How Not to Pay for Incidentals at a Hotel
That hotel rate sounded like a deal when you found it on that discount website, but your bill upon check-out told a different story: a $25 daily resort fees, $15 for daily Wi-Fi use and a few $5 sodas from the minibar. Hotels earn billions each year from these nickel-and-dime tactics, but savvy travelers can avoid these fees and keep their rates in line with what they expected when booking. Your strategy should be a mixture of knowing what services to avoid and being prepared to haggle at the front desk when necessary.
Book hotels that are not in the top tiers. It might seem counter-intuitive, but more expensive hotels are more likely to charge you for everyday incidentals, particularly Internet access, breakfast and parking. Properties in the midprice range generally include these amenities in their rates.
Call your hotel before you travel and ask what charges could potentially add to your bill, particularly if you book on a website other than the hotel's home site. Third-party sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity are getting better about displaying incidental fees but still might omit some surprises for you to discover at checkout. Federal law is on your side, as it requires hotels to clearly explain any incidental charges before your stay.
Join the rewards program for whatever hotel you plan on using. Some programs, such as Omni's Select Guest program, throw in free incidentals -- Internet access, morning coffee and a shoe shine -- for anyone who signs up. Others, such as Hilton's HHonors program, require you to reach a certain level for those incidentals, but if you travel frequently, those eventually will pay off.
Pack to ensure you will have minimal need of costly incidentals at the hotel. Bring your cell phone charger so you won't need to use the hotel phone for local calls. Bring your laptop and a few movies so you won't have any need for pay-per-view channels. Pack a few snacks and drinks so you won't be tempted to raid the minibar, or swing by a convenience store, where you can get the same items at a fraction of the price.
Upon check-in, ask the front desk to void any charges for incidentals you do not plan to use. Perhaps the hotel charges for daily delivery of a newspaper you have no intention of reading, or perhaps a resort fee is tacked on, and you have no intention of swimming or working out.
Avert your eyes from the tempting goodies in your hotel rooms. Sure, that bottle of water on the desk looks refreshing, but drinking it might result in a surprise $5 charge on your bill. Some hotels might even charge you for using the in-room safe. Such charges should be clearly marked, but if there's any question, call and ask the front desk before indulging.
Leave extra time at check-out to review your final bill for any surprise charges, and dispute any such charges with the front desk. Hotels often count on you to overlook those charges in your haste to depart. (source 5)
Don't touch the minibar at all, even to use it to refrigerate your own food and drinks. Many modern minibars have sensors to detect when their contents are moved and will charge you automatically, creating one more headache when you check out. (source 4)