Resort fees are everywhere. Is there any way to avoid them?

by Mia Taylor
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Resort fees are everywhere. Is there any way to avoid them?

Hotel resort fees were once limited to resorts. Now travelers can find them everywhere. These additional charges are tacked onto the daily cost of your room, often to the surprise of unsuspecting guests.

Here’s what you need to know about proliferating resort fees and how to avoid them.

Preparing for a vacation? Use this budgeting spreadsheet to stay on track.

Advertised room rates aren’t always the full price

My family and I recently stayed at a hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We were shocked to find we were charged a nightly $25 resort fee. According to the hotel website, the fee covers various amenities, from GoPro and sled rentals to nightly movies in the hotel’s courtyard. It also included my personal favorite: Unlimited local and domestic long-distance calls, even though practically everyone has a cell phone.

These fees, while listed on a hotel’s website, are often not advertised on search engines in order to keep the hotel’s rates competitive.

“Resort fees can make it tough for consumers to budget their travel: A hotel that’s $20 cheaper than their competitor next door could be charging twice the resort fee, undermining whatever savings a traveler thinks they’re getting,” said Gabe Saglie, senior editor for Travelzoo.

Here's how to stick to your travel budget.

What can customers do?

Hotels offering amenities like pools and fitness centers previously allowed guests the option of paying a daily use fee.

This approach allowed some travelers to skip the extra charge for features they didn’t plan to use. So if you don’t plan on using these specific amenities, you may be able to negotiate. The hotel may agree to waive it.

“Ask what the fee is for in particular,” said Molly Fergus, general manager for TripSavvy. “Talk to a sales manager or front desk and see if there’s any flexibility.”

Do your research

While waiting until check-in or check-out to dispute resort or amenity fees is one option, consider researching ahead of time and making booking decisions accordingly.

Here are six things travel agents don't want you to know.

“Avoiding hotels that charge these fees is the traveler’s best option,” said Saglie. “Call hotels directly before you book ... to see if a hotel, or if the booking platform you use to book the hotel, does not clearly list and explain their fee on their website during booking.”

Reading the fine print on the specific hotel’s website. Also try ResortFeeChecker, which lists the fees for specific hotels in a handful of cities.

Loyalty may have its perks

If you’re a member of a hotel’s rewards program, you may be able to avoid resort fees.

“Loyal guests may have a leg up here: Some hotels will waive their resort fee as a courtesy to elite tier guests or, at minimum, will hear their complaints against resort fees with a more willing ear,” said Saglie.

Tired of paying the extra costs?

Disputing resort fees is not a long-term fix, particularly as the fees crop up in the hotel industry in a manner similar to the airline industry.

The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates unfair and deceptive pricing, issued a warning to hotels several years ago, though they have not acted decisively on publicizing these fees. Congress has also debated passing a measure to end resort fees but has yet to do so.

“The only way this is going to change is if consumers complain loudly and en masse in person and in online reviews,” said Tim Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop. “That's how Wi-Fi fees eventually got eliminated at most upscale chain holdouts...or if
legislation passes.”

Here are other fees you should never pay.

Image: GraphicaArtis