Have you seen the Netflix series Stay Here yet? It's a show that helps homeowners redesign their homes to become income-earning BnB's and it's chock-full of helpful hints on hospitality. It's from a recent bingeing of the show that it got me thinking about hotels and why we choose them as a main source of accommodation when there are more budget-friendly (but still cute) options available than ever before!
Sure there's the fluffy white towels and the half-hope that we'll run into Ryan Gosling in the lobby (hey, It could happen!). But is it really worth the hefty price tag we get stuck with at the end of our stay?
Hotels are the ultimate masters of marketing so its no wonder that we choose them in an effort to feel extra luxurious and taken care of. The right hotels do this perfectly that we don't even care about our maxed out credit card when we get home, rather we keep dreaming about going back.
The ugly side of a hotel stay comes when our bill is weighed down with unnecessary or unforeseen charges that can make even the least tech-savvy fumble with their cell phone to download the Airbnb app - stat! If you're shopping around for a hotel and also feeling a bit antsy about your budget, here are some top tells that you're in for a pricey ride with some alternative hacks along the way:
20 Early Check-In Comes At A Cost
You would think that since a hotel's main goal is hospitality that they would understand when a guest needs their room ready a couple of hours before the (usually quite late in the day) check-in time. Especially after a red-eye long-haul flight, all we want is a bed and potentially a bath to soak ourselves in. When you make the request with your booking it can be a bit off-putting to discover that the hotel wants to tack on a fee to accommodate this basic request- especially if the room is vacant! This can be an early sign of an enterprising kind of establishment that will continuously nickel and dime you along the way.
19 If You Need to Leave Early, That's Gunna Cost You Too!
Flexibility (without a cost) isn't the strong suit of the hotel industry so even if it's not a particularly busy time, some hotels will take your request to leave before the agreed-upon date as an opportunity to tack on another charge that can be upwards of $50 per night.
Sometimes this can be waved if it's due to an emergency (any decent company will do the right thing) or another way you can avoid this fee is by joining the hotel's loyalty program. If you are a cardholder, it often means that a few inconsequential perks like the early departure fee can be forgotten about.
18 A Single Bottle of Water Costs More Than 5 Cases from the Grocery Store
Repeat after us: never, ever, ever open the mini bar.
That's right! In some hotels, even just opening the fridge door and inspecting a label can set off a sensor that triggers an automatic fee to your bill. They sometimes call it a 'restocking fee' and it's usually meant to dissuade people from using the fridge for their own store-bought goods - like water!
Some hotels charge up to $25 for a single bottle of water. It seems crazy because it is crazy! You can hack this by renting an empty fridge (not commonly advertised) from the hotel or calling down to the desk to reaffirm that you are not planning to consume any of the snacks or beverages inside the fridge. Sadly, with these rip-off artists, you have to cover all your bases.
17 There's a Daily Resort Fee
But, it's not a resort? I hear you thinking. This is true! However, hotels have started to institute this "resort fee" that covers things like use of the pool or gym and tacking on another $20-35 per day. Even if that fee is more than the room rate, these fees are listed as 'mandatory' at check-in time. Even if you're afraid of water and haven't lifted a weight since grade 9 gym class, they will make you believe you have to buy in.
Sure, it would make sense for them to build it into the room price if they wanted to be more direct and honest. Sadly, this 'hidden fine print' fee allows for properties to compete with budget options on third-party sites like Booking.com or Expedia while still lining their pockets with that ol' resort fee cash. You can sometimes get it waived by making a case that you will not be using these 'resort' amenities or by paying with a credit card that waives them all together as part of its perks. Where there's a will, there's a waive.
16 You Have to Pay to Use WiFi
This is a super duper red flag dealbreaker for most people considering that a Motel 6 can afford to build it into the price of their $60 a night rooms. If your supposed 'client-first' hotel is making you buy your daily WiFi use or worse, making you pay for better and faster internet on a tiered system it tells you all that you need to know about the place.
