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How to not pay resort fees

Overwater resort bungalows

It’s the worst feeling. You arrive at your hotel, full of excitement over your upcoming vacation, and go to the front desk to check in. And then, bam. You find out your stay is going to cost much more than you planned, thanks to resort fees.

Nobody likes to find out they have to pay extra for a trip—especially one they thought they’d already covered, whether in cash or in points. Below, I’m breaking down how to not pay resort fees so you can keep that extra money in your pocket.

Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort

WHAT ARE RESORT FEES?

Resort fees are charges your hotel will apply on top of your room rate and taxes at check-in to cover a bundle of services. When they first started out, resort fees covered use of shared resort facilities—think pools, beach clubs, tennis courts, etc. But these days, you’ll find hotels using resort fees to charge for Internet access, parking, fitness center access, kids’ club access, bottled water, boarding pass printing, newspapers, shuttles, bike storage, faxes, in-room coffee… you get the picture. 

A couple of factors make resort fees particularly unpopular among travelers. First, because they are bundled, you may wind up paying extra for services and amenities you don’t use. Travelers without kids may find themselves paying kids’ club access charges, for instance, while those who show up without cars may find their fee includes parking. Second, because they’re tacked on later and often not made explicitly clear at the time of booking, they allow hotels to masquerade as cheaper than they actually are. And third, they’re spreading! While resort fees have long been popular in destinations such as Las Vegas, Hawaii and Florida, they’re now popping up in all sorts of geographies—and at properties you’d be hard-pressed to classify as “resorts.”

Gaylord Rockies Resort pool

HOW MUCH DO RESORT FEES COST?

Finally, the dagger: Resort fees aren’t cheap. On a recent stay at the Gaylord Rockies Resort near Denver, I paid $23 even after using points for what I thought would be a free stay. The Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea on Maui, another hotel I visited recently, charges a resort fee nearly double that per night at $40, which doesn’t even include mandatory valet parking at $30 per night.

But it doesn’t stop there. At some Las Vegas hotels, for example, you can see the fee reach close to the room rate or higher. At the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, for one, you’ll pay a fee of $40.82 per night, according to hotels.com. That fee almost doubles the room rate listed on the hotels.com website—$43 per night—making it even harder to swallow.

If you’re looking for the upper end, you’ll have to go much, much higher. The Fisher Island Club and Resort in Miami reportedly charges more than $160 in resort fees per night. 

Travelers aren’t the only ones who don’t like resort fees; because they’re not part of the published room rate, hotels don’t pay online travel agencies commission on them. Booking Holdings, owner of Booking.com, Priceline, Agoda, and Kayak, recently went as far as to say it would start charging hotels commission on resort fees the way it charges it on room rates—although reports say the company has delayed those plans. 

So, ready to find out how you can avoid hotel resort fees? Read on!

Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea

HOW TO NOT PAY RESORT FEES

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

The most surefire way to make sure you don’t pay resort fees is not to stay in a hotel that charges them in the first place. Of course, if you have your heart set on a certain property that charges them, this method won’t work, but at least you’ll know the facts going into your stay and can prepare in advance to try to use another method to get the fee waived!

How do you know whether your hotel charges a resort fee? Check over the fine print carefully while making your booking, looking not just for the words “resort fee,” but for any other terms a hotel could be using. I’ve heard everything from “destination fee” to “amenity fee” as substitutions for “resort fee.” You can also do a quick search on resortfeechecker.com to make sure you’ve got the fee situation straight; this website will tell you not only how much a hotel charges in resort fees per night, but what amenities and services those fees cover, too. 

Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

STAY ON POINTS

Thankfully, when you redeem points at Hilton and Hyatt properties for free stays, the stays really are just that—free. Neither chain’s hotels will charge you resort fees if you use points to cover your entire stay (rather than using a points-plus-cash option). That $40-per-night Grand Wailea fee I mentioned above? I dodged it for each of the six nights on my trip since I booked them using Hilton Honors points, upping the total rewards I received during my stay by an additional $240. This practice alone definitely scores Hilton and Hyatt bonus points in my book!

If you’re checking in for a points stay at a Hilton- or Hyatt-owned property, definitely keep in mind that those hotels generally don’t charge resort fees, as you might need to remind whomever is checking you in of that fact. On a recent stay at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, an employee went over the resort fees I’d have to pay before I asked her to double check if those applied to points stays. It turned out they didn’t, and she removed the charges—just another reason it pays to know your stuff before you go into a potential resort-fee situation. 

For more on earning and using points and miles to travel for free, visit the 52 Cities free resource library or register to join me on an upcoming masterclass!

Park City Marriott lobby
Park City Marriott room

NEGOTIATE

It never hurts to talk things out face-to-face, and this holds true when trying to avoid paying resort fees. On a trip last year to Park City, I managed to get out of a $20 resort fee at the Park City Marriott by talking things through with a manager. The fee covered a shuttle, game room use and an apres-ski reception, none of which we used on a short overnight stay. The only other benefit the fee covered was Wi-Fi, which I was supposed to have included as a Marriott Gold member.

She agreed to nix the fee for me under those circumstances, and you might have similar luck if you’re able to make the argument that a) you aren’t planning to use the benefits or b) you shouldn’t have to pay for benefits that should be included with your status. In my case, the manager made what she called a one-time exception, but that was all I needed.

how to not pay resort fees - Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea pool

LEAN ON ELITE STATUS

There’s another reason elite status can help in this situation, too: When it comes to making things right for elites, hotel employees tend to try to go above and beyond the service you’ll normally see. I have no doubt my Marriott Gold status helped me out in the Park City example I mentioned above—as well as countless other times I was in a position to receive compensation for something that had gone wrong during a stay.

Wondering how to hit elite status, especially without frequent hotel stays? The main hotel loyalty programs have teamed up with credit card companies on co-branded credit cards, and many of these credit card offers include elite status as a park of carrying the card. My Marriott Gold status, for example, comes from my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card, while my Hilton Diamond status comes from my Hilton Honors Aspire, also from American Express. 

how to not pay resort fees - Carly in resort lagoon
Resort beach at sunset

Hope this post gave you some ideas about how to not pay resort fees! Have you ever encountered resort fees? Where were you? Let me know in the comments! >>

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How to not pay resort fees: Everything you need to know
how to not pay resort fees - Resort fees: What they are (and how to avoid paying them)
How to not pay resort fees

***This post contains credit card referral links that may provide compensation in points to 52 Cities at no extra expense to you. I will always put these points toward generating content that I hope will be useful for you on your own points and miles journey. Thanks for supporting this blog!***

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Carly

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