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Amenities Guide

Avoiding Extra Hotel Room Charges


Checking out of some hotel rooms can give a you a serious case of sticker shock. With taxes, room service, phone charges and other "hidden" fees, that $199 deal you booked online can turn into a $379 bill, literally overnight. Keep these tips in mind on your next stay to keep your hotel bill within your budget.

Telephone Charges
Check what the phone charges are at each hotel you stay in. Many hotels charge as much as $1.50 (or more) for local phone calls. Long distance rates can be unconscionably high. Even 800 numbers (such as the one you probably use for your calling card) can come with a high price tag. Before you make a call, check the rates. They should be posted somewhere in the room. If you don't see them, call the front desk and ask.

Room Service
Room service is expensive. At the last hotel I stayed in, an "American Breakfast" (two eggs, bacon, toast, coffee and juice) cost upwards of $30. Avoid ordering it if possible. Walk down to the hotel restaurant to order, or better yet, walk down the street.

When you do order room service, pay close attention to the fees tacked on to the bill. Many hotels charge a "delivery charge" of several dollars added to the already steep prices. Plus, most room service bills automatically add a 15 percent gratuity. Overlooking this can cause you to overtip, so beware.

Internet Access
Many hotels are adding high-speed Internet access to their amenities. This is a great service if you are doing a lot of work online while on the road. Be aware that there is usually a charge for this service (generally $10 per day). For a quick email check, you may want to use your modem and dial-in. With a local access phone number (talk to your ISP), you will only pay the hotel's fees for a local phone call.

Honor Bar
If you have late-night food cravings, plan ahead and pack accordingly. Otherwise, that 3 a.m. Snickers bar may cost you five bucks. The honor bar tempts you by stocking tasty snacks, alcohol and other luxuries right in your room for convenience, but you are definitely paying for it.

If you don't prepare, you may not have a choice but to pay the premium. Last time I was sick, I had to shell out $11 for two Pepto-Bismals and a couple of Advils. To avoid that situation, pack an emergency kit with first-aid supplies, common medications and perhaps a sewing kit for loose buttons.

I hate to be unsympathetic to the situation of others, but I have to say, in the case of some hotels, the bellman situation is getting out of control. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I had a total of three bellmen help me with my luggage -- one to take it out of the cab, one to bring it to the bell stand, and one to take it to my room. That's a lot of tipping. Save yourself the aggravation and buy a "Bellman Buster" -- a suitcase on wheels -- and wheel it to your room yourself.

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