Many of us are desperate to travel this summer after a pandemic drowned out our plans for years. But travelers—and I’m sorry to be a killjoy—beware: those seemingly cheap plane tickets or hotel rooms advertised online can be a trap to get you to spend more than you anticipated.

That’s because hotels and airlines, struggling to recoup their losses from the pandemic, are increasingly turning to nickel and dim consumers with hidden fees, according to studies and travel experts. Regulators call them “junk fees.”

You’ve probably come across junk fares at least a few times in your travels. Additional charges can come in many forms, such as resort service fees, checked baggage, and seat selection, and are generally not disclosed up front when you use an online search engine. They are dragged towards the end of a transaction.

This strategy in the travel industry, known as “unbundling,” is not new. But some fees, such as baggage and seat selection on planes, crawled during the pandemic, according to studies. And imprecise rates from hotel resorts, which are typically a massive $20 to $50 daily charge for basic services like Wi-Fi and parking, have become commonplace.

In total, hotel-related junk fees cost travelers approximately $3 billion a year, according to Consumer Reports. for airlines, income from supplementary feesincluding carry-on baggage, seat assignments and early boarding, totaled $102.8 billion in 2022, up 56 percent from the previous year, according to IdeaWorks, an airline consulting firm.

That means the days of using search engines like Google, Expedia and others to quickly look up travel deals are long gone. You may be able to get an idea of ​​the approximate cost of a ticket or hotel room, but you have to spend much more time and effort to calculate the actual cost.

“Hotels and airlines want to make it difficult for you to actually compare what your flight or hotel stay will cost because they don’t like being bought on price alone,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, a travel analytics firm. . company in San Francisco.

Junk fees have become so widespread that regulators say the practice needs to change soon. The Federal Trade Commission, which launched an investigation into the fees last year, said it planned to announce rules restricting companies from collecting the fees in the coming months.

But until new laws take effect, it’s up to us to be on the lookout for deceptive pricing tactics and avoid them where possible. Here are some ideas on how to do it.

What does a hotel junk rate look like?

Let’s say you’re booking a room this month at the Grayson Hotel by Hyatt. It may show up as $331 for a room per night on an online search tool like Google or Expedia. But once you’re in the checkout process, the actual price jumps to $421.

When you click on the details, you’ll see the taxes added, which is to be expected. But less expected is a vague $34 destination fee, which includes Wi-Fi, gym access, and a 10 percent discount at the hotel restaurant, charged daily. That’s about 8 percent of the cost of the room.

After a few days, those little charges add up.

“What we have is misleading and non-transparent pricing,” said Chuck Bell, director of Consumer Reports, who has opposed junk fees for years. “The travel provider is reluctant to tell you the total price in advance, so they hide it.”

Although hotels make it difficult to see their resort fees, many online resources regularly track fees.

Resort Fee Checker allows you to search for a hotel to see if it charges resort fees, and if so, how much. NerdWallet, a personal finance site, conducted a this year’s analysis of the biggest offenders of resort fees. Wyndham Properties, Hyatt and IHG charged the highest, ranging from 3.8 percent to 6.5 percent, on average, of the total cost of a room, the study found.

Another best practice is to check prices directly through a hotel’s website instead of a third-party agency like Expedia or Priceline. This is because hotels occasionally charge different resort fees than those booked through third parties. And if you join hotel loyalty programs, they often offer to waive resort fees for returning customers.

Airlines make the process more painful, because additional fees usually don’t show up until very late in the ticket booking process. Once you’ve chosen a flight and entered your personal information, you’ll be shown how much it would cost to select seats or check a bag.

By far the best rule of thumb is to familiarize yourself with a brand’s business model and the types of fees it typically incurs, Harteveldt said. It is well known that the budget airlines that offer the cheapest tickets make up the difference in price by charging more for basic services such as seat selection and baggage.

An analysis by NerdWallet in February it found that budget brands Frontier and Spirit Airlines charged more for seat selection, and Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines charged less.

If you choose an airline that charges for seat selection, you can choose not to select a seat and then hope that you can do so with the customer service representative in the terminal. But that’s a gamble and especially not family friendly.

If you want to travel on a tight budget, now more manpower is needed. After entering all the numbers for each provider, add the totals with all fees included. Only then can you make true cost comparisons.

In the future, we hope we won’t need to do this. Doug Farrar, a spokesman for the FTC, said that instead of giving consumers advice on how to deal with surprise charges, the agency was working to get companies to eliminate junk fees altogether with rules governing the practice.

“We are going to try to end this,” he said. But he added: “I don’t think it can be avoided, strictly speaking. It’s just built into the process.”

Some brands are getting ahead of the regulatory crackdown by changing their ways. Marriott International said it recently updated its room rates to include resort fees when people used its app and website to search for reservations. Hyatt said in a statement that it planned to do the same.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the brands will stop charging the fees. But it will help to know right away when a deal isn’t as good as it seems. Then you can book elsewhere.

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