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Those pesky hotel incidentals

You've just negotiated a super-low rate for a hotel. Great! But watch out for the bill. Charges to use the telephone, minibar, health club, and laundry add up fast, as much as 20 percent of your total hotel bill, according to Smith Travel Research in Hendersonville, Tenn. Incidentals generate an additional $5 billion in hotel revenue, it says.

Some tips to eliminate these costs:

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*Don't use the hotel dry-cleaning service; find nearby cleaners. Many hotels offer coin-operated washers and dryers; cheaper than paying the hotel $2 to launder a pair of socks.

*Forget room service. Find a deli, corner market, or fast-food restaurant and get a meal to go. Or order in for pizza or Chinese.

*Find a nearby store and pick up a couple of cans of soda. Save the $2 per can that the minibar adds to your bill.

*If your hotel charges a daily fee (often as high as $12) for its health club, ask your home gym if your membership extends to clubs in the city you're visiting.

*Finally, when you check your bill, complain about outrageous charges to a manager. She may remove them.

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