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'Sticker shock' | What are resort fees and why are we paying for them?

Think that WIFI is free? Nope, you are paying for it. How about that fitness center at the resort? nope, you are paying for it.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Have you booked any travel for the summer or fall? If so, pay attention to the advertised price versus what you might actually pay.

Those pesky resort and destination fees are everywhere, in the mountains and down at the beaches, for all types of properties including hotels and private rentals.

So, can you get around them?

The advertised price isn’t always the price. It might catch your eye when you are scrolling, but look closer and be ready, you’re going to pay a lot more. Fees used to be just a pet fee or a cleaning fee, now it’s destination fee, and urban fee in cities, and the list goes on and on.

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Credit: Bill McGinty

For example, at this beach rental, a nice home in a beach community in South Carolina, the $651 a night for seven nights, goes from $4,557 to $6,239 with taxes and fees. Look at that “service fee," which is almost $700. That’s not taxes because, in the photo, your taxes are listed below it.

In the mountains, the getaway is for relaxation, great scenery like this, and this year, maybe a little elbow room.  This property has 3 different fees, a cleaning fee, a pet fee, even if you don’t have a pet, and property damage insurance, which isn’t optional. $284 in just fees.

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Credit: Bill McGinty

“They’re in for sticker shock, they really are,” Melanie Lieberman, who is a Senior Travel Editor with the Points Guy, said. 

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“There are all sorts of names for these, but at the end of the day it is an added fee that you’ll have to pay, sometimes per night, sometimes per person, there are a lot of numbers at the end of your bill that you were not expecting when you booked the initial room,” Lieberman said.

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These fees often cover things you think are free. Free WIFI? Nope, you’re paying for it in the resort fee. Free fitness center? Nope, you’re paying for it in the resort fee. Beach chairs for free? Well, you get the idea.

So how can you not pay for these? If anything is closed, under repair, or you logged off and shut out the document, and ask for management to remove the charge.

“We always encourage travelers to read the fine print,” Lieberman said. 

There are lawsuits in progress over these fees and Congress likewise looking at the issue. For the moment, you’ll have to pay them, so ask about it upfront.

Contact Bill McGinty at bmcginty@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook.