These are the most outrageous travel fees

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The travel industry seems to always have its hand out — sometimes literally.

Just check into a fancy resort and watch the bellhop after delivering the luggage to your room, whether you wanted help or not. See what I mean?

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Lately, the industry has had its hands out a lot more. A recent survey by Sabre, the travel technology company, suggests we want to pay more for travel. We’d gladly shell out extra for upgrades (never mind that everyone should be getting treated well, not just the few who can pay more), onboard food (again, starving your customers is wrong) and legroom (same here).

“Travelers,” the company proclaims in a news release, would “drop a hundred dollar bill” on airline extras.

During the heat of the summer, maybe we should be asking the opposite question: What should we not pay for? What should be included not just in your next flight but in the travel experience?

Mobile data and roaming fees

Shelling out exorbitant fees for data or cellular connections when you’re overseas is a ripoff, industry insiders say. “I won’t pay for it,” says Taina Heinonen, a travel agent with Vienna, Va.-based Scandia World Travel. “I love social media, but I can wait for Wi-Fi.” Several major carriers include international mobile data in their plans, which allows travelers like her to stay connected.

Traveler-specific credit card fees

When you’re on the road, your credit card company sees an opportunity to cash in. That includes charging a foreign-currency fee and ATM fees. Avoid paying them, advises Jessica Bisesto, a senior editor for the travel deal website TravelPirates. “Contact your credit card company before a trip,” she says. Often, a credit card will waive certain fees or can advise you which ATM to use to avoid paying a surcharge.

Hotel resort fees

Many hotels charge mandatory “resort” fees for amenities you may or may not use. These can add $20 or more per day to the room rate you thought you were going to pay, which is patently unfair. “It’s frustrating,” says Bob Glaze, the curator of online travel guide “Having to pay for something that I have no intention of using, to me, is very upsetting. I feel like I am being gouged.” Interestingly, the federal government has been eyeing resort fees and might soon act to make them illegal.

Wireless Internet fees

Hotels — especially high-end hotels — are notorious for charging extra for Wi-Fi. That’s wrong, guests say. Wi-Fi is more like a basic utility. “I always feel uncomfortable paying for Wi-Fi, because it seems like a service that the hotels should provide in order to get my business and to make my stay more comfortable,” says Ruth Wilson, who runs a private school in Seattle. “Free wireless Internet is one criteria I use when booking a hotel in the first place, or I go through the inconvenience of using my cellphone as a mobile hotspot to supply Wi-Fi to my laptop rather than agree to pay another fee.” She’s not alone. Survey after survey suggests hotel guests hate having to pay for an Internet connection.

Airline fees

Remember when you could buy an airline ticket and you actually got a ticket? Today, that purchase is just a starting point. That’s by design: Optional seat “assignments” are a big source of airline revenue. A recent study by suggested that more than 38% of airlines’ total revenue can be attributed to “extra fees.” The worst offender? Spirit Airlines, which charges passengers up to $100 for a carry-on bag, according to its website.

This nonsense has to end. Though many travelers know about all these fees, enough of them are only vaguely aware that the travel industry can build a business model around them.

Instead, shouldn’t airlines, hotels and other travel companies charge a fair price for a complete product? Let me answer that question. Yes, they should. To claim these fees represent a customer “choice” is a fantasy. I’ve never met a traveler who wanted to pay a fee for a wireless connection, a data roaming charge, an advance seat-assignment fee or a $100 fee to bring a carry-on bag aboard a plane. Never.

How to dodge travel fees this summer

  • Mind the fine print and asterisk. Travel companies like to advertise prices “from $99” or slide in an asterisk next to the rate, indicating that there’s important information they’re omitting. If you see fine print, read it. If you spot a star, you might want to look elsewhere. These could be signs your airline, cruise line or hotel has surprises in store for you.
  • Check the reviews. A simple Web search for the hotel or cruise line you’re considering, plus the word “scam” or “fee” should reveal all you need to know. Be sure to cast a wide net — don’t just rely on a single source.
  • If it’s too good to be true. The old saying is true: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you see a $19 airfare, chances are, there’s something the airline isn’t telling you (such as the absurd fees you’ll have to pay to get a seat assignment). Don’t buy anything until you understand the true cost.

29 thoughts on “These are the most outrageous travel fees

  1. I always thought it is hilarious that the nicer the hotel, the fewer amenities are included. A Days Inn will have Free Wi-Fi and something vaguely resembling breakfast included in your $40-$50 room rate, while the $300 hotel I just stayed at near the Newark Airport (had to book at the last second; not much choice) only gave you free Wi-Fi if you booked direct, and a continental breakfast buffet was $15.

