Understanding Hotel Incidental Fees

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When booking a hotel stay, you typically see quoted room rates plus additional taxes and fees. One common but often misunderstood surcharge is the “incidental fee”.

This article provides an in-depth explanation of what hotel incidental fees are, why hotels charge them, what they cover, how much to expect, and tips to manage them.

Understanding Hotel Incidental Fees

What Are Hotel Incidental Fees?

Hotel incidental fees, sometimes called resort fees, are daily surcharges added to your bill for amenities and services used during your stay. They cover costs not included in the base room rate.

Incidental fees emerged in the 1990s and are now charged at most hotels, especially resorts. The extra revenue helps hotels provide conveniences to guests and maintain operations.

While specifics vary by property, incidental fees aim to cover expenses for various amenities, facilities, and services. Common inclusions are:

  • Internet/wifi access
  • Pool, gym, business center use
  • Newspapers or parking
  • Housekeeping, room service
  • Activity fees and classes
  • Local calls and transportation
  • Children’s programs
  • Other utilities and maintenance

Rather than nickel and dime for every item, incidental fees bundle costs into one daily charge.

Why Do Hotels Charge Incidental Fees?

From a hotel’s perspective, incidental fees help sustain their business in several key ways:

  • Generate incremental revenue from high-demand amenities
  • Maintain quality of amenities that are expensive to operate
  • Allow lower advertised base room rates to attract bookings
  • Cover rising operating expenses like utilities and wages
  • Provide flexibility in what’s offered guests for one daily fee
  • Reduce upselling staff needs to boost bills

For guests, the fees provide access to more amenities without paying for each individually. But the mandatory daily charges also draw criticism for creating less transparent pricing.

What Does the Incidental Fee Cover?

As an approximate guideline, standard incidental fees often include:

  • Internet Access – WiFi and business center computers.
  • Fitness Center – Gym and pool access.
  • ** Parking** – Valet or onsite self-parking.
  • Local Calls – No long distance charges.
  • Basic TV – Standard cable channels.
  • Kids Activities – Game room, children’s programs.
  • Shuttle Service – Around the hotel vicinity.
  • Newspaper – USA Today or similar.

Upgrades like premium internet, paid movies, room service, spa treatments, dry cleaning, phone calls, etc. incur added individual charges.

It’s important to clarify exactly what is and isn’t covered when booking. Never assume amenities are included.

How Much Are Hotel Incidental Fees?

Incidental fee amounts have risen steadily over the years and now often add $20-$50+ per day to room costs.

Factors impacting the fee size include:

  • Hotel class/tier – More luxurious properties charge higher fees
  • Location – Resorts or major cities charge more
  • Amenities offered – More inclusions means higher fees
  • Season/Demand – Fees increase during peak periods
  • Room rate – Lower base rates offset with higher fees

At basic hotels or limited service properties, fees may be $10-$20 per day. But at luxury resorts in prime destinations, $40-$50+ daily is not uncommon.

Mandatory fees can tack on $100+ extra to a multi-night stay, so they’re an important cost consideration when booking.

Tips for Managing Hotel Incidental Fees

To keep incidental fees reasonable for your budget:

  • Compare all-in daily rates including fees when choosing hotels. Add up total stay cost.
  • Book direct hotel rates without prepaying fees if possible, in case you need to contest charges.
  • Consider alternate accommodations like vacation rentals with no mandatory daily fees.
  • Ask at check-in exactly what is and isn’t covered to avoid surprise charges.
  • Decline any fee inclusions you won’t use, like parking or kids programs. See if opt-outs are allowed.
  • Don’t assume amenities like WiFi and gym access are free. Always verify fees.
  • Dispute unreasonable charges politely. Ask for fee waivers if amenities unavailable.
  • Provide feedback to hotel management on excessive mandatory fees if dissatisfied.

Know What to Expect at Check-In

Incidental fees are now just an ingrained, yet frustrating, part of the hotel experience. When booking your next hotel stay, ensure you account for mandatory daily resort or facility fees in your total budget.

Understanding what’s included, asking key questions, and checking your bill can help avoid unpleasant surprises.

While the fees may feel like nickel and diming, they do provide access to valuable amenities. With good communication and preparation, hotel incidental fees need not cause major issues. Enjoy your stay!

Jennifer Tuffen
Jennifer Tuffen

I'm Jennifer Tuffen, a travel enthusiast and storyteller, six years and 10+ countries deep into a journey of discovery and cultural immersion.