Travel fees can ruin your vacation. That’s never been more true than now, when vacation time is in short supply and resources are limited. All it takes is a “gotcha” surcharge to screw everything up. But how do you avoid travel fees?
As someone who listens to people complain about their vacations every day, I used to be skeptical when people said a single fee or surcharge had the power to turn a good trip into a bad one. But now I understand. Some of these extras are truly outrageous, and customers often have no choice about paying them.
It’s time for a change.
“Hotels are willing to do what is necessary to offer customers a positive experience,” says Michael McCall, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business. “Their survival depends on it.”
The same can be said for virtually every other sector of the travel industry, from airlines to vacation rentals. And yet the customer-hostile fees that have defined the travel industry for the last decade or more remain firmly in place, even during a pandemic-induced recession. They include a myriad of car rental extras, hotel resort fees and vacation rental extras. But there are ways to avoid travel fees.
Note: This is the second of a two-part series on avoiding travel fees in a post-pandemic world. Here’s the first part about avoiding airline fees.
How to avoid auto rental fees
Car rental fees are some of the trickiest in the book. That’s because they often masquerade as non-negotiable taxes. For example, do you know what a license fee is? Or a tire disposal fee? You might find them on your final bill. (Answer: One covers the expense of licensing a car rental fleet, a figure that should be rolled into the cost of doing business. The other covers the cost of — you guessed it — throwing away tires.)
Honest car rental companies disclose these quasi-mandatory fees when they quote a car rental rate. Some will wait until the final screen to pull a “gotcha” and raise your rate by 20% to 30%. A select few wait until you’re at the counter.
The worst auto rental fee is “mandatory” insurance. That’s where you show up at the car rental counter and a representative tells you that you don’t have the right insurance. It can double the cost of your rental. Honest auto rental companies always disclose their insurance requirements up front.
Fortunately, there’s a workaround. If you arrive at the counter and a representative presents you with an estimate that includes all of these junk fees and forces you to accept the insurance, walk away. Car rentals are usually fully refundable. Book with a more reputable operator who won’t play games with you.
How to avoid hotel fees
There’s only one hotel fee