    I will say that international transaction and foreign ATM fees make sense; I believe the credit card processing networks charge about 1% to the issuing bank for international transactions, not to mention the higher incidence of fraud. Yes, some credit cards choose to “eat” that fee, but I don’t see that this is (or should be) an expectation. And, of course, ATMs aren’t free either, I got no problem with a bank passing on fees for those, or passing on the costs of foreign ATM fraud.

    1. good hint – most of the high end hotels have loyalty programs, and just signing up gets you the wife for free, and some even have a breakfast added – costs you nothing, and even if you only stay once, it is worth it —- the high end hotels cater to leisure market, so do not usually add the amenities – while those standard chains like Days, Courtyard, Hampton, etc cater to business people, and the amenities can mean the difference between a client booking one hotel over the other, so most just include all the highlights (although some really do it better)

      1. This hotel at EWR (the Renaissance) was definitely a business hotel (I cannot imagine what leisure activity one would perform near the Newark airport) and merely being a “Loyalty” member explicitly wasn’t enough for WiFi.

        Maybe more are including it now, but for a long time, most (all?) Courtyards actually didn’t include breakfast, while the down-market leisure-oriented Fairfield did.

        1. In my salad days, I couldn’t afford to stay in downtown Manhattan on vacation, but I could afford the Days Inn by EWR and take the bus into town.

      2. Yes, I belong to the Hilton Honors program and it comes in handy for the free WiFi. Costs nothing and apparently never expires, even though I’ve seldom stayed at one of their properties (don’t tell them!). Also, I use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and use foreign ATM’s that have a no-fee “arrangement” with my bank. But if I can’t find one of those ATM’s, the fees are usually negligible.

    2. Oh my goodness, I’ve always observed the same exact thing!! And it really has nothing to do with leisure because every high end hotel I’ve ever stayed at was by an airport. I won’t book high end for that very fact of nickel and dime-ing you for every little thing. The only way I’ve stayed at them is by using last minute sites like Hotwire….so at least I get it for a fair price after you include paying for all the amenities.

  2. I would prefer starving to airline food. I just can’t get excited about food that reminds me of the elementary school cafeteria. I usually bring my own, and it’s FAR better.

    International data and phone isn’t as bad or anywhere close as bad as it used to be. The PAX that suffer the most are those on old legacy plans with legacy carriers. It’s hard not to get into a major international airport abroad and not find some kind of mobile, or SIM or other type of product.

    The whole transaction fees for bank cards can be greatly minimized by doing prudent planing and shopping, but it’s not the travel industry, that’s the banking industry, and those people are you know bankers.

    I agree completely with the issue of resort fees, but let’s be honest it’s about more transparent pricing and that instant availability of information. The internet drove prices down, and it was only time before any business will see their revenue plummet before they get creative with unbundling their price points.

    I agree on the wireless fees, but here in Japan free internet and wireless is uncommon. McD’s, Starbucks and hotels are basically the only sources of free wireless.

    I don’t find airline fees nonsense at all, I like them, because I pay less for things i don’t need and avoid subsidizing other passengers costs. I love Spirit because they are transparent about those costs, it’s really hard to go to the Spirit site and not see those costs predominantly displayed. What i have an issue with is the airlines that don’t go to that trouble to say “bagge has extra costs, no free bags”. I do not want to pay a seat assignment fee, but I do enjoy the lower overall cost of my ticket by taking whatever seat the airline gives me. That is a service that has no value to me. The same goes for baggage.

    I have flown on Ryanair for less than €20.

  3. some high-end hotels are not charging extra for Wi-Fi any more no they just roll in to that resort fees and some even change for parking even if you don’t have a car.

    1. I stayed at a hotel in Las Vegas last year where one of the amenities included in the $25 Resort Fee was free Wi-Fi. When I got to my room, I found that the Wi-Fi was painfully slow and almost unusable. The Wi-Fi login page did provide the option of upgrading to a premium Wi-Fi service that was 10 times faster for “only” $12.95 per day.

      1. Quite often properties that charge for in-room WiFi have free WiFi available in the public areas. Can’t vouch for how good it is.

