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Northwest Traveler

Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

January 23, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Pardon my rant on hotel parking, wi-fi fees and hidden taxes

Taking a sleigh ride is one of the wintertime draws at Chateau Lake Louise in Canada. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell/The Seattle Times)

Taking a sleigh ride is one of the wintertime draws at Chateau Lake Louise in Canada. Lots of fun to be had here, but bring a credit card with a high limit. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell/The Seattle Times)

BANFF NATIONAL PARK,  Alberta — It seems the Rant and Rave column is one of the most popular features in the Sunday paper. So I’ll clearly label this as a little rant — with some useful information thrown in.

My rant is about fancy hotels that can’t be satisfied with charging sky-high nightly rates — they have to keep adding little surprise charges that make you feel like you just got a really bad deal on a used car.

I’m at Lake Louise, in Canada, reporting for some future Seattle Times travel stories (watch for the first in a few weeks). Fairmont’s Chateau Lake Louise resort clearly fits in what I classify as “fancy,” and its rates — very easy to pay more than $300 a night without trying — seem like enough of a blood draw from your bank account.

But on top of that, you pay $30 a night for parking? Come on, this is a long way from Downtown Anywhere. Nobody’s competing with a parking garage across the street. Skip the Chicago-style parking fee.

It’s not just the fancy places that do the annoying add-ons, either. The $82-a-night Bow View Lodge in the town of Banff hit me up for $5 a night for wi-fi. When I needed to make a local phone call because my cell-phone isn’t set up for Canada? Added a buck to the bill.

Sure, it’s the way of the world — airlines are making an ugly art of service fees for things that used to be just part of the ticket. But what if somebody came up with a no-surprises resort hotel? “The rate you see is the rate you pay.” I bet it would be a hit.

It’s also time that hotels advertise their rates including tax, as airlines are now required to do. The hotel bill at Lake Louise gets add charges of 5.1 percent GST (government tax), 4 percent for the Alberta Tourism Levy, and 2 percent for a Tourism Improvement Fee. If you popped for one of those $300 rooms, your rate just jumped to $333.

As for the useful info:

At the Fairmont, I asked if there was free wi-fi anywhere in the hotel — like a coffee bar, maybe? No, the only way was to pay the $13.95-a-day wi-fi fee. Unless, the concierge added, I wanted to spend five minutes filling out an application for the Fairmont President’s Club, which would give me free wi-fi for this and all other stays, among other little perks. They would even refund the day’s fee I’d already paid.

It cost me nothing, and all I had to give up was my name, address and email. About the same as signing up for a Safeway Club Card. So, I’ll get a bit more email spam — I’m used to it.

The useful reminder: It never hurts to ask.

Comments | Topics: Chateau Lake Louise, hotel fees, hotel parking

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