As travel prices continue to rise, customers may be tempted to select the cheapest base option available. However, the base price of airfare and hotels only represents a fraction of the total cost. Learn more about hidden travel fees and how to avoid them.
During the checkout process, travelers are often presented with a parade of add-on fees that can significantly increase the final price. This practice is known as “drip pricing.”
According to Vicki Morwitz, a professor of business and marketing at the Columbia Business School, “drip” pricing refers to the way that surcharges and fees “drip out” throughout the shopping process. Morwitz and her colleagues conducted a study that found customers tend to overpay when prices are presented in this manner.
Despite realizing that the final cost is more expensive than anticipated, customers are more likely to stick with the cheaper option they originally selected. This phenomenon occurs even before inflation soared this year, with companies utilizing add-ons such as resort fees and boarding pass printing fees to increase their profits. Avoiding these fees requires a great deal of diligence and knowledge.
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Hotel resort fees
To avoid being misled by hidden fees, it’s important to understand resort fees, also known as facility or destination fees. These fees are mandatory and often only appear at final checkout, despite claiming to cover amenities such as internet and pool access. According to Lauren Wolfe, founder of Kill Resort Fees and counsel at Travelers United, these fees have no correlation to any actual service or product.
To minimize resort fees, consider paying with points at brands that waive them for award stays, such as Hilton and Hyatt. You can also politely ask the front desk to waive the fee, although this may not always work. Finally, look for a search option on hotel websites or apps that allows you to compare prices directly and avoid the hassle of clicking through to final checkout windows.
Airline seat fees
The cost of airfare has been decreasing over the years, but this is often offset by airlines increasing their revenue from add-on fees. One of the most recent and frustrating examples of this is charging for seat selection, which may seem mandatory but is often avoidable.
Customers can skip the seat selection process and let the airline assign a seat later, which is usually the smartest choice. Airlines often use scare tactics to encourage customers to pay for seat selection, but the truth is that skipping this option does not increase the likelihood of getting bumped from a flight. It’s worth noting that some airlines, such as Southwest, don’t charge for seat selection.
Vacation rental fees
Everyone desires a hygienic vacation rental, but no one wants to pay exorbitant cleaning fees that can exceed the base cost of the rental. While most properties charge cleaning fees, there are ways to avoid paying too much.
Most vacation rental platforms, such as Airbnb, offer a “total price” comparison option that includes cleaning and other fees. Although filtering and sorting by total price is not always simple, seeing this price on the search screen rather than the checkout screen can significantly simplify comparison shopping.
It’s worth noting that unlike resort fees, which are typically added to every night booked, cleaning fees are applied once. A $100 cleaning fee may be unacceptable for a single night but reasonable for a ten-night stay. Therefore, the best approach to avoid cleaning fees on short stays is usually to book a hotel instead.