10 Terrible (and Totally Avoidable!) Hotel Fees

If there’s one thing that makes our skin crawl at CLS, it’s pesky fees. After all, we’re travelers too: These are annoyances that also affect us on a personal level, whether we’re on vacation with our families or conducting business travel ourselves. In case you’re wondering, #10 is the fee that annoys us the most!

1. Early Check-in Fee
Problem: It’s about 11:45 am, and you just landed after a five-hour flight. You woke up at 4:30 to prepare for all the long TSA lines and traffic, and you’re tired. Panting from exhaustion, you roll up to the front desk and check in. They say there’s a room ready for you but remind you you’re there a little early. A few weeks later, you get a bill with unexpected charges.

Solution: At CLS, we can’t stand unauthorized charges, and we refuse to let you pay them. No exceptions.

2. Gym Fee
Problem: You didn’t touch the elliptical, but you were hit with a hefty fee anyway.

Solution: Demand a refund. Unless this is written in fine print along with other elusive resort fees, handle it before it happens.

3. Housekeeping Fee
Problem: You did the right thing and left a few dollars on the nightstand for the facilities staff. Good for you! But when you get the bill, you find out that they automatically swiped your card for a gratuity fee of 10% or more.

Solution: In theory, the hotel should inform you that you’ll be paying 10% more in automatic payments, but that doesn’t always happen. Maybe they mean well: The fee is actually a great model for all the stingy tippers, but that doesn’t excuse getting charged both times.

At check-in, ask the hotel about their gratuity policy, but assure them you plan to leave a tip the good old-fashioned way — on the dresser.

4. Spa Treatments
Problem: The same issue as the housekeeping fee could be said about a hotel spa.

Solution: Take the direct approach: Ask them about their spa fees. If you don’t like their answer, choose a different hotel or ask your travel manager or agent to guide you through it. You always have options!

5. The Phone
Problem: The moment you pick up that hotel phone, you might be draining your wallet for it. Even calling the front desk? Yes: It’s happened to us!

Solution: Research the hotel’s number online to call the front desk that way. A dollar saved is a dollar earned.

6. Parking Fee
Problem: You took a cab from the airport because getting around this city is too cumbersome for a rental car. You arrive at your destination, get slapped with the high taxi fare, and find out weeks later that you got charged for a car that you didn’t park. Let that sink in.

Solution: Remind the hotel that you took a cab in, and that you don’t need to be charged for parking.

7. Minibar
Problem: You’re really thirsty and hungry, but your tap water and carry-on snacks aren’t looking especially inviting. You don’t want to leave the room in search of a vending machine this late in the evening. What do you do?

Solution: We know you’re eyeing the little bottles and snack packs in the minibar, but don’t succumb to the temptation — that’s a $10 Toblerone candy bar: Resist!

Same goes for the safe in your room: Most travel experts advise against toting along your finest designer valuables, so don’t even think about using it!

8. Shuttles
Cabs are expensive. Ubers are cheaper, but they’re not waiting for you on every corner of the street. Hotel shuttles seem like the premier option when getting a free ride back. But they’re not always free.

Solution: Get the full lowdown on the shuttle before you get to your hotel, including — where it goes, how much it costs, if there’s a discount for round trip, hours it’s available, average length of time it takes to get to x place, if they charge more for prime nights, etc.

9. WiFi
Problem: Free WiFi tops the chart of travelers’ #1 pick of hotel amenities, but some hotels are still lagging behind. So unless you’ve found a room with gratis internet, you’ll be paying premium prices for not-so-premium speed.

Solution: If you want to catch up, either hardwire your laptop, head to your local Starbucks — or opt for a hotel that offers the service for free. More than likely, the economy hotels boast free WiFi: It’s the pricier alternatives (4-5 stars) that charge extra. Joe Sharkey from the New York Times gives his two cents in this Lifehacker article:

“Across the industry, midlevel hotels with strong bases in business travel provide a range of services without any extra charge — from free Internet and business-center access to free breakfasts and in some cases even a free evening cocktail hour with snacks.” Looks as though you’re in luck if you’re a business traveler!”

10. Hotel Fee Cancellation
Problem: Did you know that $8.6 billion (yes: billion) dollars total are wasted annually in non-refundable hotel reservations — in the US alone!

Solution: You canceled that room. Please explain to me why you’re still being asked to pay for it. At CLS, we think that’s unacceptable, and we will always be your voice to the hotel so that we get cancellation fees waived.

P.S. Our second worst pet peeve? Refer to #1.

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