Resort Fees: The Good and The Bad (Archived Post)

UPDATE:
On March 1st, 2013 Caesars Entertainment started charging a resort fee. Most resorts in Las Vegas now charge a resort fee. They are usually waived for comped rooms and can be waived for higher tiered players, but that will vary. I am leaving this post up for archival purposes.

Resort fees are becoming more and more prevalent in Las Vegas.  Caesars Entertainment even based a marketing campaign around the fact that their hotels don’t charge resort fees (kind of like Southwest’s no checked bag fees campaign).  Just like checked bag fees, you need to factor them in when budgeting for your trip.   To add insult to injury, resort fees are typically taxed at the hotel tax rate of 12%.  This means your special deal for a $49.99 per night room at New York – New York actually costs you $83.99 per night once you include the resort fee and all taxes.

If you are unsure whether your hotel charges a resort fee, ask when you make your reservation.  If you book online through the hotel’s website, there should be a little disclaimer next to the total cost of your stay mentioning the resort fee, whether that has been included in the total and what it covers.  If you book through sites like Expedia and Hotwire any resort fee should be listed in the hotel overview or trip summary pages before you complete your reservation.

While they tend to get a bad rap, resort fees are not always a bad deal.  How much you pay and what you get in return varies from hotel to hotel, though.  At the upper end (fee-wise), MGM Grand, the Mirage, Mandalay Bay, New York – New York, ARIA, the WYNN, Encore, Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch all charge $25 plus tax which makes it an additional $28 per night.  At the lower end, the Gold Coast charges only $3 and the Riviera charges $11.

Resort fees almost always include Internet access, local calls, fitness center passes and boarding pass printing.  The Gold Coast does not include Internet access in their $3 resort fee, but they still include free calls, in-room coffee and fitness center access.  The Mirage includes the use of their in-room robes as part of their resort fee.  The Monte Carlo (which has a $20/night resort fee) includes 2 Keurig coffee pods and 2 bottles of water each day as part of their fee.  That sounds like such a simple addition, but it makes a big difference.  Circus Circus goes above and beyond by including 2 free Midway games, 2 Premium ride passes at their Adventure Dome and 2 free drinks as part of their $8.95 resort fee.

For comparison, if you are staying at Harrah’s and want 24 hours of Internet access and one day fitness center passes for you and your partner it will cost $11.95 for the Internet and $20 each for the fitness center access ($25 each during the weekend).  That is $51.95 for things that would have been included in most resort fees.
At the Rio, the same Internet and 2 fitness center passes combo costs $53.95.

I am not a fan of any hotel forcing additional, non-voluntary charges (which is ultimately what the resort fees are), but since I do use the services that the resort fees cover, they do tend to save me money.  There are situations where they will save you money and there are other situations where you will be paying for things you aren’t using.  If you stay somewhere simply because they don’t charge a resort fee, you might end up paying more that you would have with a resort fee.  The best way to approach the resort fee issue is simply to be an educated consumer.

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