Resort Fees: What Are They and Why Are You Being Charged Them?

Resort fees are definitely one of the most controversial fees the travelers frequently face.

Because these are usually charged on a nightly basis they can add up quickly and result in a hotel stay that is not nearly as affordable as one initially thought.

In this article, we will explain exactly what resort fees are and give you details on what type of things can be included in your resort fee.

We will also break down how much you can expect for the average resort fee based on real-world hotel data. And finally, we will provide you with some proven methods for avoiding resort fees.

What are resort fees?

A resort fee is an additional fee hotels charge (usually at the property) that is reportedly meant to cover the cost of additional features beyond the basic features of your booked room. For example, the resort fee could be designed to cover things like pool chairs, umbrellas, Wi-Fi, and bicycle rentals.

Resort fees are controversial because many people view them as a way for hotels to deceive potential customers. That’s because customers will often focus on the published nightly rate without noticing the additional resort fee.

To many, resort fees are simply a way for hotels to charge customers for things that should be included in the room rate. For example, access to a gym has become such an essential part of a normal hotel stay that travelers don’t feel like they should have to pay extra for it.

In other situations, resort fees sting because it means that guests are paying for features that they are not using.

If you don’t plan on spending time sitting around the pool, why should you be paying a fee that covers a poolside chair?

What does the government have to say about resort fees?

Resort fees sound like they could be falling in deceptive trade practice territory so you might be wondering what the government has to say about them.

Several lawsuits have been brought based on consumer protection laws in different states and it appears that some of these have helped to move the needle with better resort fee disclosure such as in the case with Marriott.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) studied this issue in 2017 and concluded “that consumers are likely being harmed by the hotel industry practice of disclosing mandatory resort fees separate from posted room rates, without first disclosing the total price.”

But the FTC later seemed to go silent, as Congress introduced bills on the issue.

More recently, the Biden administration called resort fees and other “junk fees” into question and Congress has introduced more bills so it appears that the FTC might be reconsidering actions to take on resort fees.

Overall, it seems like not including resort fees in nightly rates is currently legal so long as the resort fees are properly disclosed. It is the disclosure aspect of these fees that is often the biggest issue.

Why do hotels charge resort fees?

Hotels claim that they offer guests better value by bundling services together in the form of a resort fee.

For example, by lumping parking, Wi-Fi, gym access, and pool access in one $30 fee they offer savings to guests who would otherwise have to pay more if they purchased these things individually.

Travelers can avoid getting “nickeled and dimed,” the argument goes.

Hotels also like resort fees because they can lower the commissions paid to online travel agencies OTA’s such as Expedia.

Typically the commission paid is based on the room rate so if the resort fee is separate they can avoid paying additional commission on that.

There is also the potential tax advantage. Resort fees can be taxed at a lower rate than room rates which allows some hotels to further maximize their profits.

Ultimately, if we’re just calling it like it is, hotels utilize resort fees to attract customers who would otherwise be turned off by a higher published nightly rate, especially when sorting through search results.

This is particularly egregious whenever the resort fee makes up a large chunk of the stated price per night.

For example, I found the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino going for $49/night but the resort fee was $45 (nearly 92% of the price). This allowed the Flamingo to show up ahead of many cheaper hotels whenever I sorted by price, as shown by the screenshot below.

Las Vegas resort fees

The “total” shown above (featured less prominently) does factor in the resort fee but that’s not where people focus their eyes when quickly doing comparison shopping.

So at the very least, leaving out the resort fees in the published price (which the sorting features use) causes unnecessary friction in the search process.

But it could also easily cause someone to wrongly jump on a booking thinking that they had a better deal compared to other properties and that could cost them some serious change.

The problem is that nobody — whether hotels or online travel agencies — is willing to add the resort fee to the nightly rate because that would make their prices appear to be higher than others and they would lose a competitive edge.

So until all of the hotels and OTA’s can agree on presenting these in a uniform way, we will probably be stuck with the status quo.

How can you find a hotel’s resort fee?

As mentioned, resort fees are typically not included in the published per night price which means that you’ll have to hunt them down somewhere on the hotel’s website.

When looking for these, it’s important to first not get confused about the terminology.

Terminology

It makes things a little bit confusing but many properties don’t use the word “resort fee” and instead use some type of code name.

Common alternative names that you might see include:

  • Amenity fee
  • Property fee
  • Facility fee
  • Destination fee
  • Urban facility fee

You can usually tell if they are referring to a resort fee by the type of amenities included in the fee.

