Travel often comes with unexpected costs, such as last-minute purchases, expensive taxi rides and insane food prices in airports. It’s in the nature of the travel game. But there are some costs that you should never pay, and hidden hotel fees are one of them. In 2012 alone, major hotels raked in nearly $2 billion thanks to fees and surcharges, according to NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. That means there are a lot of charges likely going unnoticed by customers who aren’t being discerning when booking and examining their bills.
Being aware of potential charges helps you to quickly spot when something is amiss and question a charge that seems off. Here are five of the most common traps for paying extra during a hotel stay.
1. Late Check-Out
You can plan ahead to avoid this fee, which in some cases can cost from an extra half to full night’s stay, depending on the circumstances. Ask in advance what the check-out time is and make sure you are fully moved out well beforehand. If you need a ride to the airport, arrange for the shuttle to come half hour in advance, to motivate yourself to get up and out in the morning.
Planning on a big night out before you leave town? Pack your things before hitting the scene, to avoid panic and delays in the morning. You (and your headache) will be grateful you did.
2. Minibar Fees
This one is easy to forget about if you have a strict no-partaking-of-the-minibar policy. But even if you abstain from the seriously marked up cans of soda, beer and candy bars, you may end up seeing charges on your final bill.
Many of those mini-fridges have sensors that go off even when you shuffle things around or put your own food in, triggering the charges. Be sure to ask ahead and contest any that end up on the final bill, because at those snack prices, things can really add up. If you don’t plan on purchasing anything, it’s best to leave the minibar alone altogether to avoid hassle at check-out.
It’s standard procedure to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff, bell hop and bartender, but check your bill before you do. Many hotels include gratuity for service staff in the total price, so you could end up paying them twice. If you spot a housekeeping or groundskeeping fee noted before you book your room, ask what is included under those categories. You may be seriously over tipping if you don’t.
As for the restaurant bill, it usually indicates where tax has been added, so give it a second scan before putting those drinks and lush meal on your credit card.
4. Drinking Water
See that tempting-looking bottle of designer water sitting on the desk, inviting you to drink after a long trip? Think twice before cracking it open, unless you want that charge added to your bill. Many hotels offer brand-name mineral waters in the guest rooms, but usually at a steep price. You’re better off picking up your own from a nearby convenience store for a fraction of the cost. In some instances, hotels will put complimentary bottles of regular drinking water in the bathroom (these are usually marked with a tag indicating that they are free) – not as fancy as the designer bottles, but so much kinder to your wallet.
5. Baggage Holding & Early Check-In
It’s important to check hotel policy on this before you arrive, especially if you are considering an early flight or train. If possible, avoid arriving before the check-in time, or schedule your transportation so there is a small window in which you’ll need to lug your bags around. You can kill some time in a coffee shop before heading to the hotel, and that cup of Joe is likely to cost you less than a fee for getting in your room a few hours early.
Inquire about baggage holding fees, which can crop up if you need to check out, but aren’t actually leaving a city until much later in the day. It’s more convenient to store your bags at the hotel and entertain yourself before it’s time to depart, but some hotels now charge a few dollars per bag to store them. You may be able to fight these fees, especially if you’re part of a rewards program or have spent multiple nights in a hotel, as you’ll have the clout and will have spent enough money there to warrant a waiving of the storage fee.
Knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding hidden hotel fees and rip-offs, so do your due diligences before you book and before you check-out. If anything seems amiss, scrutinize your bill and question the staff at the front desk. Oftentimes, they will remove the charge without much contest and taking the extra time to ask can save you money.
Also be sure to double check your rate when you book a hotel. The advertised price, especially for a special deal or discount, may not include surcharges, groundskeeping fees and a host of other costs that raise the rate significantly.