Your Next Vacation Is One Click Away
Here's how to detour fees online.
Like, I'm sure, many of you, I book most of my travel online these days. With dozens of deal sites and new price-comparison tools emerging faster than you can figure out how they differ from the last batch (hello, Trivago), it can often seem like you're getting a deal that's too good to be true. Unfortunately, sometimes they are.
Hidden fees have long been an evil practice associated with the travel industry. Some good news: According to Sean Murphy, editor-in-chief of Jetsetter.com, it is now illegal for hotels and airlines not to disclose all of their fees, but that doesn't guarantee there won't be some unexpected charges. Since fees have to be disclosed somewhere, Murphy says the onus is on the consumer to be proactive in avoiding these fees. All it takes is a keen eye and a willingness to do your research. Once you can identify where hotels and airlines sneak in extra charges, you'll be able to avoid them. Here's how:
Hotel and Resort Fees
While airlines now disclose the specifics of their extra fees, hotels hide charges under the blanket of what they call hotel or resort fees. These non-descriptor buckets can include anything from housekeeping charges, to WiFi access, and even newspaper delivery, says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance. And it's important to be vigilant about them, because you often get charged whether you use the services or not. If you are booking through a third-party site, call the hotels directly to discuss all the fees included in your bill.
Airlines can get pretty creative when it comes to finding reasons to up charge passengers. While the dubious fuel surcharge has been eliminated, charges for checking extra bags, priority check-in, and in-flight food are still prominent. One fee that you might not see coming is an advanced seating fee. It's a charge you pay in order to choose your seat at the time of booking your flight, rather than getting your seat assignment on the day of the trip, says Schrage. You may not mind the middle seat, but without paying the advanced seating fee, you run the risk of not being able to sit with the person with whom you're traveling, even if you booked the flight together. There also may be extra chargers to book a flight over the phone. Again, you'll want to be vigilant in trying to assess what you're final bill will be and not just if you're flying, but renting a car as well.
Many of these extra fees are amenities and services that are essentially optional. With the popularity of third-party booking sites, it's also worth noting that booking directly through a carrier or hotel (especially if you belong to the loyalty program) can often yield the best prices, as well as deals they don't offer to third-party sites. And importantly, being a loyalty member can give you more bargaining power when disputing extra charges, Murphy notes. Just make sure to be polite and professional when speaking with hotel staff.
Article written by Jean Chatzky for SavvyMoney.