Hidden Travel Costs and How to Avoid Them

hidden travel costs
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Summer’s around the corner, the kids are out of school, it’s almost vacation time! Planning for a trip can be fun. Between the dozens of activities and excursions available for you and the family to the all-inclusive bar and spa treatments, your excitement starts to grow.

However, the anticipation of planning a vacation can often lead to some not-so-exciting hidden travel costs.The initial sticker price of the trip can grow exponentially after adding the excursions, baggage fees, and last-minute knick-knacks. It turns out the all-inclusive resort forgot to mention the service fee, the kids left their hats on the porch, and your sister has a fever (and left the medicine at home).

Before pulling out the credit card or having a complete meltdown (you just got here! Save the drama for day 3) take a deep breath; because you are prepared – you’ve already read our guide on uncovering those hidden travel costs.

These 7 tips and tricks will save you hundreds both before and during your vacation. Have any tips or your own? Let us know in the comments below!

1. Baggage and Airline Fees

Ugh. Airlines. What happened to the glamorous airborne lifestyle of the 60’s? Most airline corporations have traded the platform boots and mod stewardess wear for lawn chairs and peanuts. Some airlines are more tolerable than others. Before going for the lowest ticket price, make sure to look for hidden baggage and check-in fees.

These will vary per airline. Some airlines allow for one checked bag or carry on; some will charge you extra at the online checkout or in-person check-in. If you are unsure, give the airline a call. Make sure to write down the representative’s name, if there are disputes at the counter you want to have documentation of the information provided.

Most flight attendants make you purchase the in-flight add-on before indulging, but ask if you are unsure if something is free. Most airlines offer a small snack at beverages at no additional charge.

2. Roaming Charges

Determine if you will need cell phone service before you head out. Ask the hotel if they provide free Wi-Fi. While many resorts have this option, it may not have the best reception. If data is essential, plan ahead. You can purchase a SIM card to use abroad, or use a temporary phone while on site.

Some (not many) cell providers allow for usage overseas, but the majority of the carriers will charge an arm and a leg. Turn the data off (you can keep it in airplane mode) before you land, even a few minutes overseas can add up.

3. Tipping

Tipping is common practice in the hospitality industry. If tipping is not common in your home country (and even if it is) make sure to plan to do so during your vacation. Even all-inclusive resorts (yes, even the ones that say they include the tip already) place emphasis on the tipping culture. Even if your hotel insists tipping is not required, plan for it.

Anything you do outside of the resort including excursions, dining, and professional photographs, will expect a tip. Like it or not, it is part of the hospitality culture, and it to be expected during most vacation events.

4. Port Fees and Taxes

Cruises are notorious for inflating their prices through port fees, taxes, and additional service charges. These hidden travel costs or fees can ruin your trip. Check the fine print of your package and read the forums before embarking on your cruise. Do your own research.

I called a well-known blue and red cruise line (cough, cough, Carnival) before my trip to make sure I had planned for all the expenses, and after being told that my fees had been paid, had a quite rude awakening on the last day when my stateroom bill arrived.

Check the comments on the social media pages, look for Facebook groups that are specific to your ship and ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable with what to expect. Many guests who have sailed before are happy to help you understand the full costs of the cruise.

hidden travel cost 1
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5. Rental Cars

This is another industry notorious for saving the hidden fees until you’re about to sign. Additional drivers, your age, inflated fuel prices, alternative drop-off locations, and additional keys can all contribute to the final cost.

Before you sign and drive, try and get a written list of the items you know you will have to pay for, signed by an employee of the company. The fuel is difficult to determine, but make sure the remaining line items are clear and concrete. Most car rental companies will try and sell you unnecessary packages. Opt for minimal coverage, drive safely, and don’t lose the keys.

6. Hotel Fees

If you have sticky fingers or hungry guests with you, ask the concierge to remove the drinks and snacks from the hotel room before arrival. The snacks and drinks may appear complimentary (many hotels do not display the prices next to the items) but contain outrageous price tags. A bottle of water here and there can add up to more than dinner if you’re not careful.

Many hotels will place a hold, ranging from $50-$250+ on your card when you arrive as a deposit. There have been a handful of times I did not plan for this, which significantly cut down my “fun money.” Call the hotel and confirm the holds and hidden travel costs or fees that will be applied before arrival. Again, take down the name of the person you spoke to in case of disputes.

7. ATM’s and Currency Exchange

While it’s not a good idea to walk around with all your money in cash, constantly pulling out money from the ATM can rack up some incredibly high fees. I’ve seen anywhere from $7-$15 (Vegas has outrageous ATM fees) to pull out your own money!

Limit the number of transactions by planning for your day, and saving yourself a bit of wiggle room. If you’ve planned out how much to spend before your trip, exchange the currency before you take off.

Last minute exchanges at the airport have unnecessary and hidden travel costs, and when you’re ready to begin your adventure, shopping around for the best exchange rate is the last thing on your mind. Check with your local bank before you take off, they often (not always) have the fairest rates.

Ellie Herring is a creative writer who lives in Denver, Colorado. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a B.A. in Advertising. When she's not writing about her latest travel adventures, you can find her at Red Rocks Amphitheatre dancing in the mountains.

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