In this report

Fees that irk travelers

Last reviewed: August 2010
Jack Ellis of Ohio
Jack Ellis of Ohio got a quote of $297 for a car rental but paid almost $200 more for fees, taxes, and handling.
Photo by Colin McGuire

With summer travel season upon us, Spirit Airlines has announced a charge of $20 to $45 for carry-on bags stashed in overhead bins. (One senator termed the practice "skyway robbery," and several proposed legislation to ban it.) Irish airline Ryanair is pursuing a pay-to-go-potty charge. So it seemed like a good time to ask readers to name the fees they hate most while traveling.

There were plenty. Common answers: a fee for a hotel safe or minibar, even if it's not used; fees for resort perks; a hotel gym fee ($15 for 30 minutes on a treadmill); and as much as $250 round-trip for a pet in a carry-on under a seat.

One of the more unusual nominees: an $18 "gift ticket fee" that Greyhound tacked onto the bus ticket a couple bought their son. The reason? He wasn't the credit-card holder. Then there was the $2 surcharge a reader's friend paid last December at a Bethlehem, Pa., hotel restaurant. It was for the ice in his scotch.

But our hearts really go out to the couple who rented a compact car in Boston last summer. They paid $444.37 for 15 days of driving. Then came the rental vehicle surcharge, customer facility charge, parking surcharge, energy recovery fee, fleet recovery surcharge, concession recovery fee, and state tax. Those added $186.45, bringing the cost to $630.82. Fees were about 30 percent of the total bill.

To avoid fees while traveling, always read the fine print. Other tips:

When you fly

Book online (you may pay up to $35 more to book by phone and $45 to buy at a ticket counter); limit luggage fees by taking only carry-ons, consolidating checked bags, or flying Southwest, the only big U.S. carrier that doesn't charge for one or even two checked bags. If you must check luggage, do it online—from home, on your way to the airport, or at the terminal. Some airlines charge $2 or $3 for a bag checked in at the counter.

When you stay at a hotel

Postpone checking your e-mail (some hotels charge for each day you use their Web connection) and avoid room service.

When you rent a car

Try to return it to where you picked it up; opt out of extras you may pay for even if unused (like a toll pass); use your own gear (bike rack, child-safety seat); consider a mileage cap option; top off the gas tank before you return; and cancel if you're not going to show up, to avoid a possible noncancellation fee.