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Avoid Extra Hidden Fees

Keep travel costs down by avoiding hidden hotel fees

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Checking out of some hotel rooms can give a you a serious case of sticker shock. With taxes, room service, phone charges and other "hidden" fees, that $199 deal you booked online can turn into a $379 bill, literally overnight. Keep these tips in mind on your next stay to keep your hotel bill within your budget.

Telephone Charges
Check what the phone charges are at each hotel you stay in. Many hotels charge as much as $1.50 (or more) for local phone calls. Long distance rates can be unconscionably high. Even 800 numbers (such as the one you probably use for your calling card) can come with a high price tag. Before you make a call, check the rates. They should be posted somewhere in the room. If you don't see them, call the front desk and ask. Better yet, use your cell phone for all calls, even local.

Room Service
Room service is expensive. At the last hotel I stayed in, an "American Breakfast" (two eggs, bacon, toast, coffee and juice) cost upwards of $30. Avoid ordering it if possible. Walk down to the hotel restaurant to order, or better yet, walk down the street.

When you do order room service, pay close attention to the fees tacked on to the bill. Many hotels charge a "delivery charge" of several dollars added to the already steep prices. Plus, most room service bills automatically add a 15-18 percent gratuity, often called a "service charge." Overlooking this can cause you to overtip, so beware.

Internet Access
Many hotels are adding high-speed Internet access to their amenities. This is a great service if you are doing a lot of work online while on the road. Be aware that there is usually a charge for this service (generally $10 per day). If you have the time, it's cheaper to stop in at a nearby coffee shop that offers free Wi-Fi. Also, many hotels that charge for Internet access in the rooms offer it free of charge in the lobby, so ask.

Mini Bar
If you have late-night food cravings, plan ahead and pack accordingly. Otherwise, that 3 a.m. Snickers bar may cost you five bucks. The honor bar tempts you by stocking tasty snacks, alcohol and other luxuries right in your room for convenience, but you are definitely paying for it.

If you don't prepare, you may not have a choice but to pay the premium. Last time I was sick, I had to shell out $11 for two Pepto-Bismals and a couple of Advils. To avoid that situation, pack an emergency kit with first-aid supplies, common medications and perhaps a sewing kit for loose buttons.

Bellman
I hate to be unsympathetic to the situation of others, but I have to say, in the case of some hotels, the bellman situation is getting out of control. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I had a total of three bellmen help me with my luggage -- one to take it out of the cab, one to bring it to the bell stand, and one to take it to my room. That's a lot of tipping. Save yourself the aggravation and buy a "Bellman Buster" -- a suitcase on wheels -- and wheel it to your room yourself.

Resort Fees
Resort fees are daily charges hotels add to your bill for things you might expect to be complimentary, like access to the fitness center or swimming pool and daily newspaper delivery. The fees can range from ten dollars a day upwards of thirty or forty dollars, impacting your bill quite a bit. You should be informed of resort fees when you check in. If you don't plan to use the facilities included in the resort fee, the best time to protest the fee is when you are checking in. Ask to speak to a manager and make your case. (Once, I checked in to a hotel for a 12-hour overnight layover and knew I wouldn't be using anything outside of my room; I successfully had the front desk waive the resort fee.)

If the resort fee includes tips to bell staff, you should understand that no additional tips are necessary. Pay attention when you are checking in to what you are signing; better yet, ask about a resort fee at the time you book your room at any resort.

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