Honor Bar - Hands Off!
A hotel mini bar can be a trap for frugal travelers. Cashews, pistachios, cookies and mini-candy bars come in small canisters, each at $6 and up. Many times, you'll find a bottle of water on the counter in your room that appears to be complimentary (and sometimes is) but often costs $5 or more.
Tired guests have been known to open a cabinet stocked with such items, grab one and then replace it the next day with something they buy at the corner store. Not so fast! Many honor bars come equipped with sensors that tell the front desk when something has been removed. The charge instantly was added to your bill, and getting that charge removed can prove difficult. Buy your snacks and drinks elsewhere and let someone else pay for these high-priced treats.
Resort Fees and Other Vague Charges
It's great to visit a beautiful resort property and enjoy all the amenities. At many places, these amenities are a part of your room rate, and are added to sun, surf, and ocean breezes as benefits of your stay.
But you'll sometimes find a "resort fee" has been added to your bill, and once in a while this fee pops up at places you might not exactly classify as a resort in daily conversation.
Always question this charge, because it is frequently vague and unfair. You might not be successful in having it removed from your list of charges, but the explanation can be enlightening and, in a dark way, even entertaining. If nothing else, you can always post an online review of the place and let other travelers know that the low room rate they think they've found comes with some expensive strings attached.
Most of us assume that the first meal of the day is included if we stay at a bed and breakfast resort, but it is not always so.
It pays to ask early in the booking process if breakfast is included. In a few places, it will be an expensive trap. You'll sit down to a buffet breakfast with other guests. You'll assume it comes with the room. You'll get a jolt after the meal when presented with a hefty tab. Most innkeepers are very up-front with the cost of breakfast. In business-class hotels, a buffet meal can cost $20 or more, as many business travelers simply add it to the cost of their bill and turn it in as a travel expense.
Most of us don't have the luxury of asking someone else to pick up the tab, so be careful about the cost of breakfast. You can almost always walk or drive a short distance and find an affordable first meal of the day.
Do you like to work out during your stays? If you're a guest at some hotels, the use of the gym is included in the room rate.
But many people simply assume this privilege is free anywhere they are handed a key or access code to the exercise room. Many times, your account has been charged before you even work up a sweat. There are a few places where this charge will appear whether or not you even used the machines!
Check your bill for workout charges and complain politely but firmly if you must pay for something you didn't use. On charges such as this, hotel management often will waive the fee rather than have a protracted argument with you. But for everyone who questions it, many more will pay without realizing the charge was there.
Free parking in urban hotel settings is a vanishing privilege.
Hotel parking fees (often with required valet service) can reach $100 or more for a multi-night stay in some places.
There are ways to avoid such a ridiculous charge. One is simply to drive around the block for a few minutes in search of a municipal parking garage that might be slightly less convenient but far cheaper than the hotel parking option. Another is to plan on picking up a car rental as you are checking out of such a hotel. When using an opaque pricing option such as Priceline or Hotwire, be aware that the parking fee quickly can turn your great bargain into an ordinary find.
Hotel phone bills are not as much of a budget travel problem these days, given the fact that most guests carry mobile phones.
But before you pick up that convenient room phone to order a pizza or call a friend, keep in mind that some places will even charge for local calls. It doesn't end there. Collect or calling card connections involve a user fee in many places.
In fairness to the hotels, the charges are not always completely their doing. Phone systems vary greatly from city to city and country to country. Always ask if local calls are free and if there are charges for collect long distance calls.
Towel Replacement Costs
In this age of environmental awareness, many hotels leave a note in your bathroom informing you that it is no longer their practice to replace towels every day. They will ask you to use towels over several days, and leave on the floor those you want replaced. In some places, replacing towels daily could result in an added fee.
In many parts of the world, water and energy resources must be conserved; many other innkeepers practice voluntary conservation. You might expect to find such charges in the resorts and hotels of Costa Rica, but they are quite common now throughout the world.
Room Service Costs
It's probably not news to most readers that room service comes at a hefty price. That $10 sandwich will probably cost $20 or more when someone delivers it to your room. Beyond the menu prices, many hotels add a 15-18 percent gratuity to the base room service charge. Sometimes there's even a clean-up fee if you leave dishes in the room rather than putting them outside your door.
Computer Connection Costs
Don't expect to find a logical pattern to these charges. In some of the least expensive budget hotels, wireless internet can be found free of charge. In places where a hefty room tab should include such services, the charges can be $20 or more per day.
The value of these connections increases with each passing year. Many guests simply cannot do without WI-fi and will pay almost any price, given that they have work to finish. But for those who don't mind finding an Internet cafe down the street or using the business center just off the lobby, there is money to be saved.
In-Room Movie Fees
With the availability of entertainment on hand-held devices and the Internet, the demand for in-room movies at major hotels has plummeted. That could result in even higher prices for watching an on-demand movie in your room—and those costs are already fairly high.
In-room movies often generate billing errors, too. It's best to stay out of the hotel's on-demand movie database altogether if possible.