Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Booking a room? Ask about fees

My visit last week to the Virgin Islands reminded me how those insidious "extra'' fees can add up.

One resort where I stayed imposed a $25 per day resort fee on top of the room rate. Add in taxes, and we're talking about some serious bucks.

Such resort fees aren't unusual -- but they are tantamount to a hidden surcharge, because hotels rarely tell you about them unless you ask specifically.

Which leads me to this advice: When you're booking a room, ask if there are any other fees involved, including resort fees, taxes, fuel surcharges and service fees. Most, but not all, hotel booking websites disclose this information, but sometimes it is in small print -- a good reason to invest in a phone call directly to the hotel or booking agency before you buy.

Also ask about cancellation fees. While most hotels will let you cancel late in the day if you book with them directly either on the phone or online, many discounted hotel booking sites require 24 hours notice, and some take the first night's fee if you cancel.

Surcharges don't only apply to hotels. Airlines levy them too -- as fuel surcharges, security taxes and hefty excess baggage fees. Be sure you've checked out the bottom line before you hit that "purchase'' button.

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