try to build some extra padding into your budgets, to cover additional expenses and unforeseen costs, but more and more I’m noticing that the travel industry is gradually adding fees on services that used to be complimentary.
Here are are some of those fees.
Booking Your Flight
When you book online, you actually save the travel companies time and money. Because of this, when you choose to call and speak with a live agent, they’ll often charge you for the personal attention. For example, American Airlines charges an extra $10. United, JetBlue, and Southwest all charge for offline reservations as well.
If you book through a third party and need to rebook within 24 hours, you may be charged a reschedule fee. Whereas, if you book directly with the airlines and need to make a change within 24 hours, there is no fee. If you’re spending a significant amount on airfare, it may be worthwhile to purchase trip insurance, to protect you from wasting the money if an illness, lost luggage, fender bender, or personal emergency ruins your vacation.
Frequent flyer programs seem to offer great deals, but they’re not so great if you have to pay extra fees for your flight. A lot of this has to do with taxes. Make sure when you are booking a free flight, you check out the taxes you have to pay before you book. There is a big difference in them and you may be able to get by with less, if you choose a different airport to fly into.
At the Airport
4. Bag Fees
Make sure you know the charges as each airline is different. Some airlines charge more for a carry on than they do for a checked bag. Southwest allows two free checked bags.
5. Overweight Baggage
If you must check a bag, you can save an average of $50 per bag by avoiding the surprise of an overweight baggage fee. Just weigh your luggage before you leave, and you’ll save time and money at the checkout counter. Again, check your airline restrictions. Some international flights only allow 44 lbs.
6. Exit/Tourist Fee
When traveling home from Costa Rica I had to pay a $10 exit fee that I wasn’t aware of. Other countries also ask for this. Make sure you know all the regulations before you travel.
If you need WiFi to get some work done in-flight you will have to pay. However many airports offer free WiFi, but it may not be secure.
Your Rental Car
8. Rental Insurance
Taxi and bus fares can add up quickly, so while a rental car may sound like a costly choice, it’s often the best way to save money on longer trips. While the “per diem” rental quote should include taxes and fees, many renters make the mistake of purchasing additional insurance when they’re already covered.
Pro Tip: Rental car companies offer expensive insurance policies, but most credit cards provide collision coverage when you pay for your rental with your card. Also, place a quick call to your car insurance provider to find out if your policy covers rental car claims in addition to your personal vehicle. However, if you use your own insurance, they will count this as a claim against you. Also, if you use credit card insurance, their rule is that if you have car insurance, you have to use that first.
Drivers under the age of 25 used to be barred from renting a car at most companies. Now, rental companies let drivers between the ages of 21 and 25 rent – and charge them more money for their age. The rate is usually a $20 to $30 daily surcharge, since that age bracket statistically gets into more accidents than any other group. Drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 will experience even tougher restrictions and higher surcharges.
10. Extra Driver
If you are traveling with a group and you know there will be multiple drivers, a rental car company can charge you up to $30 per day for the additional driver, supposedly to cover insurance costs for the extra person. However, some companies allow husband and wife as no additional charge. It pays to check around.
11. Alternate Drop-Off
Are you planning to drive your rental car from one city to another? Especially if you’re not starting or finishing at an airport, you’ll probably pay extra to drop off the vehicle at a different location.
12. Extra Fees
Some charge $8/gallon if your car is not full when you return. Also, they might ask if you want to add toll fee coverage. Again this is your decision. It depends on the number of tolls you'll be going through.
At the Hotel
13. Resort Fee
Believe it or not, many hotels will charge what is known as a “hotel resort fee” upon checkout. Often, this fee will be an extra 10% per night. Thus, even if you have already prepaid through a site like Expedia or TripAdvisor, you will have to pay an extra 10% when you checkout. It’s essentially a higher nightly rate, hidden in the fine print.
Pro Tip: Read the fine print, and remember that all hotels mustdisclose this fee upon booking. Make sure to consider the fee when you decide if this hotel indeed offers a reasonable rate.
Some hotels furnish a bottle of water a day for free, but not all of them do. Make sure you ask before you drink.
If you drive to a hotel with a rental car from the airport or on a road trip directly from home, you may have to pay a valet or parking fee. Unlike hotels in rural or suburban areas, city hotels may add a garage or valet fee because parking is limited in high-traffic areas.
Pro Tip: Make sure to ask about parking accommodations before you book the hotel. Sometimes valet parking in a private hotel lot is cheaper than at a nearby garage or with street parking.
