Hotel Resort Fees: How to Find Them and How to Avoid Them

What Is a Hotel Resort Fee, and Do I Have to Pay It?

Hotel resort fees may cover pool use, daily newspapers and local calls.
••• Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Travelers are increasingly aware of the fees that airlines add to the price of a plane ticket. Did you know that this trend is spreading through the hotel community, too?

Many hotels are now charging mandatory "resort fees" that can cost as much as $45 per room per night. These fees include all kinds of items and privileges, ranging from local telephone calls to internet access to the coffee maker in your room. Parking may or may not be included in this daily resort fee. It can be very difficult to find out whether or not your hotel charges a resort fee before you book your room.

What Does a Resort Fee Cover, Exactly?

The hotel resort fee covers whatever the hotel wants it to cover. In some hotels, the resort fee gives you gym or pool access. In others, it allows you to use the in-room safe or the coffee maker. Some hotels state that their resort fees cover the cost of local calls, pool towels, minibar items, wireless internet access, and / or a daily newspaper. Others include airport shuttle service, fitness classes and even beach access in their resort fees. 

What if I Don't Intend to Use These Privileges During My Stay?

You may be able to negotiate directly with your hotel if you do not intend to use the services covered by the resort fee. The best time to do this is when you are checking in. Explain that you don't plan to use these services and ask to have the fee waived. This tactic may or may not work; you may have to pay the resort fee even if you never touch the in-room safe or jump into the pool.

You can also talk with the hotel manager and ask to have the resort fee removed from your bill.

Your final option is to dispute the resort fee with your credit card company, provided you have paid your hotel bill with a credit card.

How Can I Find Out Whether My Hotel Charges a Resort Fee?

Look for resort fee information on the hotel's website. Some hotels include this information and explain what the resort fee covers. Other hotel websites do not mention resort fees at all. In fact, the resort fee might not be included on the reservation page, even though room rates and taxes are displayed. Despite the fact that the US Federal Trade Commission has stated that hotels' "drip pricing" or "partitioned pricing" strategies (disclosure of hotel resort fees only at the final stage of the reservation process, not during the room rate search process) harm consumers because they increase search and cognitive costs, US law does not require hotels to disclose resort fees in the initial phase of the booking process.

If you are traveling to a popular US destination, such as Las Vegas, you can look up hotel resort fees before you start searching for a room at ResortFeeChecker.com. This website provides resort fee and property information for approximately 2,000 hotels.

Otherwise, you will need to go through the room search process online, by telephone, or with your travel agent and get information about resort fees as you move through that process.

The quickest way to find out about resort fees is to call the hotel and ask the front desk staff. Ask whether you can get the resort fee taken off your bill if you don't use the items and services it covers.

Beware the Minibar and the Renamed Resort Fee

You probably know that you will be charged for any items you take out of the minibar. Did you know that some minibars come equipped with sensors? If you move anything, you will be charged for it. Check your hotel bill carefully so that you do not pay for items you did not consume.

Some hotels are now using new terminology instead of the words "resort fee." Charges such as "destination fee" or "urban fee" are now appearing on hotel bills. The effect is the same, so you can use the tactics mentioned above to avoid paying those fees.

How Can I Avoid Paying Resort Fees?

The best way to avoid resort fees is to stay at fee-free hotels. If you call a hotel and discover that a resort fee will be charged, consider mentioning that you prefer to stay at properties that do not bill guests for resort fees so that management understands why you chose not to stay there.