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Most Annoying Travel Fees 2011

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When Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, jokes about soon charging people for using the bathroom onboard his aircraft, he may not be kidding. Ryanair already makes you pay a fee for using your credit card to make a booking.

Nothing seems to irk travelers more than paying travel fees. What’s especially maddening about these charges is that in many cases—think checked luggage and in-flight pillows and food—we’re paying for things that were free until very recently.

Why don’t the airlines simply raise their fares and do away with these extra travel fees? Because when they do raise fares, they drive travelers away. It’s easier to advertise low fares to entice buyers and then saddle them with a bevy of non-negotiable fees. Hotels and rental car companies do the same thing. And the fees are big business, bringing in an estimated $700 million per month for the major U.S. airlines.

Clearly, these travel fees are not going to go away anytime soon. In fact, they’re on the increase, as the travel industry seeks to find more ways to nickel and dime us when we fly, stay in a hotel, and rent a car. The recession has simply forced many companies to get smarter about taking money out of our pockets.

If there’s a single travel fee that ticks off many travelers, it’s paying for Wi-Fi access at a hotel. Ironically, it’s the higher priced hotels that are guilty of this practice—low-flying chains often include it with your room rate. With charges typically ranging from $9.95 to $24 per day, plus local tax, it’s a fee that adds up quickly and goes straight to the hotel’s bottom line. Why do they need it? Now that cell phones have vanquished the revenues that hotels used to make on telephone surcharges, charging for Wi-Fi is one way to replace that lost cash.

Or, take the redundant collision-damage and loss-damage waiver coverage, a.k.a. CDW/LDW, on rental cars, which can be as much as $16 per day—a fee that adds up over the course of a weeklong car rental. Here’s the rub: most car rental companies require you to pay with a credit card knowing most major cards already offer this protection. Annoying? You bet.

The good news is that if you’re aware and proactive, you can avoid paying some of the worst fees you’re likely to encounter. Read on for 10 of the most annoying travel fees plaguing travelers—and ways you can avoid paying them.

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