Travel Junk Fees: What You Need to Know

The whole idea of  travel “junk fees” is quite the hot topic. In fact, the Federal government is promising to root them out and implement better consumer protections. So it begs the question – which travel fees are legitimate and which can we consider “junk fees?”

Airline Fees

Baggage Fees

Okay, so this is a biggie, and so relatable. It used to be that baggage was included in the price of your airline ticket. This is no longer the case. These days, airlines tend to use an a la carte business model for most airline tickets. If you’re bringing a bag, you may have an allowance, but especially on the low cost carriers you’re going to pay a fee for it in Economy Class.

Baggage fees are a pain, but clearly not “junk” fees. After all, when you pay for a checked or carry-on bag, you’ve paid for the ability to bring that bag. However, there’s a bit of a grey area here. Some airlines charge different rates depending on when you purchase those bags. When you add a bag online at the time of ticket purchase, the fare is lowest on airlines like Frontier and Spirit. If you wait until the last minute, the price can get very painful.

This is how Spirit charges passengers for a standard carry-on bag:

During Booking:

Spirit Saver$ Club — $59 to $68
Standard — $60 to $69

Before Online Check-in:

Spirit Saver$ Club — $61 to $70
Standard — $62 to $71

During Online Check-in:

Spirit Saver$ Club — $63 to $72
Standard — $64 to $73

Airport Reservation Desk: $79

At Gate: $99

So even while a bag fee may not seem unfair, not knowing the rules or how to follow them can make this a painful lesson to learn. We do recommend reading the fine print on any ticket you’re about to purchase to thoroughly understand the terms. Better yet, fly light and skip a checked bag altogether if you can.

Seat Selection Fees

Did you think that airline ticket entitled you to a seat of your choice? Think again! These days – every seat on the airplane has been monetized. Want extra legroom? That’s gonna cost you. The days where one Economy seat looked much like the next one are over. If you’re feeling a little bit nickel and dimed at this point, that’s understandable.

But again. Is it a “junk fee?” It’s truly a bit of a grey area. Because there are specific perks that the airline knows passengers will pay for, it makes it tough to see this as completely frivolous. At the same time, there are areas where it makes sense for the airlines to be more customer-service minded. For example, the airlines should sit families together when there are kids under 12. And parents shouldn’t be forced to pay for this privilege. The federal government may soon step in if the airlines don’t come up with better procedures to protect families that can’t pay extra.

For the rest of us, if we have a specific place on the airplane we want to stake out – it’s going to be a “pay to play” situation. Most regular Economy seats still allow you to select a seat. It’s only the most bare bones fares – the Basic Economy tickets – that mean you’re just paying for a seat, any seat.

In-Flight WiFi

Staying connected is essential for most travelers in 2023. So, it might surprise you to know that even in this digital age, many airlines still charge you for Wifi on the plane. While it’s great to have the option, the extra cost can be a bummer, especially for longer flights when you’re on a tight budget. But is it a junk fee, per se?

We’re going to stay on the fence for this one too. You can mostly work around this pesky issue. Consider downloading your favorite shows or movies before your flight, or take advantage of free Wi-Fi at airports during layovers. If you’re traveling for work and need to get some stuff done on the plane, your employer will probably cover you. And I like to unplug on a flight, so I can arrive rested and relaxed anyway.

Change and Cancellation Fees

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes your plans change. There may not be too many positives from the COVID-19 pandemic, but one positive change is that most airlines completely did away with change fees. This is a great development, because you can definitely make the argument that these fees were “junk fees.”

Today, if you need to reschedule, you’ll pay the difference in the ticket cost. This can be painful, especially if the airfare price has gone up quite a bit or you need to reschedule for a flight that’s just a few days out. But in the pre-pandemic days, this situation was even worse. The airlines could (and did) charge you a change “fee” and then on top of that tack on whatever the difference in price was. That practice has gone away thank goodness!

Snacks and Beverages

How does the old saying go, “there’s no free lunch?” Well, the airlines really take that one to heart. Most airlines still give passengers a small snack (think peanuts or pretzels) for even the shortest flight, and offer water, soft drinks and coffee/tea. But the low-cost airlines don’t offer anything at all – you’ll have to pony up if you’re hungry when flying certain airlines.

If you’re on a budget don’t despair. Bring your own snacks and an empty water bottle to fill up after security. Stay hydrated and save some cash! It’s not great to drink alcohol on a long flight anyway. Arrive refreshed and not jetlagged.

Hotel Fees

Here’s the thing about hotel fees. There aren’t a lot of them, but the ones that exist are pretty annoying. Really, there are mainly two: resort fees and parking fees.

Hotel Parking Fees

This is mainly dependent on destination, but truly one reason we try to forgo a car whenever we’re exploring a city. Unless you’re traveling for work or plan to just spend one night in a major city, you’ll save a ton of cash just by avoiding the parking garage. In smaller municipalities with more space you can usually avoid a parking fee, but in a major city you’re going to pay for parking. And some hotels charge upwards of $20 to even $70 day (in cities like New York and San Francisco where parking is at a premium). Now, parking isn’t a “junk” fee, per se. But it’s painful, nonetheless.

Hotel Resort Fees

Ah, the ubiquitous resort fee. Truly the bane of most leisure travelers existence. And it’s hard not to see why. Of all the travel fees most likely to be targeted, this might be the one. Why do we think resort fees are “junky”? Well, they are a bit of a bait and switch, no matter how you slice it.

A lot of hotels charge resort fees to “get customers through the door,” so they book a room they might otherwise pass up as being too expensive. Hotels also can avoid paying online travel agents a larger cut. Travel agents generally take a percentage of the “base” rate. If the hotel keeps the “base” rate low, they can avoid paying less to travel agents and charge you more!

Not all hotels charge the same resort fees. In this study by Nerd Wallet, you can see that Best Western charges the lowest resort fee, while some of the other big brands charge a higher percent.


When you book a flight or hotel stay with, we promise to be transparent. Use our simple booking interface to find flights that clearly show you exactly what you’re paying for – for every ticket!

Travel Junk Fees: What You Need to Know

We also show you the breakdown of hotel fees and include those before you pay. We look out for our customers and aim to provide information everyone can use.

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