(Photo: Arizona Grand Resort)
Few things are more maddening than watching a seemingly great hotel deal balloon because of extra charges.
One of the biggest culprits in vacation hot spots like Phoenix, Scottsdale and Las Vegas: the resort fee.
Nightly charges of $25 or more plus taxes are the norm. One Phoenix-area hotel, the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa near South Mountain, charges $50 a night.
The mandatory fees purport to cover a long list of amenities.
Hotels say they are bundling popular services that previously carried separate charges, such as Wi-Fi, fitness-center access and parking, and that the fees represent good value for travelers.
Critics say resort fees are a way to advertise deceptively low rates. They say the list of perks has gotten ridiculous, covering outdated services like faxes and in-room phone calls as well as things that should be covered by the room rate, such pool use.
When I called Crowne Plaza Phoenix Chandler Golf Resort to find out what its $15 resort fee covers, a representative said Wi-Fi and "fresh towels by the pool.”
Two years ago, one fed-up traveler started a movement called Kill Resort Fees. Its Twitter account, @KillResortFees, retweets travelers’ complaints about the charges and advocates for better disclosure of resort fees.
The Federal Trade Commission sent letters to several undisclosed hotels in 2012 warning them about resort fee disclosures but nothing public has come of the action.
Resort fees are on the rise
In the past year, more than 10 resorts in metro Phoenix increased their resort fees.
The exclusive Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North boosted its resort fee to $35, up from $30, a 17 percent increase. It’s nearly $40 when taxes are included. That’s on top of room rates that can top $800 a night in peak tourism season.
The Scott (the former Kimpton FireSky Resort in Scottsdale which has been renovated under new ownership) charges $35 a night, up from $29 last year. Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass boosted its resort fee to $29 from $25.
Mountain Shadows, which opened in 2017, boosted its fee to $32 from $28 but added valet parking to the coverage. Valet used to cost an extra $21 a night.
In early February, the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes added its first resort fee, $12 plus tax. It used to charge separately for Wi-Fi and parking. Now Wi-Fi is included in the resort fee. Parking is still a separate charge.
Also on the rise: parking fees, regardless of whether a resort fee is charged. Embassy Suites Scottsdale doesn’t have a resort fee but no longer offers free parking. Parking is now $15 plus tax per night for valet or self-parking. The Phoenician boosted its self-parking and valet-parking rates.
Resort fees are often hidden
The resort fee at Talking Stick Resort isn’t revealed until after you book your reservation.
Many hotels make it hard to find the fees and what they cover on their websites.
I’ve been covering resort fees for years and still had to reach out to some hotels’ representatives and front desks to find out the fee and/or what it includes. Some properties require you to book a room, or at least enter credit card information, before providing the real total.
Talking Stick Resort, for example, makes no mention of its $25 resort fee when it gives your total price during online booking. It just mentions the room rate and taxes. A representative said the fee is disclosed in the confirmation after the room has been booked.
Bottom line: Travelers need to do some sleuthing and some math when comparing hotel deals.
Phoenix-area resort fees and what they cover
All fees are per night plus tax. These Phoenix hotels don’t charge a resort fee.
Andaz Scottsdale: $39. Internet, valet or self-parking, access to Cattle Track Arts Compound and preferred access to artists’ studios, Kerr Cultural Center admission, Tesla transportation within a 5-mile radius, roving carts with snacks.
Arizona Biltmore: $28. Internet, spa access, putting green, local shuttle. Extra charges: $12 for self-parking, $28 for valet parking.
Arizona Grand: $50. Internet, valet or self-parking, four passes to the on-site Oasis Water Park, athletic-club admission, shuttle to Arizona Mills mall, 20 percent off one round of golf.
Boulders Resort: $30. Internet; self-parking; shuttle; tips for bell service, shuttle drivers and concierge; fitness-center access. Extra charge: $25 for valet parking.
The Camby: None. Valet parking, the only option, is $33.
Carefree Resort & Conference Center: $25 beginning in March 2018, up from $17.50. Internet, parking, fitness center, local shuttle.
Clarendon Hotel & Spa: $20. Internet, soft drinks and snacks and, if the room is booked through the hotel, breakfast for two. Extra charge: $10 for self-parking. There is no valet service.
Crowne Plaza Phoenix Chandler Golf Resort: $15. Internet, parking and fresh pool towels.
Doubletree by Hilton Resort Paradise Valley: None. Internet and parking are free.
