Monday, November 11, 2013

Be Aware of Hotel Fees and What Resort and Parking Fees Add to the Total Stay Cost

I am a longtime traveler, a former member of the Society of American Travel Writers, and I have stayed in hotels ranging from the ritzy Four Seasons Resort at Hualalai to a Motel 6 in the heart of a dangerous part of Los Angeles.  I don’t believe in spending a lot of money for a night in a hotel, but I also don’t want to stay in motels that are so depressing that I want to hang myself.  I just want hotels that are clean, safe, and comfortable.  I am therefore a big fan of hotels ranging from the Westin and Hampton Inn chains down to La Quinta and Super 8 motels. 

The La Quinta hotels deserve special acclaim because they normally (not all) allow pets with no extra charge.  But beware, some LQ hotels state that they are pet-friendly, but when you arrive, they give you a form stating that only pets under 50 pounds are allowed.  I therefore had to sneak my 100-pound and 70-pound yellow Labrador retrievers into my room for the night and feel like a criminal.  That's BS. 

I almost NEVER pay more than$150 per night for any hotel room.  As an example, I recently stayed at a Westin hotel near Dulles Airport for $68, using nothing except the website to find this great deal.  I’ve never had a bad experience staying at a Westin property – the rooms are always clean and the furnishings in great shape. 

I generally like Hampton Inns, because you almost always get a clean room, clean sheets, a good firm bed, and friendly, professional service at the front desk at a decent price.  However, I’ve now stayed at three different Hampton Inns in Orlando in the past few months, and I have one piece of advice regarding this chain now -- look on TripAdvisor and for recent reviews, and only choose a Hampton Inn that is newer.  The older ones generally show their age and don't have things like working air conditioners and ice machines.
Hampton Inn at Gateway Village near the Orlando Airport is an example of a newly-built hotel.  The furnishings and quality of a newly-built Hampton Inn rivals that of a Westin, and you can generally stay at a Hampton Inn for far less than staying at a Westin. 

You don’t get dinged for things like resort fees, parking fees, and wifi internet fees at Hampton Inns; when you stay at a Hilton or Westin, be prepared to pay a lot more than the quoted rate for these fees.  As an example, I recently priced a Friday night stay at a Hilton, Westin, and Hampton Inn in Orlando.  All hotels were very close to the Orlando Convention Center. 

The Hilton Orlando Convention Center had a rate that was $94 on, my favorite site for finding hotels (it has a terrific map feature that shows all hotels and the rate).  On closer inspection, however, I discovered that I would have to pay a $20 resort fee and another $16 to $23 to pay for parking.  The resort fee includes use of the pool and wifi internet access.  The total would have been $130 plus tax ( I would have self-parked rather than paying the higher price for a valet). 

The Westin Orlando had a rate of $109 for the same night.  I would have to bring my own internet service or pay $14.95 to use the hotel’s wifi internet.  Parking at the hotel would cost another $15 to $23.  Total price for me, since I would have used my own internet hotspot (using a free FreedomPop wifi modem), would have been $124 plus tax. 

The Hampton Inn on Universal Blvd, which is a bit farther away from the Convention Center than the above two hotels, had a rate of $92 for the same night.  For that rate, using the pool, the wifi internet, and parking was all included at no charge.  Now, the Hampton is just a bit too far away from the Convention Center to comfortably walk (it is 0.7 miles away) without arriving in a sweat.  This was more than a little hassle.  You could wait for the iridetrolley, which is an evil pain in the butt that charges $2 (it does pick up passengers near the Hampton every 30 minutes but it makes you wait until you give up, then drives past just as you start walking back to your hotel); or take a taxi to the convention center for $8.  I could have parked at the Hilton for $16 or paid to park at a nearby garage (but I could not find any parking garages!).  I just drove to one of the hotels across from the convention center and parked there, risking my car getting towed.  

Hilton, advertised price on was $94, total price would be $130 plus taxes.  
Westin, advertised price was $109, total price would have been $124 plus taxes.  
Hampton Inn, advertised price was $92, total price would have been $92 plus taxes.  

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