      2. A VERY common problem at hotels from Motel 6 Hyatt Place these days–slow wifi likely caused by a system inadequate for all the folks streaming video in the evening

  4. All of these fees, like them or not, are “for” something except resort fees. I don’t understand why resort fees aren’t against the law and they certainly should be. Yes, the amenities in hotels are a bit of work to follow. You have to be a member of a loyalty program and book with the hotel’s website in many cases to get the free wi fi. This way, you are saving the hotel the booking fee to a third party.

    I think that an airline reservation should include everything you absolutely need, including a seat reservation. If you want a nicer seat, I can see getting an upgrade fee for that, but a basic seat, you should be able to book.

  5. Another absolutely ridiculous airline fee: name changes. I can understand why the airlines might want to limit transferring tickets from one person to another (i.e. a change to a completely different name) but to charge anything for a spelling error or minor name change is just a money grab, plain and simple.

  6. I’d like to know how to avoid resort fees…it seems they are infectious. Once a hotel starts doing it and others see that the scam works, they all jump on board. And the list of what they allegedly are charging you for is very variable and kind of ridiculous…phone, pool towel, lobby couch, air…

    1. Good luck trying to find a decent hotel on or just off the Las Vegas strip that doesn’t charge a resort fee. I wasn’t able to find one.

  7. when I am looking to book a hotel ( coming up New Years Eve in Las Vegas), I now always look for hotels not charging ‘resort fees’. Not that I wouldn’t necessarily use the pool or wi-fi if those ‘extras’ were included in the room rate. Consumers seem to have forgotten ( or they have enough money….and don’t care ) that these companies should be competing for our business. I would like to see consumers, when making a reservation, ask , even if you know the answer, ‘do you charge a resort fee?’ If the reply is ‘yes’ then simply state……….I won’t pay resort fees………I’ll book with someone else. This would be for a direct booking with a hotel (which everyone should try) instead of a 3rd party booking site. If enough people don’t make a stand……………………………..then they deserve what they get

  8. A fee based model does make it possible for some people to fly who couldn’t otherwise. Fees that are properly disclosed and can be avoided are OK. Resort fees are a pure scam.

  9. For me, I can make a case for the foreign currency exchange fee as the credit card issuers are essentially taking the risk that the currency rates don’t move against them between periods.. So, I can see how a FCE fee offsets their hedge risk premiums.

    1. The currency moves could go in either direction so that’s not sufficient justification in my opinion. But there are enough credit cards out there now that don’t charge the fees that most people who travel abroad should be able to get one.

      1. Yes, it can go in either direction (or none in limited cases).. but since the bank doesn’t know this, they’ve got to hedge that risk..So, even if it moves in their favor (they made money on the movement) they’ve still got a hedge expense that protected them had it not gone in their favor. I agree that there’s plenty of cards that don’t have FCE fees, but one that fee alone, I can make a case for how it comes to be as I do think banks, or anyone who deals on an inter-currency basis, has this risk and needs to mitigate it.. and that has a cost — which can be baked into some other fee or absorbed into the larger consumer cost.. either way, it’s going to be accounted for, be that indirectly or not. given that I suspect for some cards (probably more for the mid-tier domestic issuers and less so for the like of AMEX etc) there’s probably a pretty good breakdown that a minority percentage (call me X percentage) of our card holders have FCE transactions, I can see why the fee would be applied per transaction and not baked into the larger fee structure for all to pay.

  10. I’ve noticed that whenever I get on a plane, I have reasonably fresh food available both at the departure airport and the destination airport. I’d much rather eat that than a questionable meal that has been in a warming oven for hours. I can even buy it just before boarding, and it will have sat for less time than the alleged meal on the plane.

    Biscoff, on the other hand, are always welcome.

  11. Of course you have a choice–yes I’ll stay at a the hotel charging resort fees, or no I won’t stay there. Yes I’ll fly the airline that gouges me for a carry-on or a seat assignment, or no I won’t fly that airline. Of course, if they all do this, the choice becomes travel or stay home. Some choice!

  12. if am flying to a beach resort fro a week or 2, I don’t need 50lbs(23kgs) of luggage. I can probably get by with 10kgs or even less. So why pay for something I don’t want + airlines can then sell some of it’s luggage space as cargo, offsetting costs. Many airlines are going very close to folding at present, especially those big middle east airlines. Maybe not in the USA domestically, but you’ve seen so many very dodgy amalgamations, which basically push up fares. (pay up or drive)

  13. The article stated: “Travelers,” the company proclaims in a news release, would “drop a hundred dollar bill” on airline extras.”

    I would NOT drop $100 on extras, and bet most others would not either. Wishful thinking on their part

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