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Extra Hotel Fees and Costs You Need to Budget For

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Going on vacation is such a treat. It’s a fantastic privilege that can pay off in so many ways. But if you don’t factor in all the extra costs and budget appropriately your vacation can go from being refreshing and rejuvenating to frustrating and stressful. I’m a hotelier at heart and I am continually surprised, and saddened, whenever I come across guests who did not anticipate different hotel fees and other extra costs that can pop up when staying at a hotel. So to help you plan and budget, let’s talk about the most common costs.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – it may not have a lot of hotel fees, but it carries some of the highest room rates in Orlando. Photo source: Disneyworld.com


Resort Fees

Let’s just address the big hairy gorilla in the room, shall we? Any resort (as in a hotel that offers beautiful grounds with recreation activities, and other extra amenities) will most likely charge a resort fee. I know, I know, you’re not a fan. The thing about a resort fee is that it typically includes added value like bottled water, local and domestic long distance phone calls, wifi, recreational activities, and so on. They are also a very important part of a resort’s budget and revenue structure.

Many people often ask “why don’t these just add the resort fee to the rate?!” In short, to give hotels a fixed revenue source that is easy to forecast. Room rates fluctuate constantly, but the resort fee stays the same. This helps hotels with forecasting and budgets. Speaking of budgets, this piece of revenue goes towards other expenses that the room rate is not already allocated to, another reason it is not lumped into the rate.

If you want a true resort experience then chances are a resort fee will be present to help make such a wonderful experience possible. It is pretty standard across the USA and beyond, so don’t be surprised by it. Keep an eye out for the resort fee to be disclosed near the room rate before you finalize the reservation online, or be sure to ask about it when booking over the phone. Third party businesses can sometimes be a little tricky so be sure to read carefully. It should also be listed in your confirmation.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

Parking Fees

Oh yes, the parking fee. This one is also none too popular. One of the main reasons for a parking fee’s existence is because a parking lot can actually cost a hotel lots of money. In many cases hotels have a lease agreement with a real estate owner in which they pay an annual or monthly fee for the use of the parking lot. Even if the hotel owns the land and the parking lot itself there are plenty of costs associated with the upkeep of a parking lot. It’s also pretty easy income, to be blunt.

Just like going to a sports event, a concert, a local fair, and of course the theme parks, parking fees are common. It can be a little more difficult to find a disclosure about parking fees on both hotel websites and third party websites. You can usually find it under the transportation or hotel services section of the website or towards the very bottom of the booking page or confirmation email.

Cabana Bay parking gate ($12 per night) Source: TripAdvisor.com
Cabana Bay parking gate ($12 per night) Source: TripAdvisor.com

WiFi / Internet

How can we possibly survive in a hotel without WiFi?!!! Charging for WiFi is one of the most complained about aspects of a hotel stay. It costs hotels lots of money to have the bandwidth needed to accommodate not only all their guests, but all their guests’ multiple devices, meeting & event functions, and even the staff. Many big brands, however, have made WiFi free contingent on being a member of their loyalty program or for booking directly through their website and not a third party. Other hotels list WiFi as one of the benefits included in the resort fee.

Room Service Fee

Few things are more luxurious and indulgent than ordering room service. And such an indulgence comes with an indulgent price tag. When browsing through the room service or in-room dining menu be sure to look on the page, usually towards the bottom, for any disclosure about both a delivery fee and / or automatic gratuity. A delivery fee is not the same as gratuity. A delivery fee typically goes toward the operational costs of the in-room dining department whereas a gratuity goes to the staff. If a delivery fee is charged but a gratuity is not automatically added, it is customary to tip 10-15% depending on the level of service. If charging your order to your room account be sure to check for any fees on your receipt.

Dining Service Fee

This is a very rare fee, but they do exist. Typically any dining outlet that operates 24 hours or has any other exceptional quality to it, may have a service fee added to the bill. Usually the reason for this is to help with the operating costs of a 24 hour location or to go towards the staff. Again, it is not too common, but something to ask about at check-in; “do any of your restaurants charge a service fee?” should do the trick.

Tips / Gratuities If you feel the love from a staff member who provides good service, show your appreciation, exercise some positive reinforcement, and throw a little bit of cash their way. Here’s some general guidelines for tipping.