For example, the Intercontinental San Diego charges an amenity fee of $40 per night .

This fee covers things like: WIFI, use of business lounge, local phone calls, access to pool and Health & Wellness center, 2 daily bottles of water per room, and discounts from local vendors.

As you will see below, those things definitely fit the description of a resort fee.

One more thing, don’t think that a hotel has to have the word “resort” in the name for it to charge a resort fee or something similar.

Anytime you book a hotel and a tourist hotspot like Hawaii, Cancun, or islands in the Caribbean, you should always be able to look out for resort fees.

And even in non-touristy areas you can get hit with a small amenity fee.

When traveling to places overseas, such as Europe, resort fees are much less common to find because a lot of times they are illegal. For the most part, you’ll only find them in North America.

Do most hotels charge resort fees?

A spokesperson for the American Hotel and Lodging Association told USA TODAY the organization’s “most recent data shows that 93% of hotels do not charge resort fees.

Of course, that makes sense because most hotels are not resorts or on the same level as resorts. I’d be more interested in hearing what percent of hotels that classify themselves as resorts don’t charge resort fees.

Where to look on the website

The American Hotel and Lodging Association also told USA TODAY that “when resort fees are applied, they are clearly and prominently displayed by hotel websites prior to the end of the booking process, in accordance with guidance issued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.”

Some hotel chains and brands make it easy to see that a resort fee applies.

For example, here’s a look at a Marriott resort that makes it clear from the first step of booking that there is a $30 resort fee. Of course, they still don’t list the fee included in the nightly rate.

Here’s another example from the Intercontinental San Diego.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the resort fee is “prominently” displayed since it is in smaller and less bolded font below the price and below the award pricing. They do list it in several places though so that is helpful and makes it much harder to miss.

The threat of lawsuits has probably scared a lot of hotels into making these fees much easier to view, which is a good thing for consumers.

Online travel agencies seem to have gotten better about listing these fees as well.

If you’re booking through something like Expedia you can also find the resort fee when you click on the details for the hotel but it’s not always very apparent.

When I looked up the The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas I had to scroll over 75% of the way down to see the resort fee and it was not listed in a very prominent way.

The resort fee also appeared in the price details so to be fair if you were looking at the price details, you should be able to spot the resort fees without too much effort.

So based on all of the data points we looked at, which was several hundred, I would say that the resort fees were mostly displayed in a way that was intuitive to find but not exactly featured prominently.

For optimal clarity, hotels should just include the resort fee in the published nightly rate (which is always the largest and boldest text on the price screen) because that will leave no questions about how much that rate costs.

It will also make comparison shopping much easier.

What’s more, I think properties should itemize what the resort fee is intended to cover.

Hyatt resort

What is included in resort fees?

Hotels don’t always publish what is included in the resort fee so you won’t always know unless you contact a specific property and ask them.

And even then, you won’t always get a straight answer….

But here are some common things you will find that are covered and resort fees.

  • Internet such as high-speed Wi-Fi
  • Gym access or classes (yoga,
  • Tennis court access
  • Bicycle rentals
  • Beach chair rentals and towels
  • Admission to private beach areas
  • Pool access, use of pool toys and floats, lazy river access
  • In-room bottles of water
  • Transportation such as a shuttle to and from the airport or attractions like Disney
  • Self parking and/or valet parking
  • Resort credit such as $10
  • Discounts on spa services, gift shop, dining, and tours (usually around 10% to 20%)
  • Free meals for kids sometimes required with purchase
  • Local telephone calls
  • Golf bag storage, drive range access, putting green access, and maybe even a golf cart at golf resorts
  • Daily activities such as things like foam parties, s’more’s, miniature golf, lawn games, etc.
  • Gratuity for hotel staff
  • Ski valet storage and bootroom access
  • DVD movies or streaming
  • Continental breakfast
  • Souvenir water bottles/swag
  • Newspapers (including digital format)

I’ve seen some resort fees that apparently cover “complimentary” services which doesn’t make sense to me because if you’re paying for something then how exactly is it complimentary?

It’s kind of the same idea with “free” things in your hotel room but it’s even worse because you’re actually paying for the individual item.

The most valuable amenities included in resort fees are usually parking, transportation, Wi-Fi, and occasionally discounts or other niche freebies. Those could actually justify the fee.

Beyond that, I often find very questionable value in the amenities listed or just believe that those things are so essential that they should be included in the room rate.

examples of what your resort fee can get you.

