Unlike Australia, many hotels in the United States charge guests compulsory daily ‘resort fees’ over and above their nightly room rate, which can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of each stay – even at inner-city hotels which aren’t in fact ‘resorts’.
But there are several ways to reduce or even eliminate these fees on your next business trip or US getaway, without necessarily changing hotels: here’s what you can do to avoid these pesky surcharges.
1. Look for room rates that include a resort fee waiver
During quieter travel periods, hotels will sometimes offer special room rates that aren’t subject to the normal resort fees. You still enjoy the same amenities as all other guests – you’re just not paying extra like everybody else.
For example, I recently stayed at the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, which bills its guests a nightly resort fee of US$33.81 (A$42.50) including tax.
That would have cost me A$85 in fees on a mere two-night stay, but by booking the property’s “winter escape” rate, those fees were waived, and the actual room charge ended up being no more expensive than the hotel’s lead-in rate which would have attracted the resort fee on top.
However, this great rate didn’t appear on the booking screen by default. I had to manually select the “packages and promotions” option on the Hilton website first when completing my search…
… and also had click on the name of each rate to see what its inclusions were – before finally seeing those magic words, “waived resort charge”:
2. Ask for a fee waiver
Hotels justify resort fees by rattling off the benefits you get in return for paying them, but if several of those perks weren’t adequately provided during your stay – or a major benefit was unavailable to you – don’t be afraid to ask the hotel to waive its fees.
I did just that following a stay at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, where a US$30.07 (A$37.95) daily resort fee promised amenities like free local calls, a $50 activity voucher to spend with the hotel concierge booking desk and “pool access” in return, at what was most certainly a city hotel, not a resort.
However, the phone in my room couldn’t dial an outside line to use those free local calls, the concierge staff refused to accept the activity voucher for anything I wanted to do, and what the hotel termed a pool was more accurately a water feature, illustrated best when working on my freestyle one afternoon:
Sure enough, an email to the hotel’s reservations team after my stay outlining these issues and asking for a refund of the resort fees I'd been charged resulted in just that – but if you have the time, stopping by reception and politely requesting a resort fee waiver based on your own difficulties during a stay can often yield the same result.
3. Flash your hotel loyalty card
This varies from chain to chain, but sometimes that shiny hotel loyalty card in your pocket could be your ticket to a resort fee waiver.
For instance, top-tier Hyatt Globalist cardholders are exempted from all resort fees at Hyatt properties, whether staying on a paid room rate or one booked using points.
Lower-tier members including Hyatt Explorist, Discoverist and entry-level ‘Member’ accountholders also enjoy resort fee waivers on stays booked using points, but these are still levied on paid reservations.
Even if your own hotel status doesn’t officially include this as a perk, it never hurts to ask at reception whether your tier entitles you to a resort fee reduction or waiver, particularly if many of the amenities covered by the resort fee are already guaranteed to you as an elite member, such as high-speed WiFi or bottled water.