It’s like looking at the dinner check and noticing you’ve been charged for someone else’s side of fries.
You booked a great rate of $67/night at the Mirage, and at check-out time you’re handed a bill for $99/night. What happened? You didn’t even get champagne or a dirty movie! Your incredulous inquiries as to why the bait-and-switch come to this – the extra $22 is a nightly “resort fee” which monetizes your access to premium amenities.
These amenities range understandable extras (WiFi, bottled water service) to head-scratchers (I’m being charged a fee for pool towels?)
Why weren’t these fees disclosed on the booking page? Was the third-party booking website pulling a fast one? Nope. Those fees would probably not have been disclosed even if you booked directly through the hotel website. In fact, the third-party website is even less guilty than you think – if the hotel operator included these fees up front, they might owe the travel agent a commission on them.
“Resort fees” started poking their snotty noses into hotel bills in the 1990s, but within the last five years, even lower-end hotels have jumped on the gravy train. Yes, they are mandatory. You can try to argue for a waiver – if you don’t intend to use the WiFi or the gym or the pool towels for example – but most who have tried report failing. The average fee last year was $22.85 per night, but they range as high as $39 per night. And yes, the 13.38% tax still applies, so when we say $39 we really mean $44.22.
It only gets weirder from there. The $18 resort fee at Bally’s allows gym access for two guests … even though the rooms accommodate up to four. The $25 Mirage resort fee includes the service of a Notary Public, whether you use it or not. Therefore, if you’re in Vegas to celebrate closing on your house, you might want to pick the Mirage instead of the Bellagio or Caesar’s.
Why don’t these fees get disclosed up front, you ask? They don’t have to. The FTC begs to differ in a strongly-worded letter to top Vegas hoteliers, but until the legal consequences escalate beyond harsh language, why should they disclose the fees? After all, you’re more likely to book a fancy room if you think you can afford than if you think you can’t, right? Where’s the downside for Caesar?
Until a sunny day arrives for truth-in-advertising, there are ways to figure out what you will actually pay per night. Check the fine print on the booking page. The fees may be lumped into the taxes, but you might not get that lucky. This text is taken from the booking page of the Hard Rock Resort and Casino – “Total room rate does not include daily resort fee of $22 or applicable taxes.”
Absent a friendly notice such as this, a Google search will yield numerous resources listing current resort fees. It can’t hurt to call the resort either. Employees will tell you the fees if you ask them point-blank. Make sure to ask what amenities and services are included in the fees, too, so you get your money’s worth – gorge on bottled water, dry off at the pool with a half-dozen towels, and stockpile your documents for notarization.
Hotels That Do Not Charge a Resort Fee
List of hotels in Las Vegas that do not yet charge a resort fee* January 2018.
- Americas Best Value Inn & Suites, East of the Strip
- California Hotel and Casino, Downtown
- Best Western Plus Casino Royale, The Strip
- Desert Rose Resort, East of the Strip
- Elara Hotel Hilton Grand Vacations Club, East of the Strip
- Four Queens Hotel and Casino, Downtown
- Fremont Hotel & Casino, Downtown
- Lucky Club Casino and Hotel, North Las Vegas
- Main Street Station Hotel, Downtown
- Marriott Las Vegas Hotel, East of the Strip
- Red Roof Inn, East of the Strip
- Travelodge Motel Center Strip
- WorldMark Tropicana, West of the Strip
- Wyndham Desert Blue, West of the Strip
- Wyndham Grand Desert, East of the Strip
Note* We cannot guarantee that these hotels will not begin to add a Resort Fee at a later date, therefore it is always recommended that you check directly with the hotel before booking.
Verdict: It’s hard to justify resort fees as anything but a cash grab to psych consumers into booking beyond their budget. Until the backlash hits Steve Wynn’s pocketbook, however, they’re here to stay. Be prepared, do your research, and avoid a “Gotcha!” at checkout.