How much is the average resort fee?

We analyzed over 300 hotels with resort fees or amenity fees for the major US hotel chains Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG and found that the average resort fee was $36.85 per night.

Sometimes at luxury resorts the resort fee can get crazy high like at the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, where it is $150 per night!

On the other side of the spectrum some amenity fees for hotels can also be minimal like five dollars per night such as the case at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites: Savannah – Midtown.

How can you avoid resort fees?

The first way to avoid resort fees is to find properties that don’t charge them.

The best way to confirm this is to contact the property and ask about if they charge resort fees or not, since it is possible that you could just be missing the fee on the website.

Another way to avoid resort fees is to make an award booking. Some programs like Hilton and Hyatt allow you to avoid the resort fee if you book an award stay or if you have some type of elite status.

Another way to avoid the resort fee is to ask to get it waived.

Typically, in order for this to work you need one of two things to happen.

If you have not used anything listed in the resort fee amenity list then you could make a case that you should not have to pay it.

You definitely want to be honest about this because a hotel could easily track if you used something like the internet or possibly even the gym or pool.

Nothing worse than getting caught in a lie like that.

But some people do have success with getting the resort fee removed when they have not used any of the amenities included in it.

The other way to get it removed is if you have had some type of bad experience at the hotel. Essentially you are asking for compensation in the form of a waived resort fee.

Resort fee price examples

If you want to get a sense of how much resort fees are across the different major hotel chains in the US, check out some of the data points we found below.

Marriott

The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village$30
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa$25
Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa$40
The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale$48
The Westin Dallas Stonebriar Golf Resort & Spa$18
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center$26
The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee$57
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay$50
The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa$29
Marriott Hilton Head Resort & Spa$25
Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells$36
The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua$40
Playa Largo Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection$49
Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel$42
Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center$38
The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort$37
Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, Autograph Collection$35
Walt Disney World Swan Reserve$40
JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa$39
Lexington Griffin Gate Marriott Golf Resort & Spa$15
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain$60
Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes$25
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center$25
VEA Newport Beach, A Marriott Resort & Spa$45
Hotel Park City, Autograph Collection$30
The St. Regis Deer Valley$50
JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa$45
La Posada de Santa Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa$35
The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa$30
JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa$40
Viewline Resort Snowmass, Autograph Collection$50
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe$55

IHG

Kimpton Shorebreak Resort$39.97
Kimpton Alma – San Diego$28.17
InterContinental San Diego$40.00
InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown$34.86
Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown$23.14
Holiday Inn Express Waikiki$29.49
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Savannah – Midtown$5.00
Kimpton Hotel Born$25.03
Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown-Union Station$20.00
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver$23.00
Kimpton EPIC Hotel$33.90
InterContinental Miami$33.90
Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach$39.90
Kimpton Angler’s Hotel South Beach$32.00
Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel$44.46
Holiday Inn Miami Beach-Oceanfront$33.06
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Galveston Beach Resort$10.00
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Galveston Seaside Resort$10.00
Holiday Inn Houston Downtown$16.24
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Piney Shores Resort LK Conroe$10.00
Holiday Inn Club Vacations New Orleans Resort$10.00
Kimpton Shorebreak Resort$39.97
Kimpton Taconic Hotel$33.00
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Mount Ascutney Resort$10.00
Holiday Inn Club Vacations South Beach Resort$20.00
Holiday Inn Oceanfront @ Surfside Beach$16.80
Hotel Indigo Mount Pleasant$15.00
Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix$27.95
Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts Phoenix – Chandler Golf Resort$27.50
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Scottsdale Resort$20.00
InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco$33.77
Holiday Inn Express & Suites San Francisco Fishermans Wharf$21.37
Kimpton Alton Hotel$34.94
Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle$25.45
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Seattle$25.45
Kimpton Palladian Hotel$27.45
Holiday Inn Club Vacations At Desert Club Resort$29.00
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile$15.03
Hotel Indigo Naperville Riverwalk$20.00
Kimpton Hotel Vintage Portland$28.83
Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel$30.16
Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel$28.75
InterContinental Boston$30.00
Kimpton Marlowe Hotel$22.89
InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta$30.00

