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5 Hidden Fees That Could Draining Your Travel Budget, a Guest Post by Kristen Baker. Creating a travel budget is one of the most vital steps during the process of planning a trip. As many know, traveling doesn’t come cheap, especially if you plan to travel outside of the country. From necessities such as airlines and hotels, to more luxurious purchases like restaurants, tourist attractions, and souvenirs, the costs of travel add up quickly.
Even when you’ve taken all these expenses into account, tracked your prices*, and planned out the perfect budget for your dream vacation, you might run into some hidden travel fees along the way. These sneaky, small, extra costs are often hidden in the fine print of every purchase you make. While they might seem negligible at first, as your trip goes on, they can make an impact on your budget.
To help you avoid these, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common hidden fees travelers are hit with, and how to avoid them at all costs.
5 Hidden Fees That Could Drain Your Travel Budget: Airline Fees
Airlines are expensive enough already, so there’s no need to take on extra costs with unexpected fees. Things such as in-flight TV, Wi-Fi, and snacks, can be free with some flights, but others will charge. On top of that, there could also be extra fees depending on if the service is marked as a “premium” service.
For example, airlines often offer free Wi-Fi, no strings attached, as well as a higher quality paid Wi-Fi. As a rule of thumb for avoiding airline fees, if something requires your credit card information, even if it is marked as free, don’t provide it, as you are likely to find an unexpected charge on there.
While many travelers already know about baggage fees, there are also hidden fees associated with luggage depending on the airline you are traveling with, and how much you plan to bring. This can especially hold true if your bag weight is over the airline’s limit.
To avoid this, do a deep dive into reviews, as well as the fine print associated with the airline you will be traveling with. This can help you get a better picture of what the cost will be for your checked and carry-on luggage long before you pack and get to the airport. With this in mind before you pack, you’ll have a complete understanding of how much you can bring with you and the most cost-effective way of going about this.
You should also make a habit of weighing your luggage before each flight. Get the exact weight of your bag beforehand by using a digital luggage scale to know if you need to remove any items that could potentially send your bag over the weight limit.
(Bonus tip: Leave a bit of extra weight free in your bag when boarding a plane to your destination. This can help ensure that your luggage will have more room in it for your return flight, as you will most likely have some items you’ll want to bring back with you.)
5 Hidden Fees That Could Drain Your Travel Budget: Foreign Transaction and Currency Fees
When traveling internationally, you are going to need to use the currency of the country you are in to make any purchases. The only exception to this is if you are traveling between countries in a currency union, such as the EU.
For travelers, this often gives them three ways to create a spending plan: purchase currency using foreign exchange services, using a credit card, or using a debit card. While all three have their merits and values, all three can also be associated with fees, but can be significantly mitigated with proper planning.
Foreign currencies usually have some type of fee associated with them, when buying currencies on the foreign exchange market. For example, if you were to purchase currency, you are likely to receive some type of delivery fee.
The catch is that these fees are only charged in your home country. To avoid them, use an ATM or bank in the country you are visiting after you land. This way, you will be able to avoid delivery charges, which will be significantly cheaper than the ATM or bank fees you might get charged.
Credit cards, while favored for travel spending for their reward points, do have their downsides. Due to the nature of credit cards, the downside to using them is that they can be risky. Unmanaged credit card debt can add up quickly, which can lead to accumulating interest fees if not planned for properly.
To avoid this, make sure to track your spending, and make your payments in full every time to avoid incurring high-interest rates. Finally, remember to avoid spending more than about 35% of your total balance, as doing so could negatively impact your credit score.
Finally, debit cards are useful in that they don’t lead to risky debt. However, the downside is that they often have foreign transaction costs and can sometimes incur overdraft fees if not properly managed. However, an easy fix is to use a checking account free of foreign transaction fees, as this can prevent you from overspending, as well as incurring hefty foreign transaction and overdraft fees.
For best results, a combination of all three can help you best manage your finances and avoid fees while abroad, as they will give you a wide range of options to choose from when making a purchase, so that one account is more strained than the other.
5 Hidden Fees That Could Drain Your Travel Budget: Cell Phone Charges
For international travel, you are going to run into fees whenever you use data, make a call, or send a text message. To avoid these fees, consider investing in a SIM card for the country you are traveling to, which will not have any fees, but will have an upfront cost associated with it.
Where possible, always stick to using Wi-Fi for communication and internet browsing. Apps like WhatsApp, or even Facebook messenger don’t use data when making calls or texts, so they won’t have any fees inherent with them. Using Wi-Fi also helps avoid fees associated with data roaming charges, which are extremely costly and will add up fast.
5 Hidden Fees That Could Drain Your Travel Budget: Hotel Fees
The hidden fees associated with hotels are often not as big nor frequent as the previous fees listed, but they should still be avoided at all costs. To start, avoid using things like the minibar in your room, and other extra services that are not explicitly listed as being included in your stay. You should also check to make sure that there are not any other additional fees that can come with using the hotel Wi-Fi or certain TV channels.
Another important point to remember is that some hotels have hidden cleaning fees. These are fairly easy to avoid. Make sure to read reviews and other information on the hotel’s website to be completely certain there are no hidden fees for cleaning.
To play it even safer, make sure you leave the room in good condition once you leave. No matter how much you try to avoid fees, they will be inevitable if you trash the room and cause damages.
Even if you leave your room in perfect condition, there is still a risk that you could get charged for cleaning and damages you did not make. To avoid this, you should take a picture of your room once you get there, and right before you leave. This helps document the condition of your room before and after your stay. You will now have evidence to protect you against any damage charges or cleaning fees that may occur before or after your stay.
5 Hidden Fees That Could Drain Your Travel Budget: Car Rental Fees
Car rentals are a great way to save money on travel expenses in many situations, especially in foreign countries. However, like hotels, any extra cleaning required, or damages to the car will add up to extra fees. Always read the full contract before you sign up for your rental so that you are fully aware of all the fees and rules associated with renting your vehicle.
As always, make sure to take extra safety precautions when driving in a foreign country, and always stay fully alert and aware while behind the wheel. Read up on local traffic laws, and if the country you’re traveling to drives on the left side of the road, spend some time after you’ve picked up your rental to drive in a safe, lower populated area like an empty parking lot. This will help you get a feel for the challenges you may face operating a vehicle you’re not used to. Not only can this keep you from incurring fees from damages, but it can ultimately save your life as well.
It’s vital to be aware that the type of car you chose could cost more. This is referred to as an upgrade fee. While it may be tempting to pick the Jaguar or Corvette, they aren’t going to be the most cost-effective choice. Going for the lowest cost model will not only save you money on the initial cost of renting the car, but oftentimes these cars are more gas-efficient than the sports car on the lot.
When returning the car, make sure you return it with a full tank of gas at the same location you picked it up from. If you don’t drop it off with a full tank, car rental locations will charge by the gallon to refill the car at a rate they set. Furthermore, by dropping it off at the location you picked it up from, you won’t incur any fees that are often associated with changing locations.
Finally, consider getting rental car insurance on the vehicle. While this does cost a bit more upfront, it is going to help prevent extreme charges should there be any damages. Just like with your hotel room, always take pictures of your vehicle before and after use to ensure that it is in good condition and protect you from liabilities should it have incurred damages that you were not responsible for.
At the end of the day, traveling is going to be expensive. However, by properly planning your trip, and reading ahead, you are going to be in a much better spot to avoid hidden fees, save money, and have a fun, stress-free experience!
(*Note from Solo Trekker 4 U: Our expense budgeting and tracking app, Solo Sherpa, is also available for Android devices.)