budgeting Frugality

4 Unexpected Hotel Expenses That Can Break Your Vacation Budget

unexpected hotel expenses, breaking your vacation budget, vacation budget problems

One of the men standing by the front door asked if I needed help with my bags as I got out of my car at the hotel. I politely declined and went inside to check in. I grabbed one of the wheeled carts in the lobby on my way back out to my car. Without as much as a peep, the same man helped take the bags out of my trunk and load them onto the cart. Even after repeated statements that I didn’t need assistance, he continued to help and then proceeded to wheel the cart inside. At the customer service desk he stated this was as far as he could assist. I grudgingly handed him a tip, and grabbed the cart ready to push it to the elevator.

“I’ll get someone to help you get your bags to you room, sir.” he said

“I got it,” I said, annoyed.

“Sir,” he said with a very condescending laugh,”it’s our policy.”

I waited there for almost 5 minutes until another employee appeared and rode the elevator with us and our cart, and unloaded our things into our room. I slapped a tip into his hand and wished him a good evening with all the fake friendliness I could muster.

I had simply walked from the front door to my room on day one of my vacation and my wallet was already $16 lighter.

I don’t stay in hotels often, and when I do the establishments are usually of the middle of the road variety. This time our stay was in an upscale hotel where they obviously do things a little differently. Over the course of our four day stay, we ran across several fees that we were not used to:

  1. Help with bags #1: I received unsolicited help getting bags out of the car, onto a cart, and to the guest services desk. I’ve read that an appropriate tip for help with bags is $1 or $2 per bag. During check in I gave the man $8 (even though we had 4 suitcases and a few smaller shoulder bags). But when we checked out I reduced it to $5, since he pushed the cart about 20 feet, then threw our bags into the trunk.
  2. Help with bags #2: I was extremely surprised on my way to the room that I was handed off to a second person to help me with my bags from the guest services desk up to my room. I saw others decline this service and just pick up their bags, but we had too much to carry ourselves, and apparently it was their policy for an employee to accompany the luggage carts. Which of course results in another tip. Since this person did significantly more work than the guy from #1, he got $8 both ways.
  3. Parking: In the mainly rural area where I live, I’ve never paid for parking at a hotel. I think this is more of a larger metropolitan area practice. The fee at this particular hotel was $28 per day.
  4. Valet: I’m well aware that a valet driver should be tipped. The problem I have here is that not only did I not have a choice to pay for parking, but I didn’t have a choice to park and retrieve my own car as well. I had to use the valet. We didn’t use the car during our vacation, so this was a one time $5 tip.

In total, the parking and tips took $146 from our vacation budget. Whether you agree with these charges or not (obviously I have some issues with them), they are real charges that could take a bite out of your available funds. The next time we go out of town, we will call the hotel and ask some questions to become familiar with the fees that we may incur so we can account for them in our travel budget.

What unexpected charges have you encountered during a trip or vacation?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • Agreed.^ The first time this happened to us I was flabbergasted! It was several years ago at a very nice hotel outside of the inner harbor in Baltimore (not a very nice neighborhood.) We had no choice, but felt a bit taken-advantage-of.
    Another thing to watch out for is “resort fees.” We took a vacation at another very nice hotel outside of Virgina Beach, and paid for it in advance, but when we arrived we had to pay a previously unmentioned yet mandatory resort fee. I do believe my mother in law used the “resort services” enough to make it worth the money we paid, but seriously – just put it in the room fee for goodness sake.

  • We usually don’t go to hotels that charge for parking/wi-fi and clearly stay out of those with ‘help’ to carry the luggage. It’s really annoying to be helped like this, especially when you made it clear you don’t need it.

  • @Michelle – Exactly! From what I hear, the $28 charged by this particular hotel was actually a lot lower than some charge. I can’t imagine! I would think that when you book with a hotel, they should disclose that little tidbit of information.

  • @Cathie – I’ve seen those “resort fees” too. They force everyone that stays at the hotel to pay for some activity related addition they did at some point. Of course it’s just a tactic to allow them to advertise a lower room rate while tacking on an extra fee to get more revenue. Personally, I think if they’re going to add a fee for an amenity, they should charge for it ala cart. Although I’ve also seen hotels that charge the resort fee….AND charge for admission to a theme park, or water park too – that’s double charging!!!

  • @dojo – I think it’s amusing that so many “average” hotels have parking, wifi, and other amenities included with your stay – and then it’s the “high class luxury” hotels that charge for everything. It just simply doesn’t make any sense.

  • It is amazing how many fees and hidden costs can creep up once you get to your vacation destination. Tipping in particular is something that you can easily spend $100 on over the course of your vacation. Keep this in mind before you take off for your trip.

  • I agree with some of the above. $28 per day for parking is on the lower side. Some places charge more than $50 a night!!!

    The whole forced tip BS really gets to me too. When I tell them no and they still help, then I don’t tip them. Where I come from, no means no. It doesn’t mean move out of the way and I’ll help you anyways.

  • @InsuranceHunter – I agree that tipping should be accounted for when it comes to travel budget. We did that, however these were tips that we did not think we would incur – so as mentioned it would be wise to call the hotel and get a little information about the environment before heading out. Thanks for your comment!

  • @TheMoneySaver – $50 a night for parking – CRAZY! When we checked out, and I got to my rental car I found 3 people standing by my car: The guy that carried our bags from the room to the customer service desk, the guy that took the bags from the customer service desk to the car, and the valet. All waiting for their tips – it almost made me laugh…. Thanks for stopping by!

  • That kind of extra expense hurts Brock. In the UK we don’t have such a strong tipping culture and even in nice hotels the most I have had to pay out is a couple of pounds for the guy bringing room service meals to the room.

  • @robert – I KNEW I liked the UK. 🙂 I’m not sure what the deal is with tipping….I mean a tip is supposed to be a reward for doing a good job. I can see tipping someone who delivers the food, but am I supposed to reward a valet driver for not smashing my car into a pole or something? haha…thanks for sharing how it works in the UK, Robert!

  • @Donny – I hear you there…..you drive around looking and looking and when you finally find somewhere, you just want to be done with it and pay whatever they’re asking, right? thanks for sharing!

  • We recently stayed in San Francisco where the hotel charges $50 a night for parking. We only rented a car for the last day of our SF stay(in order to drive to Napa) and parked in a public garage one block from the hotel for $22. We live in NJ and stay overnight in Philadelphia a couple of times a year. Last time we found a lot that charged $10 for parking. The hotel was charging $40. I wonder if this fee is also taxed by the hotel?

  • @Evelyn – That’s an interesting question, so I went back and looked – YES the parking fee WAS taxed! So the parking actually cost even more! On a side note $50 a night to park???? CRAZY!

  • I hate paying for extras, so I try to opt out. I try to pack light so I won’t need help with my bags, and avoid valet parking if I can. In fact, I avoid driving as much as possible, because car rentals are also an added expense if the city I am visiting has adequate transit. You’re right, these expenses do take a big bite out of the vacation budget!

  • @Daisy – I agree, in this case, driving was less expensive than two plane tickets so even with the parking we saved money. I pack very light as well – my wife, however, is a different story….lol. Thanks for reading!

  • There are so many types of expenses to look out for when booking a hotel. One thing I always look for is if they have free parking. A lot of times I’m renting a car when I travel and the last thing I want to do is to pay for parking when staying at a hotel.

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