Planning a vacation involves meticulous budgeting and calculating expenses. However, even the most diligent travelers can be caught off guard by the shockingly high final total at checkout. Enter the infamous junk fees, or hidden costs that can turn a seemingly affordable trip into a budgeting nightmare.

These hidden fees can manifest in various ways, from extra charges for seat selection on flights to unexpected on-site parking fees at resorts. Sometimes, the fees can be deceptively disguised as complimentary services. Travelers are often left feeling deceived when they realize they are paying for amenities they neither want nor need.

As the industry faces scrutiny, travel experts advise being aware of common hidden fees and understanding how to address them. By staying informed and proactive, travelers can reclaim control over their budgets and make their trips more enjoyable and stress-free.

Resort & Destination Fees

Hidden resort fees are increasingly a source of frustration for travelers seeking transparency in their hotel bills. According to a January 2023 analysis by NerdWallet, the average resort fee among 100 U.S. hotels stood at $42.41. This figure amounts to approximately 11% of a single night’s stay. For a week-long vacation, this translates to an additional nearly $300 on the hotel bill.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association reports that approximately 7% of U.S. hotels implement these hidden fees, leading to exasperation among guests. As hospitality brands wrestle with this issue, NerdWallet’s analysis reveals that Wyndham and Hyatt properties tend to have the highest average resort fees compared to their room rates. Conversely, Marriott now boasts the lowest resort fees among the surveyed brands. Marriott previously faced a lawsuit in 2019 and has since implemented a policy to disclose mandatory fees upfront.

To circumvent these concealed charges, travelers are advised to conduct thorough research when booking their hotels through official websites or resources like Resort Fee Checker. Familiarizing oneself with the specific amenities offered and assessing their value can help determine whether the resort fees are worthwhile. Additionally, some hotel brands, such as Hilton Honors, forgo resort fees when guests book with points.

Airline Fees

Beware of initially low airfares on platforms like Google Flights – it might not be the final tally of your journey. Delta Air Lines’ Basic Economy passengers, for example, may discover limited perks such as no seat selection or flexible cancellations.

These seemingly affordable fares fall under the lowest economy class, offering few benefits and carrying non-refundable policies. To avoid surprises and make savvy choices, it’s crucial to research each airline’s policies on basic economy. For example, while Alaska Airlines’ lowest Saver fares allow free carry-ons and full refunds within 24 hours of booking, JetBlue’s Blue Basic passengers can’t bring carry-on bags on domestic flights.

To avoid this issue, consider an airline credit card, offering free checked bags and other similar benefits. Enrolling in loyalty programs can also lead to mileage accumulation, access to priority boarding, and upgrades.

Watch Out for Hidden Booking Fees: How to Avoid Extra Costs

When it comes to booking your travel accommodations, beware of sneaky service or booking fees that might be tacked onto the final price. These fees can often remain hidden during the search process, only to show up at checkout.

A 2017 survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that 23% of travelers felt deceived when using third-party booking sites, with unexpected extra fees being one of the main culprits. For instance, the platform imposes a non-refundable service fee of $35.85 on users.

To avoid these booking fees and keep your expenses in check, many experts recommend booking directly through the hotel’s website. You’ll likely bypass the extra costs and have a clearer understanding of the total amount you’ll be paying for your reservation. Being aware and making informed choices can save you from falling into the trap of hidden fees. And ensure a smoother booking experience.

Watch Out For Hotel Parking Fees In Touristy Areas

According to Bruce Fisher from Hawaii Aloha Travel, guests should be aware that not all hotels offer free on-property parking. At the Park Shore Waikiki, for instance, guests have been charged a hefty $48 per day for overnight parking since 2021; that doesn’t even include a tip for the valet.

To avoid these unexpected parking expenses, it’s essential to do some research before booking your hotel. Check hotel reviews to see if previous guests have mentioned anything about parking fees. You can also look into alternative parking lots nearby.

Early Check-in or Late Check-out

If your travel schedule has you arriving at your destination well before the typical afternoon check-in time or departing long after the standard check-out time, you might want to watch out for additional fees. While the regular check-in time is set at 4 p.m., if your room happens to be ready earlier than that, you can opt to check in ahead of time for a steep fee of $75 at some hotels.

To avoid costly add-ons, it’s advisable to plan your itinerary carefully and communicate with the hotel in advance.

Beware of Hidden Charges for Rollaway Beds and Extra Guests in Hotel Rooms

Travel advisor Karen Morales, an expert in accessible travel, has a valuable piece of advice for families or groups hoping to utilize rollaway beds or accommodate extra guests in their hotel rooms—be cautious of potential extra charges that may catch you by surprise!

Karen shared her personal experience during a reward stay in Barcelona, where she thought she had maximized her points redemption. It wasn’t until checkout that she discovered the $50 per day charge for the rollaway bed she requested. This unexpected fee served as a cautionary tale about overlooking the costs associated with certain accommodations.

Adding children to rooms can also come with unanticipated charges, even during complimentary stays. It’s essential to double-check if there are any fees for additional bedding, as these costs can quickly add up.

To avoid any unpleasant surprises, Karen advises travelers to be proactive and call the hotel in advance to inquire about any potential extra charges when booking with children or adding additional guests to the room.

Watch Out for Hidden Rental Car Fees

Bruce Fisher, an industry expert, warns consumers about often-overlooked rental car fees and taxes. Uncovering these hidden charges is crucial to avoid any unpleasant surprises when settling the bill. For instance, a two-day medium SUV car rental from Hertz, originally priced at around $180, could balloon to nearly $225 due to additional fees. Among these hidden costs is a $40 charge for airport pickup and an additional $4.10 fee purportedly covering registration.

Fisher highlights that rental car companies aren’t solely focused on providing rental services. Many rental car companies also engage in the insurance business, prompting them to push unnecessary add-ons to customers. He emphasizes the importance of thoroughly reading the fine print to be fully aware of any extra charges.

To avoid falling into this fee trap, Fisher advises renters to explore alternatives, such as checking with their credit card companies, as some cards offer car rental insurance coverage.