  • Housekeeping / Room Attendants: Based on the level of cleanliness and attention to detail $2 – $5 per adult in the room per night is a good framework. Remember that your room attendant may be different each day. (Tip: If you want to sleep in or otherwise not be disturbed please hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, especially on check-out day. Also, most hotels give their housekeepers until 4pm or 5pm to clean all the rooms for the day).
  • Bell Persons or Porters: $2 per bag is a good rule of thumb. If you prefer to take care of your own luggage please do not ask the Bell Person to use their luggage cart. Those carts are their tools to perform their job. At select service establishments like Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando, luggage carts are usually available in common areas for self-service since there usually are not Bell Persons on staff.
  • Restaurant and Room Service Servers: Check for an automatic gratuity on the bill first. If it is not provided then the rule of thumb is 10% of total bill for breakfast, 15% for lunch, and 18-20% for dinner.
  • Valet Parking: Depending on the level and speed of service the customary tip will vary. I suggest giving $2-$3 when you drop off your car and $3-$5 when your car is returned to you. (Tip: Always, always, always check your car before pulling away. If you have any concerns at all, do not pull away until you have spoken with a manager).
  • Concierge / Front Desk Agents: This is where it gets a little tricky. Traditionally Front Desk or Concierge Agents are able to accept tips, though it is not commonly expected. However, if someone really goes above and beyond for you, it really is appreciated. Some establishments, like the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels do not allow these staff members to accept tips.

If you are unsure if the staff member can accept tips, then try asking, “You’ve been really helpful, is there anyone I can give a comment to, to show my appreciation?”

Source: flyertalk.com
Source: flyertalk.com

Rollaway Beds / Microwaves / Refrigerators

Have you ever purchased a car with a few extra features that don’t come standard? Chances are you paid a little extra for those features. The same is true for hotel rooms. If you add extra features such as a rollaway bed or a microwave then most likely there will be a charge associated with it.

Typically, rollaway beds are an extra $20 – $30 per night. Not all hotels have rollaway beds and not all hotel rooms are set up properly to accommodate the extra bedding so be sure to ask before booking if this is something you might need.

Refrigerators and microwaves can be standard in certain hotel categories like extended stay. Many full service hotels include at least a beverage chiller, but not all, so if this is an important feature for you be sure to double check before booking. If these items are not included in your room usually the charge is $15 – $30 per night, per item.

Pet Fees

So you want to bring Fido with you on vacation, do ya? Just like it takes extra time, effort, and money for you to pick up after your pooch at home, it costs the hotel time and money to keep pet-friendly rooms extra clean. Pet fees range from $50 -$100 a night, and sometimes a separate deposit is needed as well.

Source: Westin.com
Source: Westin.com

Business Center

I saved the least surprising and least needed charge for last. Let’s think about The UPS Store or Kinkos. If you go to one of these establishments to use their computer or printer, you can expect to be charged per minute for using the computer and per page for printing. Hotels that have a business center on premise run the same way. If all you need is to print a boarding pass most hotels will have one or two free boarding pass kiosks available. Or, usually the front desk or concierge is able to assist.

In Summary

There you have it, practically every extra hotel fee there possibly could be encountered during a hotel stay. If you’re thinking of staying at a Universal Orlando resort hotel or a Walt Disney World resort hotel be sure to check out the informational pages here on Touring Plans to know what to expect. And when in doubt simply ask a staff member, they’re there to help you have a wonderful, memorable vacation.

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Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani is a proud Orlando Native who loves sharing her hometown with others. She's worked in nearly all of Orlando's theme parks, on board Disney Cruise Line, and in hotel management. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @thisfloridalife

24 thoughts on “Extra Hotel Fees and Costs You Need to Budget For

  • Thanks for helping me understand that it would be a good idea to give a 10-15% tip if there is no gratuity fee aside and only a delivery fee is charged. I will keep that in mind so that I can show my appreciation to motel workers and staff f they are giving a great service to us. We will book a stay at a motel in Sarina for a couple of weeks to have a long vacation, and I hope that we find one that is reasonably priced with a nice ambiance as well.

