Carefully Check for Hidden Fees When Making Vacation Plans, Warns Better Business Bureau

May 29, 2014

Bargain-priced vacations are not always what they appear to be. For example, the price shown may look appealing, although there are often additional fees and hidden details. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to investigate and compare vacation plans, and to ask questions about extra fees that could significantly impact your vacation budget.

Resorts may have fees that go unmentioned until check out time. These fees may be included in your bill for a variety of amenities including internet access, gym usage and access to the safe or refrigerator. These increased costs can surprise consumers if they haven’t read the terms and conditions of a vacation package.

“Travel arrangements require a significant amount of time,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is vital that consumers take their time reading through fine print and make sure to ask questions.”

Fees for various amenities can range from $10 to $30 per day and are not always included in the checkout price on online booking sites. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describes resort fees as being a part of “drip pricing”, a business model in which firms advertise only part of a price and reveal other charges later in the billing process. Drip pricing is not exclusive to the travel industry. It is also common among financial institutions and rental car companies.

The BBB offers some advice for consumers to avoid undisclosed fees:

  • Carefully read the fine print. Review the terms and conditions of a hotel for your stay and before providing a credit card number, in order to discover additional fees that may be added to your bill.
  • Double check what is included. Some “all inclusive” resorts fail to mention that some services are not included. This could be any service including transportation to and from the airport, drinks or certain activities.
  • Compare prices. Before making a commitment, compare prices with other all-inclusive vacations and vacations that are not all-inclusive. You want to make sure you get the most for your money.
  • Add tips into your budget. Some resorts have their staff refuse tips but most expect proper tipping etiquette. Expect to tip hotel staff, restaurant staff and bartenders.
  • Low prices can mean low quality. Remember that you get what you pay for. Decide whether you want to risk low quality with a low price.
  • Ask questions. If you are unsure of something you read in the fine print, make sure you contact the hotel with questions and concerns beforehand.
  • Discuss the questions and concerns you had at check-in. Verify the total cost again at check-in. It is much easier to discuss potential charges before it goes on your credit card.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.