The Hotel Resort Fee
Image you had spent the night at a very nice hotel along the Las Vegas Strip. Everything was perfect, and you believe you had gotten a very good deal. At check out you see an extra $25, you were not expecting, on your bill. The hotel calls it the Resort Fee. That doesn't seem right since you didn't know there was a resort at this hotel and if there was you certainly didn't use it. You can question and complain about this feel all you want: it won't matter! You still have to pay it. This is most frequently the first experience someone has with the Resort Fee.
The Resort Fee is an extra fee you must pay to the hotel, but it typically doesn't show up in the nightly price. For this reason it is the bane of the unwitting traveler. But the Resort Fee also has it's usefulness to those who know about it.
Originally the Resort Fee was used to pay for the services travelers frequently use but felt like they were getting nickel'd and dime'd if they were charged extra. Things like newspapers, breakfast, internet, cable television. Hotel chains still claim that is why they collect the resort fee, a single fee to cover all those expenses. That is a lie. The Resort fee is actually a marketing scam so that a hotel can say its nightly rate is cheaper than it's neighbors on those hotel comparison sites so that you'll book with them, even though after you factor in the Resort fee the hotel you just booked might cost the same or more than a comparable hotel. I would liken it to the shipping and handling fees you sometimes see on ebay or other discount websites. It looks like an amazing deal for a new gadget, but the shipping and handling is $50. It's the same trickery that hotels are using to make you think you're getting a better deal than you really are.
For the most part during the booking process you will see somewhere "Hey, we're going to charge you $30 extra dollars for no reason after you book this", but if you don't know to watch out for it you could easily miss it.
The advantage of the Resort Fee is that it makes it easier to identify the hidden hotels on websites like Hotwire and Priceline. Both will list the Resort Fee amount before you finalize your purchase, which gives you a very good opportunity to identify the hotel before making a commitment. For example: if the Resort Fee is something obscure like $14.20 you just have to find a hotel in the area which has the same star rating and Resort Fee. Usually there's only one. Sometimes, like along the Las Vegas Strip, multiple hotels will have the same resort fee in which case you would have to fall back on other methods to identify a mystery hotel.