newspapers or free gym access, but they won't get resort fees waived.

8. Get loyalty program elite status

Some fees, like late check-out and internet fees, typically aren't charged to elite members of a chain's loyalty program, says MilestoMemories travel blog.

"I have also had mixed success with getting resort fees waived at select hotels," the blog says, adding that hospitality chain rewards programs typically offer elite status to guests who use their co-branded credit card.

TheTravelSisters blog compares features of hotel loyalty programs.

9. Book with awards points

ThePointsGuy says that some chains or certain hotels in a chain will waive resort fees when you book using awards points. Read the blog post for a detailed discussion.

10. Park elsewhere

Hotels — even suburban hotels and motels — have begun charging to park in their nonvalet lots. Your options include:

  • Finding free on-street parking
  • Staying in the suburbs, where parking is often free or cheaper.
  • Searching the internet for cheaper parking garages near your hotel.
  • Using a coupon. Search online for "parking" and "coupons" and the city's name. Kiplinger offers one example: Icon Parking Systems, with coupons for discounted rates in 200-plus garages throughout New York City.

11. Rethink the minibar

Some hotels charge you just for picking up and replacing an item from the minibar. A $25 fee is not unheard of for using your hotel room's refrigerator to store snacks you've purchased elsewhere.

Your options:

  • Don't eat or drink treats from the minibar unless you are desperate, or are ready for big charges.
  • Don't even open your room's refrigerator. Avoiding it entirely is the best way to avoid a shock on your room bill.
  • Want a chilled beverage or snack? Fill your room's ice bucket with ice from down the hall and keep your goodies in it.

12. Foil Wi-Fi fees

One piece of good news from the American Hotel & Lodging Association:

Fewer hotels are charging for in-room internet services. Only 11 percent of respondents charge for internet service. This figure is down from 23 percent in 2012.

However, if your hotel charges for Wi-Fi, here are some workarounds:

  • Own your own Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • If it's capable, turn your cellphone into a personal hotspot. "A Personal Hotspot lets you share the cellular data connection of your iPhone or iPad," explains Apple in this how-to. (Don't forget to check with your wireless carrier to find out if this will cost you additional data charges.)
  • Jog down to the lobby and see if you can use Wi-Fi there for free.
  • Use WeFi to find nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Find a nearby Starbucks or local, independent coffee shop and use it as your home away from home.

Do you have tips for cutting hotel fees? Share them in our Forums. It's a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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