If you're on a budget and overlooked this detail when booking, you can usually find free WiFi in the lobby where the daily charge usually applies to in-room use. A daily rate for WiFi can range from $10-15 per day but some of the chains will waive it if you grab yourself a loyalty card.
15 Breakfast Isn't Included
Breakfast is an anomaly in the hotel industry as it seems that budget to mid-range accommodations almost always include breakfast and the more luxe spots charge an absurd amount for breakfast. That is, on top of your already absurd nightly room rate!
In all honesty, the pricier the room, the more they will try to milk you for the extras. We're not trying to say that the Holiday Inn has a comparable breakfast to the Hyatt but if you're on a budget it can be awful to see an added charge of $50 for some eggs benny.
You will be better off asking the concierge for the best eggs in a 1km radius.
14 And There's No Coffee In the Room
Beyond inconvenient, it is simply a manipulative move to lure you to that pricey breakfast buffet when you're weak, sleepy and vulnerable. I don't know about you but when I'm sustaining jet lag and pursuing a day jam-packed with activities, coffee is non-negotiable.
In most cases, you can find indie coffee shops nearby and it's good to support the local economy. If it's dire and you need fuel in order to reach said indie cafes, throw a couple of packets of instant coffee (I know, not proud) or green tea in your purse as most rooms do include a kettle. It will give you the little push you need to make it beyond the hotel lobby doors.
13 There's A Valet Service
Even if the valet is 'complimentary' it would be rather bad form not to provide the valet driver with a tip. The average tip for a valet driver is between $1-5 which won't break the bank but can definitely add up over the course of your stay (depending how many times you're in and out of the hotel).
The mere presence of a valet should indicate to you that you have selected a ritzier locale and likely a place where people splash around money without thinking too much about it. Which brings us to our next point...
12 But Parking Is Not Included in the Room Rate
The act of parking can be a real bummer in most cases even when it's free. That said, if you're spending the night in a foreign place you want to make sure you're abiding by the local law and keeping your car safe! The hotel makes it easy in the sense that your car is usually nearby and the garage is often monitored. These are great amenities that make you feel like you can relax while on holiday.
With some hotels charging anywhere from $25-50 per day for parking privileges, that rush of relaxation can leave just as quickly as it came when it's time to pay.
11 It's Across From or Near To a Main Attraction
This would be what we call the tourist trap triangle! Most every accommodation within walking distance to a main attraction or square will know that it's sitting on prime real estate and will drive the price upwards for just about everything. Just look at the prices of the food and you'll see it's geared towards deep-pocketed tourists.
It can be tempting to book a spot that has a high walkability rating if you want to avoid paying those parking fees we talked about earlier. It's a good idea in theory but to you also don't need to be front row! Oftentimes by searching a few lesser known streets over from the main drag, you can find a compromise between location and price/value.
10 It's High Season
If you've booked a hotel during the ever-famous high season well, then you're begging to be ripped off. I mean, on the one hand, it's called high season for a reason so you'll probably be experiencing some of the best that your holiday destination has to offer, just at an exorbitant cost.
If you're going anywhere in Italy it's typically from July-September (with August being the peak of high season), or in Australia December is considered to be peak.
If you have flexible holiday time at work, why not scope out the low season as an option? Hotels are usually offering their best deals to get heads in beds in those periods, even sometimes *gasp* throwing in breakfast and parking!
9 It's the Last Minute
Are you in a bit of conundrum because you left your booking to the last minute? There's a travel legend that has been passed around for years that supposes that booking things last minute means you get cheaper rates. For anyone who has actually booked a flight, car or hotel last minute, we know that this isn't always the case when booking direct.
That being said with the gift of the internet, heaps of apps have popped up like hoteltonight.com and lastminute.com which pride themselves on the cheapest deals. Do yourself a favour and if you have your eye on staying at a particular property plan ahead.
8 It Classifies Itself As 'Boutique'
Boutique is code for really pretty but costs a lot. Boutique hotels are great if you prefer an intimate experience because their biggest distinguishing factor is their size and personalized service. Boutique hotels often have anywhere from 10 to 100 rooms and often feature a communal living space where guests can socialize if desired.
