37 Hidden Travel Fees You've Probably Paid But Shouldn't Have
Travel budgeting isn't as easy as it seems. Hidden travel fees can take you by surprise and put a damper on your trip. Here are 37 hidden travel fees to be aware of, with some tips on how to avoid them.
Budget airlines are terrible for tacking on hidden fees; it's how they make money. But they're not the only offenders. Here are some unexpected fees to beware of, some of which you'll incur before you even arrive at the airport. (See Also: How to Get Through the Airport Faster)
Taxes and Surcharges
Some airlines sneakily tack on various taxes and surcharges just before the final payment screen. And if you are booking a free flight with frequent flyer miles, remember that it isn't really free; you're still on the hook for the taxes.
Frequent Flyer Mile Cancellation Fee
I recently booked a reward ticket using frequent flyer miles. When I had to cancel, I was told I'd have to pay $150 just to redeposit the miles to my account. You can sometimes avoid this by canceling the reservation and leaving your miles in limbo. Then, use your reservation code to call in later and book different travel with those points; you'll pay a change fee, but it generally works out better. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Frequent Flyer Miles)
Reservation Changes and Cancellation Fees
Changes to your reservation usually result in extra fees, anywhere from $30 to $200.
Booking Over the Phone
Expect an extra fee (approximately $30) to make your reservation over the phone as opposed to online.
Some airlines automatically add travel insurance to your booking, requiring you to specifically deselect it (provided you see the charge in the first place). Read everything carefully before you pay for your flight.
I used long-term airport parking once (the weekly rate was reasonable); imagine my surprise when I was charged double the weekly price because I stayed one extra day.
Some airlines charge extra even for carry-on bags. Depending on how exorbitant the baggage fees are, you might want to ship your baggage separately. To reduce checked baggage fees, fly with carry-on only. (See also: The Ultimate Carry-On Packing List).
Oversized and Overweight Baggage
Even if the airline doesn't charge for baggage, they will penalize you if your bag is overweight or oversized.
You can't carry water through security, and the price of bottled water on the other side is often higher. I carry an empty water bottle with me, and if I can't fill it anywhere in the airport, I ask the flight attendant to fill it on the plane. Added benefit: You're saving on wasteful airline cups.
Airline Meals and Drinks
The more budget the airline, the greater the chances are that you'll pay for meals, snacks, and even drinks (including non-alcoholic drinks). (See also: 15 Easy-to-Pack Airline Snacks)
To fly with a pet, you must call the airline directly to ensure they have a spot available (they only allow a certain number of pets on a plane). This means you'll likely incur a charge to book over the phone in addition to any charges to bring your pet.
In-Flight Movie/Entertainment Devices
Some airlines charge for headsets and/or entertainment devices to watch movies. (See also: How to Budget and Track Expenses for Your Vacation)
Pillows and Blankets
Best to bring some warm clothing to wear on the plane and/or use as a makeshift pillow; having to pay to rent them is a low blow.
Sometimes you won't be aware of hotel hidden fees until it's too late and you're presented with a bill on check-out. Here are some precautions you can take to minimize these fees. (See Also: Is Your Hotel Hiding These 5 Fees in Your Bill?)
Goodies Outside the Minibar
Everybody knows to stay away from the minibar and its exorbitantly-priced snacks. But hotels will sometimes place bottled water or a snack in another part of the room to make it appear complimentary when it's not.
If you've got a car, always check on the parking rates before you book.
Some hotels charge extra for pool, gym, or beach towels. Super budget hotels or hostels may even charge for bath towels and soap.
I recently needed to change a small amount of cash. When I tried to do this at the hotel's front desk, they said I could do it way less expensively elsewhere. I was lucky to have the warning; most times hotels won't afford you that courtesy.
Don't do it. Just don't. Making calls from your room (to any outside line) generally costs an arm and a leg.
Have you ever rented a car and ended up with a bill that is double the rental rate you booked? Here's why. (See also: 10 Easy Ways to Save on Your Next Car Rental)
Insurance fees can easily double your quoted rental rate. Before you accept their exorbitant insurance, check to see if you have automatic coverage either through your personal auto insurance policy or your credit card.