  • We usually tip WDW Mousekeeping $5 a day for our resort room. Our last visit was in Jan. 2015. On the days we had our Do Not Disturb sign on the door, we found that our Mousekeeper had a sack in front of our door filled with clean towels, soap, shampoo, coffee, etc. We thought that was very thoughtful, and we appreciated it. It was just my husband and myself that trip. We are going back in August of this year with our 4 year old grandson. I may leave $6 this trip per day to match the $2 a person a day suggestion.

  • I have always tipped the bellhop but how do you handle tipping at WDW where your luggage is up to your room before you are? If you don’t see the person do you get the tip somewhere or just not bother tipping?

    • Yes, this is true, if due to Disney’s Magical Express you do not encounter a bellman then you won’t be tipping them.

  • I found this piece to be very misleading. It focuses on “hidden” hotel fees, and uses a picture of the Grand Floridian as its header. The Grand Flo (like most Disney resort properties) does not charge most of the fees that this article discusses. Additionally, gratuities are not “hidden fees or costs”, and are entirely at the discretion of the customer. It would be nice if the author would clearly state which of these “fees” are actually applicable (or not applicable) at WDW hotels, and which you would find at off property hotels, so readers can clearly understand the differences between the two. For example, WDW hotels do not have parking fees or wifi fees.

  • I useful article, I guess, for people not familiar with these charges. But, it’s very disappointing to have it written by someone in the hotel industry who very clearly has a bias. This is obvious especially from the section on resort fees. Resort fees typically are an additional charge for a bundle of items that guests may not use, don’t care about or were previously included in the room charge. Let’s take the resort fee charged by one hotel very close to WDW. The fee “pays” for “Guest internet access; Kids Eat Free in [restaurant] for breakfast/dinner; access and equipment to golf driving facility; 20% off golf merchandise; access to fitness center and 10% off spa treatments.” Internet access is not needed by all guests and is already free for certain award levels of this chain. Before the hotel started charging the fee, kids already ate free for breakfast and dinner. Plus, not every guest brings children. Most people do not play golf. And, the idea of paying a resort fee to get a discount on something I may not use? Pitiful. Touring Plans has taken pride in providing objective advice for travelers. This article is way off that standard.

    • It would also be instructive to know just what position in the “hotel industry” the author occupies. Owner? Desk Clerk? Housekeeper? What? It is not clear from either her articles or her info page here.

    • I could not agree with you more. This is a useful subject for folks, but to have it written in such a biased voice, is definitely not in TouringPlans style.

      “Resort fees” are for one thing, and one thing only- to create less transparency in pricing. It is to make searches appear at the top, or have people open up you info page, see all your beautiful pictures, before finding out the true cost of your hotel. If it is a required fee, it should be part of the room rate.

      While ad-hoc pricing for the other things can add up, at least there is a justification- if you aren’t going to use it, you don’t have to pay.

  • Other information about tipping that I found on the Touring Plans site advises “about a dollar a day per person” as a tip for your housekeeper. Is the new standard $2.00 per day per person or does it depend on the hotel at which one is staying?

    • Good question!
      On that “dollar per day per person” advice, for 4 people (who never left a mess to clean up) we left a $5 bill each morning in the 1 Bedroom Villa for the housekeeper (for each trip 2007-2013).
      Should we have been leaving $8-$10 per day?

      • Hi Marlene and Rob,

        My personal standard is $2 per adult per day and that is based on my time in the industry, my own travels, and the preference of friends, family, and colleagues who have said the use a similar amount. However, this is all dependent on the level of service and cleanliness, and the hotel as well (the more upscale the higher the tipping amount).

        Marlene, the $5 per day for the one bedroom villa is a good amount and I am sure the housekeeper / room attendant appreciated it.

      • “…and the hotel as well (the more upscale the higher the tipping amount).”

        See, I have a big problem with this way of thinking. By this reasoning, a housekeeper at The Four Seasons could end up getting tipped more for horrible service (not that I would ever tip someone for horrible service, but some of you seem to feel you should tip no matter what) than a housekeeper at a Holiday Inn Express would get tipped for outstanding service. The amount someone is tipped should have absolutely NOTHING to do with how “upscale” the establishment is. It should solely depend on level of service.

