Consumer Reports tells you how to avoid the sticker shock of hotel fees

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Nothing kills a vacation vibe faster than a hotel bill peppered with unexpected fees. When Consumer Reports asked readers about their experience with hotel fees, they were deluged with complaints about unexpected fees. For everything from resort fees to parking fees to utility fees.

Even fees for having a safe in the room. But there are ways to avoid sneaky fees on your next trip.

Liz Gabay looks relaxed now, but you should have seen her the day she checked out of the hotel, after visiting her daughter at college.

The hotel bill included an unexpected, daily charge for the in-room safe. "It's totally sneaky. If it costs extra for them to put a safe in your room, build that in. Let me know up front. I won't feel so taken advantage of," said Gabay.

Consumer Reports' readers shared hundreds of similar stories, complaining about the practice of hidden fees while traveling.

Not only for the in-room safe, but also towel-fees, resort fees, beach chair fees -- some hotels even charge recycling fees! "Hotels know that consumers are shopping for hotel rooms by price. So they try to keep their advertised prices low, but then still make up the revenue on the back end, with fees," said Margot Gilman, Consumer Reports.

So, what's the best way to avoid sticker shock from unexpected hotel charges?

Consumer Reports advises reaching out to the hotel directly. Particularly if you plan to book thru a third party. Ask about specific, additional charges - for anything other than the room and taxes.

Plan on checking in early? Or checking out late? It may cost you extra.

Parking fees can be another budget buster. Even in outdoor or unsecured lots.

"If you join a hotel loyalty program -- something a lot of hotels have -- you may find that some of the fees are waived," said Gilman.

And, don't be afraid to speak up. Like many of Consumer Reports' readers, when Liz Gabay complained she never even opened the safe, they took the charge off the bill, immediately.

Consumer Reports' readers shared hundreds of similar stories, complaining about the practice of hidden fees while traveling.

One, tiny silver lining to these hidden fees, is that occupancy taxes on hotel bills are based on the price of the room, not the total bill, which could mean small savings for you.

Take a look at all of 7 On Your Side's stories with Consumer Reports here.

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