With soaring travel prices, customers may be tempted to choose the cheapest base option they can find. But the base price for airline tickets and hotels is only a part of the total costs. An additional charge awaits any passenger attempting to navigate the checkout process, inflating the final price.
experts call it Drip Prices.
“It’s called the ‘fast flow’ because the additional fees and charges flow through the buying process,” says Vicki Morwitz, professor of business and marketing at Columbia Business School.
Customers tend to overpay when prices are displayed in this way, according to a study by Morwitz and colleagues.
“Customers are more likely to choose an option that seems cheaper up front. Even if they realize later that it is more expensive than they expected, they are more likely to stick with it,” he says.
From resort fees to boarding pass printing fees (yes, that is), companies have been rowing their bottom line with these additions even before inflation spiked this year. Avoiding them requires diligence and knowledge.
The resort fee, sometimes called a “facility fee” or “destination fee,” is supposed to cover services such as Internet access and pool access. But because it’s mandatory, it’s a hidden cost to book a room that doesn’t show up until the final check-out.
“The resort fee is the only travel fee that is not linked to any real service or product,” says Lauren Wolf, a consultant for Travelers United, an advocacy group for travelers. She is also the founder of the Kill Resort Fees website. “If your hotel charges for parking, if you don’t have a car, you don’t pay to park. However, it’s almost impossible to get rid of the hotel fee, even if services are refused.”
Here are some tips to reduce these pesky fees:
Pay with points at brands that waive resort fees on awarded stays, such as Hilton and Hyatt.
Ask the front desk to waive the fee. “It probably won’t work, but you can always ask kindly,” says Wolf.
– Find a search option on the hotel’s website or app to “show price with taxes and fees” or something similar. This will help you compare actual prices directly and avoid the hassle of clicking to get to the final checkout window.
Airline seat selection fee
Despite the recent rise, the cost of airline tickets has been declining for years. This may sound like good news, but it hides a hidden trend: Airlines have been getting more revenue from surcharges while lowering the base fare.
Charging for seat selection is one of the newest and most annoying scams. This fee is usually listed during the checkout process and often appears to be mandatory.
However, it can almost always be avoided. Skipping the seat selection process and letting the airline assign a seat at a later time is the smartest option if you don’t mind the risks of getting a seat in the middle.
Airlines want customers to pay this fee, of course, and often share dire warnings about the dangers of not choosing a seat. But skipping the seat selection does not increase your chances of starting the journey.
Keep in mind that some airlines, such as Southwest, do not charge a fee for seat selection.
Vacation Rental Cleaning Fee
Everyone wants a clean vacation rental, but no one wants to pay an exorbitant cleaning fee that can exceed the basic cost of rent.
It is almost impossible to avoid these fees completely, as most properties charge them. But it is possible to avoid paying too much.
Most vacation rental platforms, including Airbnb, offer a few options for comparing the “total price,” which includes cleaning and other fees. It’s not always easy to filter and sort the total price, but seeing that price on the search screen rather than the checkout screen can greatly simplify comparison shopping.
Keep in mind that unlike resort fees, which are usually added to each night booked, a one-time cleaning fee applies. The $100 cleaning fee per night may not be tolerated, but it’s reasonable for $10. Therefore, the best way to avoid cleaning costs for short stays is often to book a hotel.
Don’t be fooled
The psychology behind the extra fees is simple: We’re tempted by the low price, and then we reluctantly accept the extra costs.
Countering this bias is easy in theory, though not in practice. Ignore the label prices and compare only the final prices, taking into account all expenses. And avoid as many optional expenses as possible (such as choosing airline seats).