Are Travel Fees Taking the Value Out of Travel?
It seems like most travelers these days are lumped into two groups: Budget or luxury travelers. If I had to be put into one group or the other, I'm sure it would be that of a budget traveler, although I like to think of myself as more of a savvy traveler. I often cringe at the words "motel" or "hostel", frequently ask for upgrades, refuse to stay at accommodations with rooms that open up to the outside (Rather than opening to an indoor hallway), and I enjoy having a town car, or better yet, an SUV take me to and from the airport.
However, my inbox is constantly overflowing with fare alerts, I'm subscribed to multiple daily deal websites, I refuse to pay for Internet at a hotel, and I pack my own snacks while traveling. Nonetheless, a recent experience at two different types of accommodations made me raise some questions about the real value of travel. On a recent vacation to the Pacific Northwest, I stayed at two very different types of accommodations within 10 miles of one another. One, a cozy bed and breakfast just outside the charming town of Bainbridge Island, and the other, a luxury hotel in downtown Seattle that I got for half the price it usually is at $105 per night. The difference between the two hotels of course being the type of accommodations, since one is a hotel and the other a bed and breakfast, but more importantly to me, one rate was inclusive and the other wasn't.
Like most bed and breakfasts, the inn I stayed at on Bainbridge Island included all amenities in the rate, which was several different things, but not as extensive as the amenities that most hotels offer. For $149, I got a large suite with a king bed, fireplace, bathroom, mini fridge with two waters, sitting area, and flat screen television. Also included in the rate was wireless Internet access, parking, phone calls, and a warm breakfast. I ate breakfast at the inn every morning, but if I had decided to eat elsewhere in town, the inn would've given me a $15 credit.
The rate of the downtown Seattle hotel didn't include any of the amenities that I mentioned above. While the rate was $105, that didn't include phone calls, Internet access, parking, or breakfast. It did, however, include HBO, which I didn't find on TV at the bed and breakfast, and the fitness center was free to use. Internet access was $12.95 per day and parking $30 per day. Those two are essential items for many travelers, meaning that with the rate I received, the fees of parking and Internet were nearly half the price of the room. I'm not one to typically use a business center, but I found out upon walking into the business center to print off a couple things, that I had to pay $5 for ten minutes of Internet usage.
My question then is this: Should additional travel fees simply be the expectation when traveling? Sure, there are exceptions, like most bed and breakfasts and many motels, but for most parts of travel, should we just expect that while we may be given a rate upfront, we'll have to reach deeper into our wallets once we get there? It seems to be that nowadays, what you see, is rarely what you get. This extends to airlines and rental car companies as well. Few airlines allow you to check in luggage without paying a fee and some even require a fee if you carry on luggage. And then with rental cars, the cost for insurance can equal or exceed the daily rate of the rental.
I'll be the first to say that travel planning can be tedious and stressful. However, that stress is heightened when unexpected fees are incurred while traveling. The problem is that many travel fees aren't noticed until much later in the travel planning process, such as boarding a plane, arriving at the rental car depot, or opening up your laptop in your hotel room. While these are often small fees that may only be a small inconvenience, valet parking, overweight luggage, and car rental insurance can add up over the course of a trip. My concern is that in an effort to make travel more convenient and accessible, the travel industry ultimately is making it less accessible.
What I'm advocating for is more transparency in the travel industry. I get it - most travelers are jumping at the lowest price they see, rather than being loyal to one brand. However, the way to win over travelers is not by knocking down the price, while then making many of the most desirable features sold separately. At the end of the day, it's about the traveler and their experience. Maybe if travel brands really focused on the experience and not the bottom line, then travelers would be more loyal to brands.
Do you think fees are taking away from the travel experience?