  • It’s much simpler to note that resort, parking and wi-fi fees are separated out so as to permit hotels to display a lower rate and hence make their rates seem lower.
    Also worth noting that unlike almost any hotel chain, Disney pays their housekeeping staff a regular wage, rather than a tipping wage. Hence housekeeping tips, while certainly appreciated, are optional.

    • Hi Nicholas, you do make a good point. As a hotelier, I wanted to explain one of the many reasons for these fees. Your suggestion that this is done to make rates look lower is certainly true for many hotels, but not all.

      With regard to Disney housekeeping wages, that is news to me, that’s great to hear! When I worked in a hotel in the area we did a competitive wage anaylsis and that was not the case, they were paid a wage pretty comparable to other area hotels ($8 – $9) so tipping is still customary based on that.

      If Disney housekeeper wages have gone up from that then that is splendid news. Thanks for the info!

      • “…we did a competitive wage anaylsis and that was not the case, they were paid a wage pretty comparable to other area hotels ($8 – $9) so tipping is still customary based on that.”

        $8-9 is NOT a “tipping wage”. A tipping wage is what servers make, something like $2.01/hour, with the difference in that and minimum wage expected to be made up in tips. You can argue that $8-9/hour is not a living wage, but that’s a whole other discussion.

        I am always confused by people who feel the need to tip someone who makes a non-tipping wage. In the case of outstanding service, I agree, but for run-of-the-mill cleaning of a room, no.

        Lastly, I have friends who have indeed worked as maids in hotels (from small to large chains). Based on what they have told me, if you had a camera in your room, and recorded exactly what your maid does (or in fact does NOT do) when he/she cleans your room, you might be less inclined to tip. In many chains, the maid is paid on a per-room basis, so the the more rooms they can clean in an hour, the more money they make. This is not an incentive for them to do a careful cleaning of your room. Not sure if Disney pays per room, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

        Finally, if you want a real surprise, buy a cheap ultraviolet LED flashlight and shine it around your room in the dark sometime. It will cause things to fluoresce that shouldn’t if they had been cleaned correctly.

      • Dani, would you mind telling me how long ago your wage survey was? My info on the wages is probably ten years old, and if it was bogus, I need to be corrected and to refrain from citing it in the future.
        Given that housekeeping tipping practices vary even more widely than restaurant tipping practices, and so many of WDW guests are international, it would make sense for WDW to allow its staff to not have to rely on tips.

      • Nicholas, it was about 2-3 years ago.

        Tipping for any position is not mandatory, just customary.

        Lee, I appreciate your comments. I have worked in the hospitality industry for 12+ years in hotels, F&B, and theme parks in a variety of positions. Personally, I cannot imagine a more trying position in a hotel than being a housekeeper. With regard to any disappointment in the level of cleanliness of the room, it certainly can be said that performance shortfalls will happen. But I would ask anyone who has such concerns to ask to speak with a member of hotel management in order to get the matter corrected. As mentioned, tipping is not mandatory but should be used to show appreciate for a job well done.

      • Thanks, Dani. You probably realize this, but my reference to “mandatory” was not literal, but in the sense of the “social contract”, in the same way that while they won’t throw you in jail or refuse service for not tipping a waiter, it really is part of what is expected under ordinary circumstances.

  • Laurel and Dani – thank you both for your feedback! I didn’t mean to imply there was less cleaning, only fewer visits. Your suggestions both seem like a good reflection of the services that are provided!

  • Excellent question, Michelle. Laurel’s rule of thumb is a great guideline. Even studios take a LOT more effort to clean than a regular guest room. I’d say $3 – $5 a day for a studio, $5 – $10 a day for a or 2 Bedroom, and $10 – $20 for a 3 Bedroom Grand Villa, Bungalow, or Treehouse.

    • For DVC, tips shouldn’t be “per day”, as you don’t get housekeeping every day. It should be “per houskeeping visit”. At least that’s how I tip.

  • I’m curious to know how people handle tipping housekeeping when staying in a DVC room/suite? There is significantly less housekeeping service provided during a DVC stay, but we would still like to leave a tip. What do others leave when vacationing at a DVC property?

    • I leave $20 at the end of my stay (usually in a 1- or 2- BR) for less than 4 nights. Or $10 on housekeeping day and another $10 on departure for stays 4 nights or longer. There’s considerably more cleaning involved in the larger suites.

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