Hyatt

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa$55.49
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa$49.50
Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort$56.36
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows$44.13
Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas$53.90
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa$47.18
Grand Hyatt Vail$55.15
Carmel Valley Ranch$60.78
Royal Palms Resort and Spa$39.40
The Confidante Miami Beach$51.30
Wild Dunes Resort – Sweetgrass Inn and Boardwalk Inn$30.83
Hana-Maui Resort$52.83
Resort at Squaw Creek$56.10
Suncadia Resort$37.78
The Seabird Resort$47.33
Wild Dunes Resort – Residences at Sweetgrass$49.07
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort$45.00
Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina$39.38
Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa$45.50
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa$46.10
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa$39.90
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa$40.86
Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa$34.00
Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa$32.77
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa$41.26
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina$26.50
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa$49.55
Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico$89.82
The Lodge at Kukui’ula$47.18
Stonebridge Inn$13.09
Wild Dunes Resort Vacation Rentals$37.86
Christiania Lodge$18.98
Vail Residences at Cascade Village$24.71
Austria Haus$55.15
The Lodge at Spruce Peak$47.70
Capitol Peak Lodge, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$27.40
Shadowbrook, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$26.63
Makena Surf, a Destination by Hyatt Residence$75.75
Montaneros in Vail, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$43.95
Top of the Village, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$18.31
Wailea Beach Villas, a Destination by Hyatt Residence$76.25
The Landmark, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$22.65
Lichenhearth, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$13.47
Terracehouse, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$24.98
Christiania Condominiums, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$35.11
Villas at Snowmass Club, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$37.05
Enzian, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$40.40
Tamarack Townhomes, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$22.27
Wailea Ekahi Village, a Destination by Hyatt Residence$44.81
Woodrun Place, a Destination by Hyatt Residence$28.13
Countryside at Snowmass, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$169.03
Aspenwood, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$27.01
Vantage Point, A Destination by Hyatt Residence$34.72
Wailea Elua Village, a Destination by Hyatt Residence$58.78

Hilton

Highline Vail – a DoubleTree by Hilton$45.00
Hilton Anatole$27.26
Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center$14.95
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Park City – The Yarrow$20.00
Waldorf Astoria Park City$40.00
The Woodlands Resort, Curio Collection by Hilton$35.00
Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock$35.00
Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale, Curio Collection by Hilton$35.00
The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch$30.00
Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas$30.00
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Paradise Valley – Scottsdale$30.00
Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort$25.00
El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort$29.00
Hilton Phoenix Tapatio Cliffs Resort$39.00
Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort$45.00
Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak$35.00
Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa$29.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Paradise Las Vegas$25.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Las Vegas Strip$25.00
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Curio Collection by Hilton$45.00
Conrad Las Vegas at Resorts World$45.00
Crockfords Las Vegas, LXR Hotels & Resorts$45.00
Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World$45.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Elara Center Strip Las Vegas$25.00
Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas$45.00
Tropicana Las Vegas – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel$37.00
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa$40.00
La Quinta Resort & Club, Curio Collection by Hilton$35.00
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Golf Resort Palm Springs$30.00
Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, a Hilton Resort and Spa$25.00
Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines$32.00
Beach Village at The Del, Curio Collection by Hilton$50.00
Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton$50.00
Shore House at The Del, Curio Collection by Hilton$50.00
Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach$55.00
The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel$33.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean Oak Resort Hilton Head$20.00
Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton$30.00
DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront$25.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean Enclave Myrtle Beach$15.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean 22 Myrtle Beach$15.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Anderson Ocean Myrtle Beach$15.00
Kingston Plantation Condos$30.00
Embassy Suites by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort$30.00
Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort$30.00
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort$30.00
Embassy Suites by Hilton St Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort$22.00
Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa$25.00
Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort$25.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Las Palmeras Orlando$25.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club Parc Soleil Orlando$25.00
Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Disney Springs Area$35.00
Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek$45.00
Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Resort$24.95
Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Area$35.00
Waldorf Astoria Orlando$45.00
DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Disney Springs™ Area$23.00
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld$15.00
Hilton Grand Vacations Club SeaWorld® Orlando$25.00
Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton$45.00
Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton$45.00
Hilton Bentley Miami/South Beach$38.00
The Gabriel Miami South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton$38.00

Final word

Hotel resort fees are seen as a deceptive practice by a lot of travelers because when searching for hotels they make the prices look lower than they actually are.

Many hotels have gotten better at disclosing these fees and making them easier to find on their websites so they should act as less of a surprise than they did in the past.

But still, many people don’t like paying for things that should already be included in the room rate and also don’t believe in paying for things that they never use.

For that reason, even with the best disclosure practices in place, resort fees will probably always remain a problem until they are handled differently.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.