Many of us get into “travel hacking” because of the prospect of “free travel.” Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a free lunch (unless Ed from Pizza in Motion is buying) and there are a number of unexpected costs that are bound to pop up without you expecting it, so it’s important to be prepared and budget appropriately.

Resort fees

You just unloaded all of your Marriott points on a 10 night trip to Scrub Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands but when you get the bill you see a charge for $350….huh? Unfortunately, you’ve just been nailed by the elusive resort fee ($35 per night).

It’s often the case that a resort fee comes with some sort of benefit like free water bottles, WiFi, and free use of the hotel bicycles, etc, but I’ve stayed at a hotel where the resort fee was $40 and all we got were three water bottles per day!

Any time a hotel has “Resort” in the name you should be prepared to pay a resort fee, but even if it doesn’t you’ll still want to check anyway. Luckily, you can find out this information ahead of time. Call the hotel or go to Resort Fee Checker.

Carrier-imposed fees and departure tax

Did you know whenever you fly from one country to the next, the country you just left probably tacked on a surcharge, or departure tax, to your ticket? Did you also know that some airlines hit you with seemingly arbitrary “Carrier-imposed surcharges”? It’s all built into the cost of paid tickets so you probably didn’t notice, but if you’re booking award tickets, you’ll find this information as soon as you are ready to book that flight.

For example, you FINALLY saved up enough American Airlines miles to fly with your significant other on the majestic British Airways 747 Queen of the Skies to London. You’re PUMPED to be sitting in first class for free using your hard-earned miles. Then…

BAM. Not only are you giving up your life savings of AA miles, but you have to pay nearly $3,000, too! To be fair, these two tickets retail for close to $20,000 so you’re getting a deal…right? Sorry, I don’t care how you cut it. BA is public enemy number one when it comes to these BS fees so steer clear if possible!

“Free” water bottle charges

You check in to your hotel room, you’re thirsty as all hell, and of course the desk agent didn’t offer any complimentary water. You see three bottles of water lined up on the dresser, one of which has a neck tag. You down two bottles of water and later that night when you return home in your drunken stooper, you grab the necktag bottle and down it.

7 bucks…

Do this the next night too.

7 bucks…

While this is an extreme example and you’ll most likely see the price on the bottle and stop yourself, an inexperienced traveler may not necessarily know these beverages aren’t complimentary. I’ve seen water bottles cost as much as $12 in hotel rooms and that can get pricey real quick!

Rental car facility charges

You have 3,000 otherwise useless Hertz points and you want to book a car for your upcoming trip. You already dropped a ton of money on the hotel room and flights so you’re happy that you can book this car for free with points. You get the bill and see the following…

Sure, it’s a small amount, but how annoying is it that you just spent a ton of points and still have to pay almost $100?


Rant over — what ancillary travel fees do you find most annoying?


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Lee @ BaldThoughts

Don’t forget that when you travel, there’s also fees for parking at the airport, more expensive food since you’re eating out all of the time (instead of making meals in your kitchen), and spending money on tourist stuff like excursions, museums, and souvenirs.

Ed. C
Ed. C

My wife and I recently flew first class BOS to SIN via a 3 day stopover in London on BA using my Avios. I had the Chase BA Visa and had earned the Travel Together ticket, so it was a 2 for the price of 1 situation. Sure, I had to pay around $1,200 in fees (which I knew would be added on) but it was totally worth it. Had I purchased 2 tickets from Boston to Singapore in first class on BA, it would have cost over $25,000. Not sure why the fees were so low as I’ve seen… Read more »


[…] Costs Associated With Award Travel:  Let’s face it, we’re in this hobby because we love free or cheap travel.  While points and miles GREATLY reduce the costs of trips, we still need to budget for some unexpected costs.  Here’s a list of some costs that you need to watch out for. […]


OMG hotel resort — and now “destination” fees — easily take the #1 spot. Most likely because they’re unpredictable. I know that all rental cars have fees, all reward flights have fees (though U.K., undoubtedly, is #1), but you’re never sure about hotels. With resorts, yes, you do get amenities that you would not normally get. However, regular hotels in big cities? It’s galling that guests are charged for items/facilities that are standard in most properties. I wish hotels would just roll this into the rate (though I understand that hotels don’t pay commission on fees like this, which is… Read more »

Ken O.
Ken O.

I found out about resort fees the hard way at one of the Hilton properties in Phoenix, where I used BA points for a couple of “free” nights. I was out visiting family, so never really used the facilities and was basically just sleeping there at night and heading out first thing in the morning.

So basically I paid an extra 50 bucks to chip in for other people using the pool or going for a spa treatment.

BA never mentioned resort fees and when I complained to Hilton they basically said “tough.”

Skip Gill
Skip Gill

I find it strange United worried about extra fee’s. They should tally up their extras. Seats, change of ticket fee’s & baggage to name a few.