Embassy Suites Scottsdale Resort (formerly Chaparral Suites): None. Extra charges: $15 for parking. Internet is $5.95 per day unless you’re a member of the free Hilton Honors program.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: $30. Internet, self-parking, half-day admission to the Trailblazers Kids Club for up to three children, access to 24-hour fitness center (not the spa fitness center), 50 percent off the spa daily-access fee. Extra charges: $15 for self-parking, $24 for valet parking.
Found:Re Phoenix: None. Valet parking, the only option, is $25. The parking fee is $20 if you book directly through the hotel.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North: $35. Internet, self-parking, morning pastry and coffee in the lobby, use of driving range at Troon North Golf Club, tennis-court rental, admission to Kids for All Seasons club and fitness center and spa access. Extra charge: $35 for valet parking.
Graduate Tempe: None. Self-parking is $7. There is no valet parking.
Hermosa Inn: $30. Internet, valet parking, treat at turn-down service, morning pastries and coffee in lobby, fitness room, bikes and helmet rentals.
Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas: None. Parking is free. Internet is $4.95 (free if you are a member of Hilton Honors).
Hotel Palomar Phoenix: None. Extra charges: Self-parking is $23, valet parking is $33. Internet is $12.99 unless you’re a member of the free loyalty program.
Hotel Valley Ho: None. Extra charge: $18 for self-parking or valet parking.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch: $29. Internet, shopping shuttle, health-club admission, bike use, chipping and putting at Gainey Ranch Golf Course. Extra charges: $21 for self-parking, $33 for valet parking.
JW Marriott Camelback Inn: $35. Internet, self-parking, access to fitness center at the spa, two hours of tennis-court use, two-hour bicycle rental, driving range. Extra charge: $10 for valet parking.
JW Marriott Desert Ridge: $35. Internet, self-parking, two-hour bicycle rental, driving range, fitness classes, $10 discount on valet parking. Extra charges: $19 valet parking with the discount.
Marriott Tempe Phoenix at The Buttes: $12. Internet, tennis- and volleyball-court use. Extra charge: $12 for parking.
The McCormick Scottsdale: $19. Internet; parking; shuttle service; fitness center, kayak, bike and canoe use.
Mountain Shadows Resort: $32. Internet, valet parking, in-room coffee and bottled water, putting green, fitness-center access, local shuttle including stops at Camelback Mountain and sister resort Sanctuary.
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia: $29. Internet, fitness center, in-room coffee, bocce ball equipment. Extra charge: $22 for self-parking or valet parking.
Phoenician: $29. Internet, tennis-court and bike use, daily morning yoga, kids club admission during dinner at resort restaurants. Extra charges: $18 for self-parking, $33 for valet parking.
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak: $28. Internet, self-parking, four passes to the on-site River Ranch water park, health-club access, miniature golf, tennis. Extra charge: $10 for valet parking.
Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs: $28. Internet, self- or valet parking, admission for six to the on-site Falls Water Village, driving range, tennis, 20 percent off select spa services.
Royal Palms Resort & Spa: $31. Internet; spa and fitness-center use; local shuttle; tips for bell staff, housekeeping staff and valet service; resort tours, mixology lessons. Extra charge: $25 for valet parking. There is no self-parking.
Saguaro: $29. Internet, valet or self-parking.
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain: $36. Internet, valet or self-parking, spa and fitness center.
Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountains: None. Self-parking is free. Extra charges: $23 for valet parking, $12.95 for Internet unless you’re a member of the free Marriott Rewards loyalty program.
Scottsdale Plaza Resort: $25. Internet, valet or self-parking, fitness center, tennis, bottled water.
Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass: $29. Internet, self-parking, fitness center, shuttle to Phoenix Premium Outlets, tennis court and equipment use. Extra charge: $22 for valet parking.
Talking Stick Resort: $25. Internet, in-room bottled water and coffee, fitness-center use at spa. Valet and self-parking are free.
Tempe Mission Palms: $17.95. Airport shuttle, Internet, parking.
The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch: $29. Internet, valet and self-parking, bike use, fitness center.
The Scott (formerly FireSky Resort & Spa): $35. Internet, self- and valet parking, bicycles, fitness center, area shuttle service, spa discounts.
W Scottsdale: None. Extra charges: $18 for self-parking, $33 for valet parking.
Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino: None. Internet and parking are free.
We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center: $25 including tax. Internet, bottled water, in-room coffee, parking, fitness center, business center.
Westin Kierland: $29. Internet, spa access, yoga classes, shuttle to Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter, weekend s’mores, tennis. Extra charges: $14 for self-parking, $31 for valet parking.
The Wigwam: $30. Internet, parking, fitness-center access and classes, tennis-court use.