16. Luggage Storage
Most hotels will ask you to check out at noon or even earlier, but if you want to explore the area in the afternoon, you might have to pay to keep your bags at the hotel. Even if this isn’t a formal fee at nicer hotels, it’s customary to tip the concierge or bellhop on a per-bag basis.
Pro Tip: When you check in, ask if you can have a late checkout, and if they say no, ask again on your last morning at the hotel anyway. Ask if they’re expecting to fill the room later that day, and if they’re not, they’ll probably let you keep your things in the room, especially if it’s not a peak travel time.
17. Fitness Center
The standard hotel fitness center has a stationary bike, a treadmill, and some hand weights, but if you’re staying in a swankier place, the fitness center may come with a high-end gym. Be wary of the nicer fitness centers; some hotels are charging a daily fee to cover operation costs.
Hotel guests can expect to pay about $4 a day in energy surcharges. But some hotels charge well beyond this rate. Caribbean resorts and hotels, for example, tend to take advantage of this surcharge. Atlantis in the Bahamas charges up to $12.95 per adult per day.
Pro Tip: For longer stays, these fees can add up quickly. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, especially if it’s the off-season. Call ahead and ask for a better rate on the room if they won’t budge on the energy surcharge.
I was staying at a hotel and was in a hurry, so I just used the ATM in the lobby. The fee was $3.50 to use the ATM, and then my bank charged me another $2.50 for using a machine outside the network. I ended up paying $6 for the convenience. Hotel ATMs can charge higher ATM fees to capitalize on hurried travelers like me.
Pro Tip: If you think you’ll need cash, plan ahead and bring some with you. When you’re out and about, keep an eye out for your bank’s ATM.
On a Cruise
21. Port Fees
When I tried to book a cruise directly through the cruise company, I clicked through to make my reservation, only to see an additional $200 added on to the total price. I wasn’t surprised to see a list of various taxes, but I didn’t expect to see a port fee. When a cruise ship docks at a port of call, they’re charged a port fee, which the cruise line passes on to travelers. These fees are government-imposed and vary based on destination.
Pro Tip: Port fees vary by destination, and they’re usually included in the cruise fare. But if you’ll be going with a smaller cruise line, double check to make sure these fees are actually included.
21. Built-In Gratuities
Did you think that the un-priced drinks at dinner were free and the margarita you bought at the bar was already paid for? Think again. Many cruise lines add a 15% gratuity fee to beverages, even if it wasn’t served to you by the waitstaff. If you get a free prepaid drink package, check to see if gratuities are included. Most of the time they are extra.
Pro Tip: Bartenders usually expect tips, so the gratuity fee is reasonable, but if your cruise line charges a gratuity fee, keep it in mind before you slip even more cash into the tip jar.
In most hotels, Internet is available in your room and it’s usually free. However, connectivity is tougher on cruise ships. You’ll usually find separate business centers with a wired Internet connection, available for use at $1 or so a minute.Connections off the ship are usually much faster and cheaper.
If your cruise lasts more than a few days, you might need to do laundry. The higher-end cruise ships will offer dry cleaning at several dollars a shirt, and you’ll be charged by the pound (or the bag) for room service laundering.
Pro Tip: Sometimes you just have to do laundry. But you can certainly lighten the load if you pack plenty of undergarments and clothes with wrinkle-resistant fabric.
24. Shore Excursions
Even all-inclusive cruises don’t include your expenses during shore excursions. If you’re looking forward to an adventure-filled vacation of kayaking, snorkeling, or sightseeing, don’t overlook the cost of tour operators. Make sure you know what you need to pay for.
A dollar or two here may not seem like a big deal, and even a twenty dollar fee there might just sound like something you have to tolerate. But guess what? You don’t.
25. Foreign Transaction Fees
Before traveling outside of the country, it can often be beneficial to check whether the credit cards that may be used during the trip charge foreign transaction fees. Some cards do not tack on this additional charge, and it might benefit a credit card holder to attain one such card if they plan to travel beyond their home nation. Another important consideration is a currency exchange fee. While abroad, exchanging currency can generate additional costs as well.
With a little planning and research, you can avoid many of the fees I listed above. Perhaps more importantly, you can at least get rid of the surprise and build some of these more imposing costs into your initial budget. Needing to pay an extra $50 in port fees, for example, is far easier to take if you’ve saved for it over a few months, rather than getting slapped with it in the middle of a trip. In the end, you can’t get out of all of these expenses, but you can adjust your plan accordingly. Being aware of hidden costs that may accumulate while on vacation can reduce surprises and overspending for consumers across the country. All that’s left to do is to pack those bags!
Contact Judy Peterson at Peterson Travel Pros for help with planning a trip.