On a recent trip to the Caribbean island of Antigua, Melissa Middlestadt, a author from the Toronto area, was charged a $12-a-night resort fee by the all-inclusive Jolly Beach. She was told it covered using nonmotorized water-sports equipment and Wi-Fi.
“We challenged them to remove it, but they wouldn’t, which was a bummer since the Wi-Fi was so spotty that it didn’t even reach our room, and the kayak hut had such limited hours that we didn’t get to make use of those either,” said Ms. Middlestadt, 30, who was traveling along with her husband on their honeymoon. “It was spending money to get nothing, which was upsetting and ruined the all-inclusive experience.”
Resort fees are amongst essentially the most loathed within the travel realm. These are often mandatory fees that hotels apply to cover amenities similar to access to a gym and the web and fewer useful things like free local phone calls.
The Biden administration lumps them in with other “junk fees,” including service charges on concert tickets, late bank card payment penalties and costs to ascertain baggage on an airline.
“They add as much as a whole bunch of dollars a month,” said President Biden, in response to prepared remarks for his State of the Union address in February. “They make it harder so that you can pay the bills or afford that family trip.”
A pair of recent proposals before Congress goals to ban resort fees as a long-fought battle gains recent fire. Here’s what that you must learn about hotel fees, learn how to find them and techniques to avoid paying them.
Defining resort fees
Whether often called “resort fees,” “destination fees” or “urban fees,” these additional charges commonly don’t show up within the room price on an initial online seek for accommodations until a consumer clicks through to a payment page to search out the nightly rate inflated.
A 2017 Federal Trade Commission report concluded that separating resort fees from room rates made it harder for consumers to match prices and sophisticated their searches.
Hotels charge fees “to maintain their published base rates lower to compete with other hotels in online or mobile tools,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the founding father of Atmosphere Research Group based in San Francisco. “It’s annoying to the traveler because hotels usually are not being transparent and resort fees are unavoidable.”
The industry group American Hotel & Lodging Association said only 6 percent of hotels charge them, averaging $26 an evening. Still, they’re lucrative; a 2018 report from the tourism analyst Bjorn Hanson, found that hotels rake in nearly $3 billion a yr in resort fees.
Nightly fees can range from $10 on the otherwise reasonably priced Freehand Chicago to $50 on the high-end Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, Calif., which discloses an itemized list of amenities covered by the fee, including a welcome drink (a $20 value, in response to the hotel website), every day yoga on the beach ($85), one hour’s bicycle use ($14 an individual) and web access ($15).
‘Truth in promoting’
In a 2023 Consumer Reports survey, 37 percent of American adults reported experiencing a hidden fee related to a hotel stay. More than half said the fees pushed the fee of the stay over their budget.
The practice is firmly within the cross hairs of Congress. In the spring, Senators Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, introduced the Junk Fee Prevention Act, which targets a spread of fees, including resort fees.
Over the summer, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, and Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, introduced the Hotel Fees Transparency Act, which might require hotels and short-term rentals to indicate the complete price a consumer would pay, including fees, up front.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association said it supports the Hotel Fees Transparency Act. An announcement from its president and chief executive Chip Rogers called it “the very best congressional solution for making a single standard for mandatory fee display across your entire lodging ecosystem — from hotels to online travel agencies, metasearch sites and short-term rental platforms.”
“It’s an excellent pocketbook issue that impacts on a regular basis Americans,” said Lauren Wolfe, the chief legal officer for Travelers United, a consumer advocacy group, and the founding father of the web site Kill Resort Fees.
Over the past several years, attorneys general from states, including Pennsylvania, Texas and Nebraska, have sued hotel firms over the practice with some success; Marriott, for instance, has settled cases in Pennsylvania and Texas, agreeing to incorporate resort fees in prices displayed on web sites.
“It’s truth in promoting,” said Charles Leocha, the founding father of Travelers United. “When you see a price, that’s what you must pay.”
Even as resort fees are under fire, the nickel-and-diming of travelers that airlines have adopted is seeping into hotel operations. Things that was once complimentary, similar to early check-in or late check-out, now often carry associated fees.
Operating in Chicago, Miami and New York, Arlo Hotels offers early check-in between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. for $40 extra and check-out as late as 3 p.m. for $75, though management said it honors such requests at no cost if space allows.
“Hotels are saying, ‘Look, when you want more time within the room and we will’t service it then that you must pay us something,’” said Mr. Harteveldt, noting that hotels have been monetizing such extras for the past five years.
Increasingly, he added, they’re using the perks to reward higher-tier members of their loyalty clubs. Hyatt Place, for instance, offers early check-in and late check-out starting at $10 to entry-level members of its loyalty program.
Avoiding hidden fees
When she went to Key West, Fla., in 2016, Ms. Wolfe of Travelers United paid $400 for a hotel room. When she checked in, the clerk withheld her room key until she forked over a further $20 for the resort fee. The incident inspired her website, Kill Resort Fees.
“It’s not only deceptive, it’s illegal to gather and get more cash for a room than advertised,” Ms. Wolfe said, citing consumer protection laws and the actions of many state attorneys general against them.
She suggests travelers request that resort fees be faraway from their bills.
“I say, ‘Ask nicely twice,’ but people answering the phone on the front desk aren’t those that set the policy,” said Ms. Wolfe who managed to have a $40-a-night charge reversed at a New York hotel after she identified that the fee was never disclosed.
Finding a hotel with out a resort fee can take time, but the web site ResortFeeChecker.com might help with its searchable database of hotels.
If you’re forced to pay a resort fee, Ms. Wolfe suggests appealing to your bank card company for a refund or filing a criticism together with your state’s attorney general. The latter strategy is more likely to achieve states which have taken motion against such fees already, she added.
Others suggest requesting a waiver, before handing over a bank card. Craig McLean, 66, a retired government employee in Olney, Md., often traveled for work and said he made it a degree at check-in to declare that he was a federal worker and had no intention of using any amenities related to a fee.