Hidden Travel Expenses are everywhere and can add up fast costing you a lot of money. The good news is the majority of these hidden travel costs are avoidable.
By keeping our travel costs down you’ll be left with more money in your travel budget to do the things you love. So let’s have a look at these unexpected travel expenses and how to avoid them.
1. Hidden Airline Fees
When searching for flights through Booking.com, Travelocity, and Skyscanner to name just a few, keep in mind you might not be comparing apples to apples. Let me explain…
More and more I am seeing various flight booking sites show you a “base rate” which is not an accurate price of the flight. It might look good initially but after $100 in hidden travel expenses it likely won’t be such a good deal. I found one that recently came up with a great price but that didn’t include the charge for fuel. I don’t know about you but I prefer airplanes that have fuel in them.
Just make sure you are comparing the TOTAL cost of the flight and not the “advertised price” that doesn’t include things like taxes or fuel. Usually you just have to click through to the next stage of the booking where you can see these hidden costs.
2. Checked Baggage Fees
If you know us at all we are big fans and pushers of not checking bags. I don’t care if you’re traveling for 3 days or 3 months, checking bags is not necessary for most people. But if you must check bags it’s important to compare that cost when booking a flight. Flight X might cost $50 less but the bag check fee could be $100 more than flight Y.
Unfortunately this makes comparing prices rather difficult because baggage fees are not part of the normal price comparison tools. Tripadvisor has a baggage fee comparison tool that can give you a good idea on checked baggage fees.
Also keep in mind that many airlines are restricting the max weight for checked baggage and going over that will result in a substantial fee. The normal of 70lb max for checked baggage is rare these days with many airlines charging additional fees for anything over 40lbs.
- Are you traveling out of the country and don’t know if you need an entry Visa? Head over to How To Plan A Trip to find out
3. Offline Booking Fees
When you book online, no one at the airline needs to spend time speaking with you. That saves the travel companies time and money.
So when you call and speak to an agent and book through them they often hit you with a hidden fee called the Offline Booking Fee. This is to help airlines recover the expenses of having to pay an actual person to talk with you. United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, and Hawaiian Airlines all charge for offline reservations.
It’s okay to call them for clarification or to ask questions but it’s probably best to book through an online third-party site like Expedia to avoid this unnecessary hidden fee.
4. Airline Seat Picking Fees
It’s getting ridiculous right! Not only do you have to pay a fuel surcharge fee but now you have to pay a seat picking fee for the seat you already bought? Well it’s true.
If you don’t care where you sit and don’t need to sit next to anyone in particular than you don’t need to worry about this. But if you do want to sit with your family you will need to login with your flight and pick your seats.
When you do this you will see a large section of the plane where there is no fee to pick those seats, while another section will charge for those seat. Sometimes as much as $20 per seat!
If there’s 4 of you and you all want to sit together a block of 4 free sits will fill up really fast and all you might be left to pick from is the paid section. So the trick here is to book your flight and pick your seats as early as possible. Don’t wait to do this the week before because the free seat picks will be taken.
*Important Note* Even if you log in to your flight to pick a seat and all of the free seats are gone you DO NOT have to pick one of the paid seats. Just simply don’t pick any seat and the airline will pick one for and you want have to pay the fee.
5. Boarding Pass Printing Fees
Are you kidding me!!! While I have not experienced this myself I have heard from other folks who have been nailed by this absolute rip off. My friend that experienced this was on a small budget airline in Europe. His boarding pass that he had printed got rather beat up in is pocket and would not scan when he tried to board the flight. So his only option was to pay $30 USD to have a boarding pass re-printed. This is no joke! So even if you are using your phone to scan a boarding pass it’s not a bad idea to have a paper backup should your phone not work.
6. Airline Company Flight Insurance
More and more airlines are pushing their own flight insurance to cover you for change fees or cancellation fees. These are typically not a good deal and it’s much better to get that coverage through a basic Travel Insurance Plan through something like World Nomads.
World Nomads will cover you for a TON more than just flight change fees. And remember to check your credit card because many, especially Travel Credit Cards, already provide coverage for flight cancellation fees.
7. International Cell Phone Plan
If you will be using your phone while traveling an International Cell Phone Plan or SIM card is the best way to go. In general, adding international coverage to your existing plan is quite expensive unless you use T-Mobile which already has pretty good international coverage.
You can purchase these SIM cards once you arrive in the country and while the airports have a ton of them you will find better deals if you can wait till you get out of the airport. Another good option is to purchase the SIM card ahead of time and have it shipped to you. We have a bunch more information and details here at International Cell Phone Plans For Travelers.
8. Foreign Transaction Fees
These pesky and unnecessary fees come from your bank debit card or credit card companies when you use your cards for something outside of your home country. These can be in the form of a flat fee per use or anywhere from 3% – 5% of your transaction total. These can really add up and fortunately are easy to avoid.
The first step is to call your bank and credit card companies to ask about these fees and while your at it let them know where you will be traveling so you don’t have any trouble using your cards.
If your credit card is not a Travel Credit Card you likely will not be able to avoid these fees but it’s still worth a try. As far as your bank goes it will really depend on what institution you are banking with. International banks like Chase will not be a problem but a local bank like US Bank will require a little work.
For US Bank we had to upgrade our “basic free” checking to the premium version that required a minimum balance or you got a $10 fee. US Bank lets you upgrade on a month to month basis so for us it was worth upgrading for a month period while traveling and then downgrading once we got back. The foreign ATM fee for US Bank was $2.50 per transaction last I checked.
9. Entry and Exit Visa Fees
Yes it’s true, some countries not only have Entry Visas but Exit Visas as well. These fees are not often calculated when you book a flight so be sure to do your own homework on the Visa requirements are as well as the fees. We’ve got all that covered in our How To Plan A Trip series.
- Visas and Passports – How To Plan A Trip
10. Rental Car Fees For Under 25 Years of Age
We love renting cars while traveling but they can get pricey especially if the driver is under 25 years of age. For a long time rental companies would not rent to anyone under 25 but they have started to open that up to people down to 21 years of age. The catch of course is a massive rate bump, like sometimes 50% more.
So if you have the option of using someone else in your group that’s over 25 years that will save you a TON of money.
- Traveling to the UK? Here are some UK Car Rental Tips
11. Currency Exchanges
Travelers Checks and bringing a ton of cash with you to exchange died many years ago. Currency exchanges to get local currency are there for the simple purpose of making money. You will always get better exchange rates if you walk 10 feet over and pull cash with your Foreign Transaction Fee Free ATM card. ATM transactions will also have the best exchange rate and you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off by someone messing up your currency conversion rate.
If you prefer to have some foreign currency when you arrive you can always order currency from your local bank. It might take a week or so to get but they are happy to do it and usually they don’t charge a fee. At least our local US Bank doesn’t. We’ve done this when flying into very small or remote countries where we don’t know if bank services will be readily available.
So we hope these travel tips shed some light on those hidden travel fees to help you save a few bucks on your next trip. Please throw a comment down below if you have any other tips for your fellow travelers.