Boutique hotels are noted for their eccentricities and quirks, gastronomic delights and upscale creature comforts like fine linen and oversized fireplaces. If you want to step away from a prescriptive cookie cutter holiday, it can be worth it to experience one, just be prepared to pay.
7 A Man in White Gloves Just Opened The Door For You
The white gloves should always be a tip off! Remember in Home Alone when Kevin takes shelter at the Plaza and Rob Schneider accompanies him up to his suite and then rubs those pristine white gloves together for his tip?
The Plaza is one of the most decadent properties in NYC. It costs roughly $30,000 (this is not a typo) per night to stay in The Plaza Suite and at upwards of $1000 a night for a 'regular' room. I mean, can you imagine how much their breakfast buffet costs?! While the white gloves may be an old timey touch, they don't call it white glove service for nothin'. Prepare to pony up!
6 You're in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Monte Carlo is one of those places you go for the scenery. By the scenery, we mean to observe lifestyles of the rich and famous! Understandably if you're in Monte Carlo you're gunna shell out a few doll hairs to keep up appearances. A simple cocktail alone can cost between 15 -30 euros ($17-35 USD) so it adds up quickly.
While the price per night cost of a hotel isn't so different from NYC, you'll have a much tougher time finding even a mildly budget friendly accommodation. The number of hostels available? Zero.
If you're venturing to this glamorous destination, get ready to come back broke.
5 There's a Vending Machine On Your Floor
They have you right where they want you.
If you're not getting free breakfast, coffee in the room or even so much as a pillow mint from your hotel, heading to the vending machine seems like a logical and budget-friendly option, right? Wrong. Hotel vending machines while incredibly accessible are also super marked up.
You'll spend triple what you would if you just moseyed down the street but because you're lazy (we feel you) and tired (after all that walking!) you're way more likely to dump all those funny looking coins into the machine for some munch.
4 Your 'Room' is The Size of A ShoeBox
Trends have a funny way of dismantling what would normally be common sense and replacing it with curiosity. For example the 'pod' style capsule hotels which originated in Japan have become a serious fad that allows regular hotels to 'rebrand' teeny tiny spaces as a 'cool, new, thing.'
Often these hotels are considered budget friendly alternatives to regular hotels but can still find ways to tack on added fees if you're not careful. Make sure to double check your bills and ask about pricing before agreeing to airport transfers. Hey, they gotta make up the cash somehow!
3 Towel Deposit Charges Are Not The Most Ridiculous of All
Hotels that have sneaky hidden fees like towel deposits and key loss charges seem like they are on a personal mission to take your every last hard earned dollar while you're just trying to relax! No one wants to be on edge on holiday worrying about which towels to take to the pool and whatever else.
If on arrival you notice a laundry list of 'possible charges' deskside or within the agreement/receipt that you sign, you will need to be a little extra cautious.
If you're not sure where to turn prior to making your booking to avoid this, it can be helpful to read a few TripAdvisor reviews first since disgruntled travellers take solace in a good old fashioned community gripe.
2 The Hotel Description Uses the Word Bespoke
If they are describing their menu at the hotel restaurant, their bedding, or any other time they use the work Bespoke subtract another $20 from your bank account. This often means the hotel is a bit hipster so you'll be expected to play it super cool while they offer you their 'bespoke' maple syrup for your pancakes for a $6 dollars extra.
Or try not to laugh when you see their collection of 'bespoke' branded pencils for sale in the lobby which you get a discount on if you Gram them with the hashtag #bespoke. Your organic vegan latte will also probably set you back another 10 bucks but hey, at least there's a cinema box marquee light next to your bed.
1 There is a Rooftop Bar
This is an automatic money grab because a) that's where people will meet to take in that epic view and b) it's so close to home that you can have a drink and then make your way to your comfy bed within minutes. No cabs or walking required which makes it your official new haunt while on holiday.
Factor in that you are charging things to your room and likely not considering the tally, in fact, they are banking on your losing track altogether. The later the bar is open, the more trouble your bank card is in.