By Chuck Mai, AAA
We’ve all heard about the growing list of previously-free things for which some airlines now charge, such as legroom, luggage, snacks, blankets, etc. Who knew all those frills and extras cost so much? And although I have heard rumors that at least one airline is thinking about charging more for an actual seat, don’t believe it. It’s more likely they’ll give you a discount for agreeing to stand all the way from here to Timbuktu.
Now, it seems hotels have taken a page out of the airlines’ playbook.
Extra fees at hotels generated an estimated $1.95 billion in 2012, a record, according to the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.
Fees for things like Wi-Fi, room safes and early check-in. And then there are the so-called resort fees for items such as use of the fitness center, newspapers and “free” coffee in your room.
The problem is, most of the time, travelers didn’t find out about these hidden fees until they checked in. No fair, said the Federal Trade Commission. Last fall the agency sent letters to 22 major hotel chains telling them to cut it out.
So, what may very well happen is hotels will raise their room rates to cover these kinds of things. But at least travelers will be able to compare apples to apples when shopping for accommodations.
In the meantime, choose hotels that incorporate amenities into their room rates. For example, Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Hotels include Wi-Fi and fitness center usage in their standard prices. Hampton offers a free hot breakfast.
Consider using the hotel’s business center computers. Wi-Fi is often free.
Finally, tie a caution flag onto your room’s mini-bar handle. Some unscrupulous hoteliers charge restocking fees even if you just open the mini-bar’s door or move things around in there.