What’s the Deal with Hotel “Resort” Fees?
Here, we break down what these pesky fees are, and how you might be able to get around them.
July 29, 2021
If a vacation is all you’ve ever wanted — especially after this past year and a half — you’re not alone.
With summer in full swing and so many of us seeking a sense of normalcy, travel lovers are more than ready to make up for lost time. Vacations can be extremely fun and relaxing, but they can also be costly — especially if you forget to budget for resort fees. Many hotels and resorts tack on an average of $30 a day in fees that cover things like WiFi and other items that are often presumed to be included in the cost of the room.
Let’s look at why hotels charge resort fees, what are resort fees for, and how you can hopefully avoid paying them.
What Are Hotel Resort Fees?
So, what exactly are hotel resort fees, and what do you get when you pay for them? Hotel resort fees are an extra expense tacked onto your hotel bill that covers the costs of amenities at your hotel.
These expenses can be around an extra $50 a night in some cases, and they generally cover Wi-Fi, pool usage, gym access, daily newspapers, and airport shuttles.
Why hotels charge resort fees really just depends on the resort you’re staying at, so the amenities you pay for can vary. Some hotels will offer things like WiFi, or gym access for free, so it can be frustrating when you book a stay at a hotel or resort that charges you for these amenities.
That’s why it’s important to learn exactly what you’re going to be paying in resort fees before you book your hotel. Unfortunately, hotel fees aren't always prominently displayed during the booking process.
Look for resort fees on the hotel’s website, or call the hotel to inquire. If you’re booking through a travel aggregator website, you may not see these fees listed at all, but the hotel can still charge you for them.
Be careful when booking
First and foremost, hidden fees can mess up your vacation budget.
For example, on Expedia, if you’re looking up what it would cost to stay at the popular Caesar’s Palace hotel in Las Vegas, you won’t see the cost of taxes or resort fees right away. To find those out, you would have to hit “view total price.” Only then can you see that the price is much higher when you add up taxes and fees than initially advertised. While the original cost appeared to be $98 a night, the total price jumped 60% when we looked at it.
When it comes to resort fees, some popular tourist destinations charge higher resort fees than others. If you’re headed to a city with hefty resort fees, that’s something you’ll want to add to your travel budget. Resortfeechecker.com found that Florida tends to have the highest resort fees. The “Sunshine State” has not one but two cities on the top ten list of cities with the highest resort fees. Las Vegas, Honolulu, and New York are also known for having expensive resort fees. That same study found that hotel resort fees can go as high as $160 a night in some pricey locales like Miami.
Double-check the fine print to make sure you’re aware of not just resort fees but also taxes and other expenses that can increase the price of your room. Not all hotels charge a resort fee, so you can always do some digging to find one that doesn’t charge this extra expense.
How to Potentially Avoid or Waive Hotel Resort Fees
If sneaky resort fees rub you the wrong way, you’re not alone. In 2019, attorneys in both the District of Columbia and Nebraska filed lawsuits against Hilton and Marriott regarding the deceptive and misleading practice of resort fees. This lawsuit came after 50 attorneys general investigated this issue surrounding hotel resort fees. On a federal level, an attempt to ban these fees is being considered.
Until laws are enacted to change this practice, let’s look at a few ways you can save (or completely skip) on hotel resort fees:
Signing up for a hotel credit card with rewards. If you tend to stay at the same hotel chain repeatedly, signing up for a hotel credit card can help you avoid paying resort fees. Many hotel credit cards reward their members by waving standard resort fees.
Making the most out of travel rewards points. Sometimes you can use credit card travel points to cover the cost of resort fees and other travel expenses.
Refusing to pay. This tip is only for those with a lot of confidence on their side, but it is possible to refuse to pay your resort fees and see what hotel management says. The hotel manager may waive the fees to keep you happy and avoid a negative hotel review.
Asking your credit card company to help. If you have proof that the hotel failed to list the resort fees on its website, you can show this to your credit card company, and a representative can dispute the resort fees even after you’ve stayed at the hotel. Again, the hotel may find it easier to simply refund the resort fee rather than fighting with your credit card company.
Filing a complaint with your attorney general. If you’re really unhappy about paying resort fees that weren’t clearly advertised, you can file a consumer complaint with your attorney general. You may end up getting a refund on your resort fees this way. However, be careful about investing too much time into this process because there is a chance that you won’t get enough money back to justify your effort.
Doing your research. Some hotels don’t charge resort fees at all. If you’re hoping to avoid them, a quick Google search for hotels that don’t charge resort fees at your destination can help you find a hotel where resort fees won’t be a concern.
Paying extra resort fees each night may just throw your travel budget out of whack. And while there may be further discussion around the necessity for these fees, for now, it pays, literally, to do some research on your hotel before booking it.
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