Get ready to pay up as hotels get fee-happy

Hotels will take in a record $2.25 billion in revenue from a la carte fees.

Hotels will take in a record $2.25 billion in revenue from a la carte fees.  (iStock)

Hotels are getting fee-happy. Like when buying airline tickets, travels are seeing more itemized fees on their bill–with charges on everything from water to WiFi.

According to a new study by New York University's hospitality school, hotels will charge customers a record-breaking $2.25 billion in fees and surcharges in 2014.

As a traveler, you need to be aware and prepared to pay more in fees on your next hotel stay. Charges come in many shapes and sizes, but are generally referred to as a la carte fees.

Many of these charges are optional and provide value, so they can be worth it. Others are tacked on whether you use the service or not.  So you'll have to look close at your bill.

Here are just a few fees you’re likely to run into on your next stay and a few to watch out for:

Wireless Internet Fee: Hotels are charging upwards of $20 per day for access to their wireless networks, and even charge per device, which multiples cost.  Yet, some value-based hotel chains, like Hampton Inns, provide free Internet, as well as free breakfast included in the room rate.

Early Check-in or Late Check-out Fee: You’ll pay extra if you need to get in your room early or stay after the usual check-out time. Expect to see a fee of roughly $30 each if you want to do one or the other. Want to get in early or stay later without incurring any fee? Book with a traditional travel agents from groups like American Express, Virtuoso, Signature Travel Network and Travel Leaders, among others, and you’ll often get this included with the regular rate.

Mini-Bar Fee: That mini-bar might be convenient, but convenience comes at a steep price. A late night snack of nuts and a drink could set you back $30 or more. Some hotels are tacking on an additional fee for all mini-bar purchases that can increase the cost of that snack by 18 percent. Can’t stomach the mini-bar costs? Join the “cooler crowd,” which is the term used by hotels to describe travelers who bring their own water, soft drinks, snacks and even alcohol.

Safe Fee: You might be surprised to see a charge of up to $3 on your hotel bill should you choose to use the in-room safe, a service that used to be free.

The Unavoidable Resort Fees

The resort fee is the inescapable charge that many hotels, whether they are resorts or not, are adding on to every stay. The fee can range from $20 to more than $60 a day, so beware when you go to book, because these fees can add significantly to the cost of your stay.

What’s included in that resort fee? It’s a bundled charge that includes many of the options I’ve described above as a la carte fees. Is this fee reasonable? That largely depends on the guest. The resort fee might include wireless Internet, but many travelers use their own hot spot or have data plans for their phones and tablets. It also can include things like the use of the pool or fitness center, a surprise to many guests who incorrectly thought the pool or gym was there to be used as part of the room rate. At some high-end luxury resorts, the fee can include an afternoon tea service and snacks, whether you want them or not.

Resort fees also distort the hotel shopping process. Most hotels are “parity priced,” meaning the rate is the rate, regardless of how you book it. Of course, that’s until the dreaded resort fee is put on the bill. The budget-priced Palace Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas currently features an $18 per night rate, but that’s before you add in the $16.79 resort fee, which doubles the cost. Step up to The Palms, a four-star resort, and the rate is a very low $69, but the resort fee adds another $25 on top. The Bellagio, a five star-property on the Vegas Strip, has a $249 room rate, but there’s also a $28 daily resort fee. 

Trying to comparison shop at an online travel site becomes a math exercise that might require the use of a calculator, making it more difficult for travelers to estimate the true cost of any particular stay.

Government Fees

The hotel or resort isn’t the only one getting in the fee game. City and state governments use travelers as a bottomless pit to raise revenues for their local projects and services. For instance, there might be a convention center tax added to your room rate, even if you never step foot in that particular facility. For example, look to pay another 20 percent on your New York City hotel stay when all the government and local fees are added on to your bill.

Navigating through all the a la carte, resort and government fees added to your hotel bill can be a daunting exercise. Just expect to pay nearly half to double the rate you see online when all these fees are charged to your bill.  Or, call a travel agent and let them sort it out for you, and maybe even get some of those fees waived. 

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Mark Murphy is a noted travel expert, author and founder of  You can follow him on Twitter at @murphytravels.