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7 hotel rip-offs and how to avoid them

28 July 20235 min read

View of two people toasting an orange cocktail on a beach deck over the ocean

Back away from the mini bar and bypass the overpriced breakfast! Scoring a cheap hotel deal doesn’t mean you can’t run up an unexpectedly big bill by the end of your stay.

From pricey room service to painful parking fees, keep your holiday budget in check by getting to grips with these all-too-common hotel rip-offs.

Rip-off #1: Mini bar madness

We all love a bit of a splurge on holiday, but there are some areas where the purse strings should remain tightly drawn. Mini bars are one of them. Notoriously overpriced, that tempting little fridge in your hotel room is a big bill waiting to happen.

It’s a simple convenience mark up. The price is raised because it’s right there in front of you. And watch out for the mini bar sensor. These weight monitors can detect when items inside your mini bar are moved – even if you don’t eat it, you may get automatically charged.

The best way to avoid this expense-laden ploy? Simple – leave it shut and stock up on treats from the local shop instead.

Rip-off #2: Ridiculous room service

An extravagant cousin of the mini bar, room service is usually a guaranteed money-burner. Rarely justifiable, it’s a cost you simply don’t need to fork out for – even if you are feeling peckish past midnight.

Prices vary wildly, depending on your destination, but one thing is for certain: it’s going to cost you a lot more than it would out on the street.

It’s another easy one to avoid, however – just head out for food or keep a few snacks in your room.

Rip-off #3: Painful parking fees

Central city hotels will often have limited space to play with, so parking right next to them can come with a hefty price tag. If you’re travelling by road to your accommodation, do your research on car parks and on-road parking nearby as you could save yourself a small fortune by shopping around. It’s also wise to look up your options on a map before you set off.

And, unless you have a deep wallet, avoid valet parking fees.

Rip-off #4: Blow-out breakfasts

We’re not suggesting you skip breakfast entirely – it is the most important meal of the day, after all. But unless you’re staying at a B&B, or a hotel where breakfast is included in the price, it can be cheaper to eat out nearby and you’ll probably have more choice.

The reason for this? Many continental hotel breakfasts are pretty standard – maybe some cereal, bread and a few preserves, if you’re lucky – and the food on offer often isn’t worth the price tag unless you’re hungry enough to take full advantage of the buffet.

Head out for your morning meal instead and you might just find a memorable local café.

Rip-off #5: The hotel laundry service

If you’re going away for so long that you need to wash your clothes, the hotel laundry service can be tempting. It can also be a complete rip-off.

Hotels can charge anywhere from around €10 upwards for a load of laundry, but you’re likely to find a cheaper deal at the local launderette.

To avoid getting stung, look for the coin-operated multi-washer places that locals use. Yes, you might have to wait around for a little while, but it will mean clean undies for a fraction of the price.

Rip-off #6: Early check-in/late check-out

Although it can be tempting to opt for that extra few hours’ grace, early check-in and late check-out fees are a needless extra expense.

Depending on where you are staying, there’s a good chance the hotel will charge you a set fee per person and a service charge for the room too.

To avoid this, try to arrange your travel around the hotel’s set check in/check-out times or, if you can’t, leave your luggage with the concierge for free while you explore.

If, for whatever reason, you really need the extra time, be sure to read the small print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Rip-off #7: Astronomical resort fees

Common in the US, some parts of the Caribbean and Mexico, resort fees are additional charges to your hotel room rate. They cover the use of some amenities (from wi-fi to the pool) and are typically charged on a nightly basis by your hotel. Costing anywhere from $10 to over $100 a night, resort fees can add up quickly, and what’s worse is that they are not always disclosed at the time of booking.

Unfortunately, this is one rip-off that’s hard to avoid. Search comparison sites such as Booking.com and Expedia are required to be upfront about these fees and advertise the total price of your stay inclusive of any taxes and charges – but hotel websites are not obliged to do the same, so it’ll pay to really do your research here and even ask the hotel directly if you’re unsure.

Some big-name hotel chains, such as Hilton and Hyatt, will waive the fee if you’ve booked your stay through their reward programs. But, accruing all those points takes time and means you need to book at their hotels frequently, which may not always be the best value option.

In some cases, you may be able to dispute the fee if you have no intention of using the facilities (this could be the spa, sports facilities or room safe, for example). This should be done at the time of check-in, but do note that most are considered mandatory, and you’ll likely have to pay up.

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