The 10 Most Outrageous Resort Fees
Let's call a spade a spade. Resort fees are simply mandatory second room rates, which are taxed just like room rates and obscure the actual price of a hotel room to consumers, while also cutting back on commissions properties have to pay to online travel agencies. They're a sneaky way for hotels to pad revenue without providing any additional, tangible value to most guests, despite what the property wants you to think when it hands you a list of amenities.
The attorneys general of both DC and Nebraska have seen enough, and recently filed suit against Marriott and Hilton respectively, not only to stop the practice, but also to seek restitution for people who have paid a resort fee. Their actions follow investigations by attorneys general of all 50 states into the practice. Over the coming months, it will not be surprising if we see more suits filed in additional states. The FTC has said resort fees are harmful to consumers. In 2012, the Department of Transportation made airlines show the entire price of a ticket to potential passengers.
Despite all of that information and never-ceasing customer complaints, more properties are charging these fees. In 2018, there were 18% more properties in the top 25 US cities charging a resort fee than in the prior year, according to ResortFeeChecker.com. The average fee also increased 11% from $20.88 per night to $23.17 per night. While $23.17 per night may not sound so bad, it really doesn't give an accurate picture of some of the most egregious fees currently in existence. Let's take a look at properties who are going above and beyond to obscure the true cost of a night at their hotel with outrageous fees and policies.
The Seasonal Resort Fee
The Hyatt House Virgin Beach/Oceanfront charges $15 per night, but only from May 25–Sept. 2, 2019. This is a new, and bad, policy, saying that a property can demand extra money on top of advertised room rates during the busy season.
The Pricier-Than-the-Room-Rate Resort Fee
Las Vegas is home of The Strip, a world-famous street lined with hotels spending millions on marketing and bombarding customers with cheap room rates through incessant emails. But essentially none of them ever advertise the true cost of a night.
Room rates in August for the Excalibur are currently advertised at anywhere from $29 to $199 per night. If you think you've scored a great deal for $29, you'll be hit with a $35 per night resort fee, also taxed, more than doubling the advertised room rate. In fact, a room rate actively marketed across every MGM channel as costing $29 ends up as $72.56 when it is all said and done.
The Never-Disclosed Resort Fee
I've covered the Great Wolf Lodge's policy of never disclosing its resort fee throughout the entire booking process. In fact, you won't see "resort fee" anywhere until you receive your final room bill. The fee is obfuscated with the mandatory local and state taxes, making customers think the resort fee is a tax. The taxes and fees amount is not hyperlinked, and you cannot find what makes up this amount anywhere on the website. A $34.99 resort fee is included in the below $66.49 taxes and fees amount.
The Pro-Rated Resort Fee
I'm not yet done with Great Wolf Lodge. Reader Cathy alerted me that when she opted for 2pm late check out, a routine add-on cost for Great Wolf Lodge stays typically costing $59.99, she was also charged a prorated resort fee of $10 out of the usual $29.99/night for her specific property. She also had to pay 9% tax on the prorated $10 resort fee, because it's really a prorated second room rate on her late checkout fee.
The "Are You $#%$ing Kidding Me?" Resort Fee
The Fisher Island Hotel and Resort has a $160.50 per night "Membership Fee" that is not included in advertised room rates. I could not find a breakout anywhere on the site of what this is or why it is included. I called the Fisher Island hotel front desk and asked for a definition of the Membership Fee. The agent responded that it granted temporary membership to the island and its facilities because nowhere else on the island took a credit card.
The Resort Ripoff
Luxury hotels are a special case in my mind for resort fees. If you're going to advertise yourself as a luxury establishment with room rates of $700 per night and higher, why try and obscure the price that already-expensive room? Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Puerto Rico with $809 room rates in August, charges a $95 per night resort fee on top of those room rates. By setting the room rate from $809 to $904, how much business could they truly lose in that market segment?
The Per-Person Resort Fee
Mommy Points herself, Summer Hull, hit a nasty hitch when she and her husband checked into Marriott 's Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina, Autograph Collection. Here you don't just pay a resort fee by the room, but by the person, in the form of a $30 per person, per night resort fee. With Marriott, you still have to pay these fees even when booking "free rooms" using points. The free stay booked with points would still cost $60 per night for two people before you got to any food, drinks and entertainment options. That will be an expensive free night, every night.
The "Stop Calling It That" Resort Fee
Once non-resort properties started seeing the profits from these fees, they wanted in on the action. The rise of the Urban Fee, the Destination Fee, Facility Fee and the Amenity Fee has proven resort fees are no longer limited to any particular hotel segment. Just when I think I've seen all the names these second room rates could be called, another property jumps into the fray with a new name. This week's addition is the "Urban Retreat Fee," courtesy of the Warwick Denver Hotel:
The Two-Star Resort Fee
Just like no particular destination in the hotel market is excluded from resort fees, neither apparently are bargain-basement properties. The team over at KillResortFees.com points out the Super 8 in Las Vegas ($11.30 per night), the two-star Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City ($37.80) and the Best Western Orlando Gateway ($6.30 per night) all have resort fees.
The Thanks But No Thanks Resort Fee
The list of benefits resort fees provide customers is often chock full of antiquated, unnecessary and never-used items. I don't particularly save all of my notary needs for the next time I visit a Las Vegas Strip hotel and I haven't needed to make a local call from my room or send a fax since roughly 2001. TPG Executive News Director Scott Mayerowitz has enlightened me to the Hyatt Regency Boston's "destination fee" of $22.89 per night, which gets you one complimentary cup of Boston clam chowder and a Boston keepsake magnet. Thanks but no thanks — I'd rather keep my $22.89, and they can keep the magnet.
As I've said many times, I am not anti-business and I want hotels to make plenty of money so we can continue to enjoy their hospitality, but the entire price of the room should be clearly advertised so the free market can work and consumers can make an informed decision on which hotel should get their business. Before you're even faced with the prospect of paying a second room rate, especially one of the egregious ones above, make sure you follow TPG's recommendations on how to avoid resort fees.