Breaking Down the Different Hotel Fees

hotel room with views of ocean_hotel feesThere are so many things we love about what we do. We love finding you incredible rooms to take your vacations from “just OK” to “absolutely great”. We love knowing you’re getting a good deal and even better customer service. And we love being transparent—telling you exactly what your bill is going to be and why. There’s no feeling quite as horrible as getting the bill and immediately falling into regret and confusion: What are these extra charges and hotel fees, why is this so high, and is there even anything I can do about it at this point?

At Roomkey, we believe in transparency in search, so we’ll show you as many fees as we can, up front. We get our information directly from the source (the hotels themselves), so you won’t be surprised when you click through to the hotel’s website to complete your booking. To help you understand hotel fees even further, read on for an outline of the most common hotel fees, what they mean, and how you might avoid them.

Resort Fees

This might not be the most common fee, but it’s definitely the most talked about. Resort fees are usually $25-35 a night (but they can be much more or much less), and they’re essentially non-negotiable. Contrary to the name, lush beachfront properties aren’t the only hotels that hit their guests with resort fees. They’ve also become common at hotels in high-tourism areas, including some urban hotels and standalone resorts.

The resort fee covers a broad set of amenities like swimming pools, gyms, or even free local calls. Because this kind of fee is often unavoidable, it’s important to know about it up front and factor it into your room rate. The last thing you want is to think you’re getting a great deal, only to find out you have to tack on a $30 resort fee for every night of your trip at the last minute.

One trick: Consider paying for your stay with points instead of cash. Many hotels will waive this fee if you pay with loyalty points. (Yes, yet another reason to sign up for hotel loyalty programs and start rackin’ up points!)

Internet Fees

In this day and age, it often feels like free Wi-Fi should be a basic human right alongside clean water and fresh air, but there are a lot of hotels (even luxury hotels) that still charge for in-room internet access. If you don’t want to shell out an extra $10 a day to pay for a Wi-Fi connection, there are a few workarounds.

Most hotels that don’t offer free Wi-Fi in your room will offer it in the lobby, so if you can wait to go downstairs to check up on email, you’ll be able to avoid the fee. (This could also help you break your wake-up-and-immediately-check-your-phone habit, too. Just saying.) Many hotels will also give you free access to in-room Wi-Fi if you’re a loyalty member (yet another perk!).

If free, all-access Wi-Fi is non-negotiable for you, Roomkey.com lets you filter your search results by “Free Wi-Fi” so you know you’ll avoid this pesky fee.

Parking Fees

A steep and sneaky way that your hotel bill might increase is through expensive parking fees, which are usually charged daily. Since not all guests bring a car, this fee typically isn’t added to the rate of the room, so you won’t see it as you browse for hotel options. To see if your chosen hotel charges for parking, check out their website. If you don’t see it listed anywhere, it’s probably worth giving them a call to ask.

This is another case where a loyalty membership might benefit you. Hotel loyalty members of a certain level (World of Hyatt Globalist members, for example) at some hotels can park for free. If you’re a loyalty member of the hotel you’re staying in, it’s worth asking if your status lets you park for free.

Do the math: Depending on how much you’re planning to use a car during your stay, it may be more cost-effective to skip the rental car (and the parking fees) and just rely on airport shuttles, public transportation, and ride-sharing services while on your trip.

Taxes

These aren’t technically a fee, but taxes can add up to a sizable portion of your bill. This is something to watch out for when booking your hotel through a third-party travel site. Those sites are notorious among many customers for burying taxes and fees until the last second, right before you’re about to click “Book Now”. But when you search with Roomkey, we’ll show you tax information up front, so you know exactly what you’ll be charged when you commit to your booking.

While hotel taxes on top of all these other fees can feel frustrating, it’s useful to know that hotel taxes are only charged on top of the room rate, not on top of any additional fees such as the ones listed above.

Cancellation Fees

Another fee that you should be aware of before you book is the cancellation fee. It’s often assumed that hotels have relaxed cancellation policiesand many of them dobut if your travel plans are up in the air, you should definitely check out their policy before you book. How much a cancellation fee will be differs across hotel chains.

Beware: You might be faced with a different cancellation policy if you book through a third-party travel site rather than booking directly on the hotel’s site. In our experience, canceling your hotel room is almost always more difficult when you book through a third-party site, so we don’t recommend it.

You should also know if the rate you are booking includes flexible cancellations or not. Typically, hotels offer a standard/flexible rate or a prepaid/advance-purchase rate. Here are the quick definitions of these two rate types:

  • Standard or Flexible Rate: Booking a standard rate usually means that you can cancel or modify your booking for a refund up to 24 hours before check-in. But each hotel has a different cancellation policy, so be sure to check the hotel’s website before you book if you think your travel plans might change.
  • Prepaid or Advance-Purchase Rate: By booking a prepaid rate, you can save a few bucks per night. You’ll pay for your room at the time you make your reservation instead of at checkout. But be aware: most prepaid rates are non-refundable. You trade in your ability to cancel for a lower rate. For travelers who know their plans won’t change, booking a prepaid rate is a great way to save money.

It’s not uncommon for hotels to charge a cancellation fee, especially if you cancel at the last minute or choose to check out of the hotel a night early. Pro-tip: If you ever do have to leave before the end of your stay, you might be able to avoid a cancellation fee by just leaving your keycard in your room and ghosting instead of officially checking out and being hit with a cancellation fee on top of the rest of your bill. This strategy works if you have to cut your trip short by just one night since that falls inside the 24-hour cancellation window. But if you’re cutting your trip short by more than one night, you may be able to cancel some of your nights and still get a refund. Chat with the front desk to explore your options.

Smaller Fees to Watch Out For

Be on the lookout for small markups that you might not notice. Things like lobby luggage storage, valets, pet fees, water bottles that are already in your room, mini bar snacks, and late checkout or early check-in might come with a price tag. Hotels are required to disclose all fees, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Skirt Fees with a Loyalty Membership

There are so many benefits to being a loyalty member, but getting out of hotel fees is definitely one of them. By joining a loyalty program, you can often ditch internet fees, late checkout fees, and more, and you’re likely to see a more forgiving cancellation policy, a lower room rate, and more perks. If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our article about which loyalty program is best for you

Talk to the Hotel

We’re always proponents of calling the hotel if you ever have any questions. If you’re worried there might be other fees you don’t have access to, you’re unsure what certain fees mean, or you want to negotiate lower fees for services you know you won’t use, the front desk is your best resource. They have all the information, and they will be more likely to give you some wiggle room when you book your stay with them directly (instead of through a third-party travel site).

Luckily, when you book through Roomkey, you’re booking directly with your hotel of choice. Simply type in your desired destination and travel dates, scroll through our partner hotels in the area, choose your favorite, and we’ll immediately transfer you to the hotel’s website to secure your room, rate, and loyalty points, too. Search without the gimmicks; hotel booking without the runaround. That’s how we make travel work for you.