Going on vacation is such a treat. It’s a fantastic privilege that can pay off in so many ways. But if you don’t factor in all the extra costs and budget appropriately your vacation can go from being refreshing and rejuvenating to frustrating and stressful. I’m a hotelier at heart and I am continually surprised, and saddened, whenever I come across guests who did not anticipate different hotel fees and other extra costs that can pop up when staying at a hotel. So to help you plan and budget, let’s talk about the most common costs.
Let’s just address the big hairy gorilla in the room, shall we? Any resort (as in a hotel that offers beautiful grounds with recreation activities, and other extra amenities) will most likely charge a resort fee. I know, I know, you’re not a fan. The thing about a resort fee is that it typically includes added value like bottled water, local and domestic long distance phone calls, wifi, recreational activities, and so on. They are also a very important part of a resort’s budget and revenue structure.
Many people often ask “why don’t these just add the resort fee to the rate?!” In short, to give hotels a fixed revenue source that is easy to forecast. Room rates fluctuate constantly, but the resort fee stays the same. This helps hotels with forecasting and budgets. Speaking of budgets, this piece of revenue goes towards other expenses that the room rate is not already allocated to, another reason it is not lumped into the rate.
If you want a true resort experience then chances are a resort fee will be present to help make such a wonderful experience possible. It is pretty standard across the USA and beyond, so don’t be surprised by it. Keep an eye out for the resort fee to be disclosed near the room rate before you finalize the reservation online, or be sure to ask about it when booking over the phone. Third party businesses can sometimes be a little tricky so be sure to read carefully. It should also be listed in your confirmation.
Oh yes, the parking fee. This one is also none too popular. One of the main reasons for a parking fee’s existence is because a parking lot can actually cost a hotel lots of money. In many cases hotels have a lease agreement with a real estate owner in which they pay an annual or monthly fee for the use of the parking lot. Even if the hotel owns the land and the parking lot itself there are plenty of costs associated with the upkeep of a parking lot. It’s also pretty easy income, to be blunt.
Just like going to a sports event, a concert, a local fair, and of course the theme parks, parking fees are common. It can be a little more difficult to find a disclosure about parking fees on both hotel websites and third party websites. You can usually find it under the transportation or hotel services section of the website or towards the very bottom of the booking page or confirmation email.
WiFi / Internet
How can we possibly survive in a hotel without WiFi?!!! Charging for WiFi is one of the most complained about aspects of a hotel stay. It costs hotels lots of money to have the bandwidth needed to accommodate not only all their guests, but all their guests’ multiple devices, meeting & event functions, and even the staff. Many big brands, however, have made WiFi free contingent on being a member of their loyalty program or for booking directly through their website and not a third party. Other hotels list WiFi as one of the benefits included in the resort fee.
Room Service Fee
Few things are more luxurious and indulgent than ordering room service. And such an indulgence comes with an indulgent price tag. When browsing through the room service or in-room dining menu be sure to look on the page, usually towards the bottom, for any disclosure about both a delivery fee and / or automatic gratuity. A delivery fee is not the same as gratuity. A delivery fee typically goes toward the operational costs of the in-room dining department whereas a gratuity goes to the staff. If a delivery fee is charged but a gratuity is not automatically added, it is customary to tip 10-15% depending on the level of service. If charging your order to your room account be sure to check for any fees on your receipt.
Dining Service Fee
This is a very rare fee, but they do exist. Typically any dining outlet that operates 24 hours or has any other exceptional quality to it, may have a service fee added to the bill. Usually the reason for this is to help with the operating costs of a 24 hour location or to go towards the staff. Again, it is not too common, but something to ask about at check-in; “do any of your restaurants charge a service fee?” should do the trick.
Tips / Gratuities If you feel the love from a staff member who provides good service, show your appreciation, exercise some positive reinforcement, and throw a little bit of cash their way. Here’s some general guidelines for tipping.
- Housekeeping / Room Attendants: Based on the level of cleanliness and attention to detail $2 – $5 per adult in the room per night is a good framework. Remember that your room attendant may be different each day. (Tip: If you want to sleep in or otherwise not be disturbed please hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, especially on check-out day. Also, most hotels give their housekeepers until 4pm or 5pm to clean all the rooms for the day).
- Bell Persons or Porters: $2 per bag is a good rule of thumb. If you prefer to take care of your own luggage please do not ask the Bell Person to use their luggage cart. Those carts are their tools to perform their job. At select service establishments like Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando, luggage carts are usually available in common areas for self-service since there usually are not Bell Persons on staff.
- Restaurant and Room Service Servers: Check for an automatic gratuity on the bill first. If it is not provided then the rule of thumb is 10% of total bill for breakfast, 15% for lunch, and 18-20% for dinner.
- Valet Parking: Depending on the level and speed of service the customary tip will vary. I suggest giving $2-$3 when you drop off your car and $3-$5 when your car is returned to you. (Tip: Always, always, always check your car before pulling away. If you have any concerns at all, do not pull away until you have spoken with a manager).
- Concierge / Front Desk Agents: This is where it gets a little tricky. Traditionally Front Desk or Concierge Agents are able to accept tips, though it is not commonly expected. However, if someone really goes above and beyond for you, it really is appreciated. Some establishments, like the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels do not allow these staff members to accept tips.
If you are unsure if the staff member can accept tips, then try asking, “You’ve been really helpful, is there anyone I can give a comment to, to show my appreciation?”
Rollaway Beds / Microwaves / Refrigerators
Have you ever purchased a car with a few extra features that don’t come standard? Chances are you paid a little extra for those features. The same is true for hotel rooms. If you add extra features such as a rollaway bed or a microwave then most likely there will be a charge associated with it.
Typically, rollaway beds are an extra $20 – $30 per night. Not all hotels have rollaway beds and not all hotel rooms are set up properly to accommodate the extra bedding so be sure to ask before booking if this is something you might need.
Refrigerators and microwaves can be standard in certain hotel categories like extended stay. Many full service hotels include at least a beverage chiller, but not all, so if this is an important feature for you be sure to double check before booking. If these items are not included in your room usually the charge is $15 – $30 per night, per item.
So you want to bring Fido with you on vacation, do ya? Just like it takes extra time, effort, and money for you to pick up after your pooch at home, it costs the hotel time and money to keep pet-friendly rooms extra clean. Pet fees range from $50 -$100 a night, and sometimes a separate deposit is needed as well.
I saved the least surprising and least needed charge for last. Let’s think about The UPS Store or Kinkos. If you go to one of these establishments to use their computer or printer, you can expect to be charged per minute for using the computer and per page for printing. Hotels that have a business center on premise run the same way. If all you need is to print a boarding pass most hotels will have one or two free boarding pass kiosks available. Or, usually the front desk or concierge is able to assist.
There you have it, practically every extra hotel fee there possibly could be encountered during a hotel stay. If you’re thinking of staying at a Universal Orlando resort hotel or a Walt Disney World resort hotel be sure to check out the informational pages here on Touring Plans to know what to expect. And when in doubt simply ask a staff member, they’re there to help you have a wonderful, memorable vacation.