April 13, 2024

Many of us are desperate to travel this summer after the pandemic killed years of our plans. But travelers — and I’m sorry to be a spoiler — should beware: Those seemingly cheap flights or hotel rooms advertised online can be a trap, making you spend more than you expected.

According to research and travel experts, that’s as hotels and airlines struggle to recoup losses from the pandemic, increasingly charging consumers hidden nickels. Regulators call these “garbage fees”.

Chances are you’ve come across garbage charges at least a few times during your travels. Additional fees can take many forms, such as resort amenities, checked bags, and seat selection, and are often not disclosed up front when you use an online search engine. They sneak in near the end of the deal.

This strategy, known in the travel industry as “spin-offs,” is not new. But some fees, such as baggage fees and seat selection fees on the plane, Get up during a pandemic, according to research. Vague hotel resort fees, typically block payments of $20 to $50 a day for basic services like Wi-Fi and parking, have become commonplace.

According to Consumer Reports, hotel-related waste charges collectively cost travelers an estimated $3 billion a year. For airlines, Ancillary fee incomeExpenses that include carry-on luggage, seat assignments and early boarding will rise to $102.8 billion by 2022, up 56% from the previous year, according to airline consultancy IdeaWorks.

This means long gone are the days of using Google, Expedia and other search engines to quickly search for travel deals. You might be able to get a rough idea of ​​how much an airline ticket or hotel room will cost, but you’ll have to invest more time and effort into figuring out the actual cost.

“Hotels and airlines make it hard for you to really compare the cost of your flight or hotel stay because they don’t like to buy based on price alone,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of travel analytics firm Atmosphere Research in San Francisco.

Garbage fees have become so common that regulators say the practice must change soon. The Federal Trade Commission, which began an investigation into the fees last year, said it plans to announce rules in the coming months that will limit how much companies can charge them.

But until the new law comes into effect, it is our duty to be aware of deceptive pricing tactics and avoid them as much as possible. Here are some ideas on how to do this.

What does a hotel trash fee look like?

Let’s say you want to book a room at the Hyatt Regency Grayson this month. On an online search tool like Google or Expedia, it might show up as $331 per room per night. But once you get to the checkout process, the actual price goes up to $421.

When you click on details, you will see the surtax you expect. But what’s less surprising is the vague $34 destination fee per day — which includes Wi-Fi, gym access and 10 percent discounts at the hotel’s restaurants. This is approximately 8% of the cost of the room.

After a few days, these small charges add up.

“What we have is opaque, deceptive pricing,” said Chuck Bell, director of Consumer Reports, which has campaigned against garbage charges for years. “Tour suppliers don’t like to tell you the full price upfront, so they hide it.”

While it can be difficult for hotels to check their resort fees, many online resources track charges on a regular basis.

resort fee inspector Lets you search a hotel to see if it charges a resort fee, and if so, how much.Personal finance site NerdWallet conducted a Analysis of the year’s biggest offenders resort fee. The study found that Wyndham Properties, Hyatt and IHG charged the highest fees, averaging 3.8 percent to 6.5 percent of the total room cost.

Another best practice is to check prices directly on the hotel’s website rather than through third-party agencies like Expedia or Priceline. This is because hotels occasionally charge different resort fees to guests who book through a third party. If you join a hotel loyalty program, they often waive the resort fee for repeat guests.

Airlines make the process extra painful because the extra fees often don’t show up until deep in the ticket booking process. After you select your flight and enter your personal details, the system will display the cost of choosing a seat or checking a bag.

Mr Harteveldt said that by far the best rule of thumb is to be familiar with a brand’s business model and the types of fees it typically incurs. Budget airlines that offer the cheapest tickets have been known to make up the price difference by charging more for basics like seat selection and luggage.

Analysis nerd wallet Budget brands Frontier and Spirit Airlines charged the most for seat selection, while Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines charged the least, it found in February.

If you choose an airline that charges for seat selection, you can choose not to choose a seat, and then hope to be able to choose a seat with a customer service agent at the terminal. But it’s a gamble, especially not for families.

More labor is now required if you want to travel on a budget. After plugging in all the numbers for each supplier, calculate the total including all fees. Only then can you make a true cost comparison.

In the future, we hope that this will not be required. FTC spokesman Doug Farrar said the agency is not advising consumers on how to deal with unexpected charges, but instead is working to get businesses to cut junk charges entirely through rules regulating the practice.

“We’re going to work hard to end it,” he said. But he added: “Strictly speaking, I don’t think you can avoid it. It’s just baked into the process.”

Some brands are getting ahead of the regulatory crackdown by changing their approach. Marriott said it recently updated rates to include resort fees when people search for reservations using its app and website. Hyatt said in a statement that it plans to do the same.

Of course, that doesn’t mean brands will stop charging fees. But when a deal isn’t as good as it looks, it helps to know it right away. Then you can book elsewhere.

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