How To Avoid Sneaky Hotel Parking Fees, According To A Travel Agency CEO

Hotel stays are among the costliest parts of any vacation, and room prices are only rising. According to data from Amex GBT Consulting, post-pandemic hotel rates spiked before cooling slightly in 2024. Even as prices have relaxed, significant increases still exist in some top destinations worldwide, from Buenos Aires to Paris. On top of room rates, sneaky hotel parking fees, which might be difficult to determine if it's worth it or not, can quickly max out your travel budget — yet they can seem unavoidable if you're on a road trip or renting a car in your destination. 

In an exclusive chat with Byrd Bergeron, CEO of the Travel Byrds, we learned that, like the soaring cost of accommodations, hotel parking fees are here to stay. "I've noticed an increase in all hotel fees with less and less included in the base rate," Bergeron told Explore. "This can be attributed to inflation but also the cost of land and maintenance is going up and up, making free parking less appealing for hotel owners." The good news is that there are a few ways to avoid being scammed when you swipe your credit card at checkout.

Hotel parking fees might be higher than you think

The cost of a hotel room is listed when you book your stay. The parking fees? Not so much. Even if you're required to pay a pretty penny just to store your car in the hotel parking lot, the hotel might not explicitly mention this fee on its website. And if it does, the information could be inaccurate, Byrd Bergeron warns. "In reality, the prices on the website are often out of date," she revealed.

The best way to avoid surprise charges is to contact the accommodation beforehand. "I never book a hotel without calling the hotel and asking what the hotel fee is as well as the parking fee," the travel expert shared. Bergeron added that parking prices can be exceptionally high when valet parking is offered (or, in some cases, required), so ask about your options and go with self-parking when available.

Look for parking lots away from the hotel property

Even if you're not interested in our complete guide to packing light, you still don't want to roll heavy suitcases to your hotel from a faraway parking lot. However, as Byrd Bergeron told Explore, parking your car away from the hotel could be worth the effort. "There are also parking apps specifically designed to help you find cheaper parking available nearby," Travel Byrds' CEO explained. "Definitely explore your options before deciding on parking at the hotel." And if you're still worried about lugging your bags down the street, check if your hotel has a drop-off point that doesn't require a fee. Pull up, leave your luggage at the front desk, and head to the nearby cheaper lot or garage.

If you can't find affordable parking within walking distance of your hotel, Bergeron recommends signing up for a hotel rewards program to save money. Choose a chain or family of hotels you visit often and start racking points. If you reach the elite levels, says the travel authority, you might not have to pay for parking. Finally, consider going car-free when possible. Bergeron is a fan of using public transportation to get to the hotel and renting a car only when needed. This not only cuts parking costs but also keeps gas and other expenses in check.