Not to be outdone by the airlines, I fully expect hotels to keep piling on the extra charges for things that were either free or “included” in the room rate. Again, I recommend picking and choosing carefully, based on your needs. Also, make sure you join their “frequent stay” club, and try to focus your stays to just a few of the more prevalent chains. As I said before, I tend to use Holiday Inn, Hilton, and Marriott as my main hotel chains, with an occasional stay at Kimpton, and the oddball locations with hotels.com.
I would hate to guess the number of stays I have had in a hotel or motel over the years. Some have been memorable, most forgettable. Memorable: Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Datai (Langkawi), The Rasa Sayang (Penang), Old Course Hotel (St. Andrews), The Presidential Suite at the Inn at Spanish Bay, Casa Palmero (Pebble Beach), and The Peninsula (Bangkok).
These are some of the rip-offs that are being used by hotels to increase their bottom line.
1. Money Exchange Rarely do I exchange money at the hotel, where fees can be as high as 20%. A few hotels offer some decent exchange rates, but always know the going rate before you exchange. Most places are happy to take your U.S. money anyway.
2. Room Service Most room service menus are marked up above the regular rate for the café or restaurant downstairs. Many then add a service fee, as high as 20%, with a waiter who still expects a tip beyond that! Some places add the service charge even if you dine in their restaurant, figuring you will not look at the bill before paying or charging it to your room. Shame, shame!
3. Laundry Again, you are probably stuck, unless you are staying in an area that has laundry or dry cleaning services nearby. We found such a place across the street from our hotel in Quito, Columbia. For about the equivalent of $5 USD, Mike and I got about 10 items laundered and pressed. But I did see the guy at the laundry wearing Mike’s jacket the day before we picked up our stuff! Remember the Seinfeld episode with the dry cleaner?
4. Parking This is one of the most irritating charges I have ever experienced. Some even offer to include it in a “package” deal, even when you do not have a car to park! If they do, always ask for something else in return if you are not driving. I usually ask for free wi-fi, or a meal or drink credit. Plus, who knows where they might park your Bentley or Ferrari?
5. Minibars How I hate these things. I usually need their refrigerator to chill my champagne or water. They have the audacity to charge me electronically, even if I do not consume their beverages. My solution is to walk across the street to the convenience store and buy drinks at reasonable prices. I heard some hotel charged a guy $10 for a 12 ounce can of Coca Cola! If you stay at a nice resort like Pebble Beach, the entire contents of the minibar (except the alcohol) are included in the room charge.
6. Wi-Fi My philosophy is that a so-called business hotel should include wi-fi for free. After all, we are staying there for business reasons, and will be out conducting business most of the day, and often into the night. So, why do I need to pay an outrageous fee for perhaps 2-3 hours on-line? The solution is to book a place where it is free. Or ask for a waiver of the fee since you will not use the spa or gym. Or bring your own, like I do.
7. Resort Fees Naturally, places like Hawaii and Vegas are famous for these. In some places, they are actually okay. A place like the Rasa Sayang in Penang includes high tea (including cocktails), English breakfast, and a butler! In most other places, it is a big rip-off. It never hurts to ask them to waive the fee if you are not using their facilities.
8. No Ice Machines This is becoming increasingly popular. Many places charge a fee (room service) and want a tip for the bellman. A possible work around is to ask for a refrigerator for your room. Worse yet, learn to drink warm beer. Or tell them you are a diabetic, and need some ice for your insulin.
9. Excessive Tipping Make sure you tip the people who help you. Forget about the others, but don’t be a cheapskate. The room tip for the housekeeper is usually the best $5 you can spend on a stay of more than one night. The dreaded doorman (another Seinfeld episode) always has his hand out. I would rather give it to the homeless guy outside the front door. Yet, the cute, little, young, uniformed ladies who open the door and bow politely in Bangkok hotels are well worth the $1 USD each time you pass through.
10. Tiny Rooms This is the trend, so get used to it. Just make sure, if you are traveling on business, that you have a desk or place to work. My room was so small once in Hong Kong, that I had to open my suitcase on my bed! Or another time, in New Zealand, where I had to sleep next to a wall, and crawl over my wife to get out! The best solution, stay in a business hotel, not a cheap tourist hotel or motel. My vote for worst motel, the Red Eagle Motel in Browning, Montana. It makes Motel 6 look like The Peninsula!!!
When in doubt, please check the reviews from TripAdvisor or Yelp.