If you've ever booked a hotel room only to be slammed with severe sticker shock upon check-in, you know that sometimes surprise fees can undermine the value of a great room rate. Read our list of the worst such fees so you can arrive prepared the next time you book a hotel room. Many fees can be eliminated simply by complaining about them -- so check your bill closely and always speak up when a hotel hits you with an unwelcome surprise.
Resort Fees. Even if you're staying at a hotel and not a traditional resort, the much-maligned resort fee still applies. Booking with an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like Hotwire? They may not disclose how much the resort fee is until after you've booked your nonrefundable reservation. The fee covers a wide range of excuses to charge you -- from phone calls to amenities -- and it's difficult to get waived. Be sure to find out exactly what the daily fee will be, and factor that in when you're comparing prices. You may be better off choosing another hotel altogether.
Minifridge. Want to refrigerate a bottle of water or keep your restaurant leftovers cold? Some hotels will make you shell out if you want a minifridge in your room. The Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, for example, will charge $20 CAD (about $19.60 in USD, see xe.com for current exchange rates) per day for a minifridge, plus a $3 delivery charge. Save money by filling up a bucket at the ice machine and using it to cool down bottles.
Early Check-In. So your hotel room is all cleaned and ready to go. But if you actually want to get in there before your scheduled check-in time, be prepared to pay. Some hotels now charge for early-check in -- for example, the Excalibur in Las Vegas will let you check in before 10 a.m. for $20. (After 10 a.m. is free.) You may be better off stashing your bags and wandering around until you can check in free of charge.
Room Service Gratuities. Better check your bill before you tip your room-service server -- many hotels already add a service charge of 15 to 20 percent hidden in the fine print of your receipt. That's on top of the delivery charge -- not to mention the already overpriced food.
Wi-Fi. Between phones with 3G and wireless hot spots, Internet is pretty much everywhere these days, and it's usually available for free. That is, except in some hotels, which want to charge you for the privilege of logging onto their slow networks. The Kimpton's Surfcomber hotel, for example, charges $10 plus tax per night for Internet access. (You can beat the fee by signing up for their guest loyalty program.)
Housekeeping Gratuities. If you're leaving some extra cash for the housekeepers who cleaned your room, you may be tipping twice. Just as with room service, make sure there isn't already a service charge on your bill. Many hotels now tack on a fee of around 10 percent, which is usually divided among housekeepers, porters, etc. Be sure to factor that in when leaving a tip during your stay.
Luggage Holding. Want to make the most of your time between checkout and catching your flight? You'll have to choose between dragging around your luggage or lightening your load and your wallet; some hotels charge guests to leave their bags with the front desk. Always confirm if this service is free before stashing your stuff (and argue if it's not).
Mandatory Valet Parking. Don't want to pay a valet to park your car? Too bad, as some hotels have mandatory valet parking if you want to use their lot. Drive around for a cheaper self-parking lot, or get ready to pay big bucks -- plus a tip -- for forced convenience.
Additional Person. Reserved a room with two queen beds to fit your family of four? You may have to pay a fee for each extra person after the first two guests, despite the fact that you'll be occupying the same room and using the same amount of bedding. The fees are no small change, either. They often range from $20 to $50 per person per night. Call the hotel directly and ask to have the fee removed by threatening to take your business elsewhere.
Gym. Ready to work off all that vacation food? Even if your hotel brags about its state-of-the-art fitness center, it might not be free for guests. Some hotels charge exorbitant fees to use the in-house gym. Go for a walk or run outside instead -- you'll save money and see the sights.
-- By Caroline Morse
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