Readers' travel tips: Beware the 'destination fee' - I won't pay them

TIP OF THE WEEK

Travelling in the US last month, I was hit with a "destination fee" (also known as a "resort fee" or an "amenity fee") on check-in at leading hotels in some big cities.

These fees are in addition to the rate advertised and booked on the hotel's own website and can be anywhere between $US17 and $US25 per room per night for stupid things I don't want or need but which used to be provided free in the past.

For example, I am to believe I am being blessed with free Wi-Fi, a free coffee-maker in the room, free bottled water, discount vouchers, coffee in the lobby. Of course these are not free and I have been charged.

I'm assuming that I must now add in my head an amount for a destination fee when choosing accommodation because they do not show it so as to make the room rate look more competitive.

It is to the shame of these leading hoteliers that they are ripping off customers who will look to Airbnb and the like even faster with this penny-pinching attitude towards hotel guests. It is also a mark of desperation.

I have refused to pay it and had it taken off my charge on check-in and check-out but I am sick of having to have the conversation.

Melanie Raymond, Melbourne, VIC

TICKETS TO RIDE I

It was interesting to see the letter by Gayle Wilson (Tip-o-meter, January 13) about booking rail tickets in Europe.

Her own fair city has the answer in the form of International Rail where she will find the service excellent. We have used them a couple of times – the last time for a trip from Stresa to Milan by intercity, then on to Florence on the Frecciarossa.

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You get a real e-ticket, not a voucher, and do not worry about not being able to validate the ticket on the station "yellow box". The conductor just whips his mobile out and scans it. Easy.

David Sallows, Ormiston QLD

TICKETS TO RIDE II

I've had great success using the app loco2 to book trains in Europe and have booked trains for Italy, France and Spain. The app also works for Germany and the UK.

Trains can be booked up to three months in advance and the app links directly with British National Rail, SNCF (France), DB (Germany), Renfe (Spain) and Trenitalia and Italo in Italy.

No fees are added to the ticket prices, which are the same if you buy them at the station. Ticket delivery varies –sometimes they need to be printed.

But the process is generally electronic and has the bonus of being able to request window or aisle seats on inter-city trains. It really is a hassle-free way of buying train tickets and I have never had any problems.

Kate Lawrence, Kingston, ACT

MISSING IN ACTION

I'm spending three months in Europe and, having had my wallet stolen, I've had varied degrees of success with replacement credit cards.

American Express delivered a new card to my European address in less than 72 hours but the worst has been Qantas.

Two weeks after requesting a new Qantas cash card, I rang for a progress report only to find the card hadn't even been sent. They've again promised to send it and at least not charge me for express delivery.

Joanna Fox, Valla Beach, VIC

CHAIN REACTION

I recently booked a Spanish hotel through Booking.com with the price quoted in euros. I then received a request from the hotel chain to pay using their secure site, where I made the payment in euros.

My bank statement then showed I had actually been charged 12 per cent over the quoted price due to the currency exchange commission. The credit card used was in euros, so any foreign transaction fees should have been superfluous.

The hotel, my bank (through a transaction dispute) and Booking.com deny any responsibility, despite about $100 disappearing into "cyberspace". Others should also take heed.

Robert Boelen, Waratah Bay, VIC

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