Savvy Travel Decisions

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When selecting lodging, it pays to shop around.  Suburban lodging tends to be less expensive than inner-city or airport-based hotels.  Always inquire whether there are rate concessions for a multiple-night stay.  Inner-city lodging, in the absence of major conventions or festivals, often offers very attractive weekend package rates.  Don’t expect to get bargain weekdays in Inner-city hotel properties - business travelers fill the rooms, lodging or head taxes have literally gone through the stratosphere in some cities.  

Suburban lodging may offer considerably lower nightly lodging rates as well as lower lodging taxes.  It is not uncommon for municipalities to tax lodging room rates 15% - 18%: San Francisco 14%, Washington D.C. 14.5% and Chicago 15.4%.  Add the lodging tax to the hotel rate and that is your true cost of staying.  Suburban lodging may also offer free airport and limited radius shuttle service to nearby dining and shopping, a service rarely offered by downtown hotels.  When booking a downtown hotel, parking may cost an additional $25.00 - $50.00 nightly.  Free breakfast is seldom offered by downtown hotels, but tends to be standard with most suburban hotel/motels. 

When booking a downtown hotel, parking may cost an additional $20 - 25 nightly. 

Free breakfast is seldom offered by downtown hotels, but tends to be standard with most suburban hotel/motels. 


A recent trend by some municipalities is to add a flat $3.00 - $5.00 per night fee or a similar maid cost in addition to the stipulated percentage room tax.  


Facilities fee” or “resort amenities fee” are innovative new add-on charges for pool, exercise room, etc., whether you use the amenities or not.  

Las Vegas is one of the worst offenders when it comes to add on fees. Several of the mega strip resorts now charge a $35-45 nightly add-on fee IN ADDITION  to room  taxes.


Is there a telephone access fee? 

Arrived at your hotel earlier than anticipated and wish to check-in early and freshen-up?  You may wish to reconsider.  Many hotels will oblige but also will assess an “early check-in fee ($20.00 - $50.00).  Some Thailand and Australian hotels have begun charging two percent to your bill when you pay by credit card.  Conversely, many hotels impose a penalty for cancellations or early departures.  This is a particularly prevalent practice in Las Vegas. 

Here’s an outrageous one: some hotels add a charity charge onto your bill for their “favorite charity.”  Protest and state you’ll choose which charities you’ll support, not theirs. 

Many hotels and resorts assess a $3.00 - $5.00 daily charge for a room safe, whether you use it or not!  

Several Caribbean resorts have instituted Energy Surcharges of $10.00 nightly, others 10% of your total bill!  

When paying by credit card in a foreign country, do not agree to your hotel assessing a currency conversion fee on your bill - they will be paid by your credit card in full in local currency; otherwise, you’ll pay twice, because your credit card will most assuredly charge you for the convenience of the charge.  A low lodging tax supplanted by a flat nightly fee is no bargain.  In short, always inquire what, if any, tax and add-on fees are added to the quoted room rate.


The introduction of, and subsequent wide usage of cell phones, has adversely affected the ability of hotels to surcharge telephone billings, and has substantially reduced lodging revenues.  In search for new revenue streams, some lodging properties have unleashed a barrage of add-on fees to the nightly quoted rate.


When staying at a nice resort, always inquire whether the quoted nightly rate is inclusive of all fees.  Some resorts routinely add a “resort fee” of $20.00 - $25.00 per night to cover maid gratuities, porter baggage handling, unlimited local telephone calls, wireless internet access, early departure penalty, hotel property tours, nightly movies, basic fitness center expenses, room service surcharges, mini-bar restocking fees, culinary demonstrations, automatic gratuities, and on-premises shuttle service.  Other lodging properties charge for each service, whether used or not.  Which is preferable: ambushing and nickel and diming you to death with non-disclosed fees or full disclosure of outrageous, excessive upfront fees?  Neither, but at least you know what you are getting into with upfront fees and can always walk away, choosing another lodging property with more reasonable pricing policies.   

Be extremely careful in dealing with so-called discounted lodging booking internet sites.  Whether you are reserving on the internet or utilizing the professional services of a travel agent, ASK - any additional non-disclosed fees or taxes in addition to the quoted rate?????


Some national hotel chains add-on fee policies vary by locale.  Never assume that one size fits all. 



Some hotels in Australia and Thailand impose a surcharge on rooming bills when you pay by credit card instead of cash. 



Dining room service fees of 15% - 20% are also often assessed to all meals.  Many guests, unaware of the “automatic gratuity,” mistakenly also tip the wait staff generously.  While this will certainly endear you to the wait staff, a 30% gratuity tends toward over-generosity.



SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  Demand that any “hidden fees” be transparent and disclosed upfront in any written quoted rate.

The convenient hotel business center is hardly free.  Use the Wi-fi or send a fax and pay the tab!


Be extremely leary of the tempting mini-bar.  Those little bottles of booze and the snacks are mighty expensive.  To add insult to injury, you will even be assessed a “restocking fee!”  The same holds true if you use the coffee/tea in-room service.


Request that baggage handling temporarily guard and store your luggage after checkout, and you’ll probably be billed for the convenience.


The biggest shocker is the $25-50 overnight parking fee plus tipping the valet $5-10 each time the vehicle is retrieved.  Beware of the suburban hotel trend of charging for unattended, self-service outdoor surface parking adjacent to the hotel, accessible only by electronic key through a gate.



Inquire as to whether the room rate includes clean sheets and towels daily.  Is there a daily maid fee added toyour room bill?  Outrageous, but some hotels are not cleaning rooms daily.  Unless you’re staying at the budget “Twitching Eye Inn,” DEMAND that housekeeping provide satisfactory cleaning service!  If your room is not squeaky clean to your satisfaction on check in, summon the front desk and demand that housekeeping rectify the situation muy pronto!  Spaghetti on the telephone, dirty towels, un-swept or mopped dirty floors, and soiled sheets are all unacceptable.


Disadvantages of limited service lodging:  luggage handling assistance may not be available.  If you are concerned with security, inquire as to whether room entry is by interior corridors or external.  NEVER leave exposed personal possessions in your parked automobile.  Knowledgeable thieves can even pop your trunk in seconds!  Professional thieves have been known to follow tourists to their hotel/motel destination; many unsuspecting victims, being tired, elect to have a meal and/or cocktail to relax and then unpack.  Unfortunately, the thieves were unpacking the vehicle for them!  Rental vehicles, out-of-state license plates, towed or roof unit u-hauls are like billboard advertising to a thief.  Exercise extreme caution.  Do not ruin your vacation through carelessness. 

Reconsider the “convenience” of electronic checkout. While it eliminates your standing in a long and laborious cashier line, it also provides an opportunity for the hotel to impose “mystery” charges, that unchallenged can often add up.


When booking lodging, always inquire the details of any add-ons not included in the quoted nightly lodging cost.   


If you remain oblivious to this outrageous practice of add-ons, consider that the hotel industry in America is estimated to have collected over $2.4 billion in fees last year!