Don't lose that key or accidentally go swimming with the fob!
You're required to return rental cars with the same amount of fuel as you left with. If you choose not to, the rental company will gallantly refill the tank for you — at a premium.
Expect a fee for each extra driver registered on the rental.
If you're under 25, you'll likely pay a surcharge.
Accessing and Converting Money
Accessing cash and converting currencies involve cryptic hidden travel fees. Here are some of the worst culprits.
Credit Card Conversion
Most credit cards charge an automatic conversion fee, averaging 2.5% of the transaction amount. Some vendors give you an option to charge the expense in your home currency; beware! This usually entails even heftier (entirely hidden) conversion charges. (See also: Best Travel Reward Credit Cards)
Debit and ATM Conversion
Your bank is also in on the swindle; debit purchases and ATM withdrawals have hidden currency conversion fees, which are taken off the top and calculated as a percentage of the transaction amount.
In addition to currency conversion, your home bank often will often charge you when you use a foreign ATM, as will the foreign ATM machine/bank. One simple withdrawal can cost up to $10 in combined fees.
Direct Debit Charges
Depending on your bank, you might be racking up per-transaction fees every time you use your debit card for a direct purchase on the road. (See also: Using Your Debit Card on the Road)
Credit Card Advance Fees and Interest
I've visited a few places where my debit card didn't work in ATM machines. I was thus relegated to making withdrawals with my credit card. Not only is there a credit card advance/withdrawal fee, but also, from the day you make the advance, interest accumulates (without the usual grace period as with traditional credit card purchases) — on your entire credit card balance. Imagine my surprise when my statement came two weeks later, and I was slapped with a $5 withdrawal fee and $85 in interest charges. (I always pay off my card in full each month; that was simply compound interest on my purchases that month).
If you must do a credit card cash advance, go online immediately and pay off your card in full to avoid the interest. (See also: Using Your Credit Card on the Road)
Traveler's Cheque Commissions
Traveler's cheques are accepted in fewer and fewer places. And although they're among the least expensive ways to access your money abroad, they're not free of fees, which are generally hidden. Some vendors also charge extra for you to pay with traveler's cheques.
Beware of airport currency exchange counters, which are the most convenient and also the most expensive with hefty hidden commissions. Local bank branches or currency exchange counters in the center of town are usually better options.
General Hidden Travel Fees
But wait — there's more! Here is a collection of random travel expenses you might not have considered.
Cell Phone Roaming
You could end up with hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars in roaming fees in using your cell phone abroad. A $150 10-minute phone call was my hard-earned lesson here.
Now when I travel, I buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card and insert it into my unlocked phone.
You know those payphones in airports that allow you to insert your credit card to make a call? Don't do it. That was another $150 mistake of mine.
Some restaurants in tourist hot spots include gratuity automatically (especially if you're traveling in a group). And they don't point it out; they're hoping you'll miss it and tip on top of it! Scrutinize your bill before you tack on a tip.
On cruises, the gratuity is often added to your bill at the end; don't be surprised at an extra $30 per day, to cover tips for housekeeping and restaurant staff.
Depending on where you go, you may have to apply for a visa to enter the country, which can be pricey. This isn't a hidden travel fee per se, but it might surprise you if it's not in the budget. If you use a travel visa service, the cost will be even higher (but you will save on time and frustration).
If you're leaving pets at home, you might need to pay somebody to care for them. Alternately, save your pennies and put your home and pets in the loving hands of a house-sitter, or consider a home exchange. (See Also: 10 Tips for Landing the Perfect House-Sitting Gig)
From hotel Internet to airport connections to in-flight Wi-Fi, the Internet isn't always free. In some hotels, the Wi-Fi is free in the lobby and common areas, but you pay for it in your room.
Don't get caught out at the airport at the last minute by departure tax! Although sometimes it is included in the cost of airfare, other times you'll need to pay up before you can leave the country. And in many cases, they only accept cash.
Have you ever been caught out by hidden travel fees? What were they?