Hotel fees can catch travelers off guard

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- The sun, the surf and the food. You may be ready for some summer R&R with the family, but if you aren't careful, that downtime could open you up to some hefty hotel charges.

"Like airlines, hotels are charging extra fees for a lot of things that used to be free," says Candyce Stapen.

The travel expert and author says when you add up the extra fees all of us paid to vacation back in 2012, that total was a staggering $2 billion. That same year, the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to 22 hotels telling them to fess up about that so called "drip-pricing" and what it covers.

"Resort fees, the worst. This is a kind of invention just to get consumers' money. Resort fees typically cover things that used to be free, like access to the pool, access to the spa, ahh, maybe access to the gym," says Stapen.

She says if you don't know about those fees, "that $299 hotel room could end up costing you closer to $400."

This is how quickly they can add up when you travel with the kids.

"So, if you're traveling with your 14 and 16 year old, they can each be an extra $25 to $50 a night," Candyce Stapen says.

When we go on vacation, our mobile devices travel too. So, watch for WiFi which can be an additional $10 to $15 a day.

Stapen says, "Check out the loyalty program. Fairmont and Omni, as soon as you join you get complimentary WiFi each day. Other programs, like Starwood and Marriott, you have to reach a certain level."

When it comes to the mini bar, Stapen says, "The items in the mini bar are sitting on sensors."

So, in some hotels, once you move them, you've bought them.

"If there are sensors, then what you should do, empty out their mini bar, go to the local convenience store and buy your own things for much less," says Stapen.

The safe, it used to be free. Now some hotels are charging a nominal fee, but it adds up $2, $3, $5 for the safe whether you used it or not," she says.

You'll find most of these fees at upscale hotels and luxury resorts. So, to avoid them, consider a mid-level hotel chain with free amenities, like breakfast or WiFi. It may not be centrally located, but you may not get nickel an dimed for your stay.

Bottom line, when it comes to extras, you want them free not attached to a fee.

"When we check out we're in a hurry, we look at the bill and we pay it. No! No! No! Make sure you understand what the fees are for a lot of reasons," Candyce Stapen says.


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