How to spot hidden resort fees when you’re booking travel

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When you’re shopping online for a travel deal to a vacation getaway, it’s common to be lured in by a price. After all, many of us choose our destination based on how much it will cost us.

But a number of travel resorts have taken to listing a bare-bones price online only to inflate it with various fees when it’s time to click the “buy” button.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to spot, track and avoid hidden resort fees.

How to spot hidden resort fees

Money expert Clark Howard says that hidden fees are as numerous as hotel rooms at a tourist destination. These extra charges can be found on your bill by looking for words like “administrative fee,” “amenities fee” or “resort fee.”

Clark says this is how a typical resort pricing trick works:

“You’ll be told the rate would be $175 a night, but then you get there and there’d be another $20 a night to pay for the amenities of the place, like the fancy pool or whatever,” Clark says in his podcast.

In many cases, when you’re booking online, you’ll have to look closely to compare the quoted price with the final tally at checkout.

You see a resort package that looks like this:

Wow, $1,332! Great price, right? For two people, that’s $2,662. And that’s how it shows up on screen.


But when you go to make the purchase…

The total jumps up to $2,702! Now, for some people those extra charges may not be a lot, but others may be wondering what’s going on.

We did a deep dive into the hidden resort fees and associated charges and here’s what we found. Let’s look at some common fees in the lodging and hotel industry:

Common tax and service fees

  • Sales tax: The usual tax imposed on the sale of a product or service
  • Excise tax: Levied by the government on certain services and products
  • Value added tax: A value added tax (VAT) is usually a percentage of the total cost added to the sum
  • Hotel to resort transportation: That ride from and to the airport may end up on your final bill
  • Processing service fee: Fee for processing your reservation
  • Security deposit: An amount of money paid upfront to cover damages or reservation
  • Fuel surcharge: If applicable, this fee is a reimbursement for gas expenses

Of course, you could also incur other charges (safe fees, Wi-Fi fees) from the service or activity provider that are not even included in the quoted price.

2 steps to track hidden resort fees when you book online

Clark says before you click “purchase,” on a resort trip, double check the prices every step of the online process.

  1. Double check the prices: “Take one extra step with any hotel you’re thinking of booking. What you want to know is if there are any junk fees,” he says.
  2. Call the hotel directly: Before you book a hotel reservation, contact your hotel directly and ask them about the fees they add on in addition to the room rate. Let them know what price you’ve been quoted online by a third party — you may be able to negotiate some of those fees and get a better price by booking direct!

The travel industry isn’t the only one with sneaky fees. See other areas where hidden fees could be costing you thousands.

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