Many of us are eager to start traveling again, but since it’s been awhile, we may be a little bit rusty when it comes to how to effectively book trips and get around on a budget.
Before taking your next long-awaited vacation, be sure you’re aware of these mistakes that can blow your budget while traveling.
Assuming Rideshares Are Your Cheapest Option for Getting Around
Depending on your destination, rideshares may or may not be the most cost-effective way to get around.
“Just because there’s rideshare in a city doesn’t mean it’s actually available or cheap,” said Alex Miller, founder and CEO of the travel site UpgradedPoints.com. “Many cities have few Ubers or Lyfts, and when they are available, there’s a significant surge in pricing, making these ride options very expensive.”
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Not Canceling a Reservation on Time
If your travel plans change, you should cancel any existing reservations ASAP to avoid losing any deposits.
“Not canceling a reservation on time can cost you penalties,” Miller said. “I’ve seen many travelers need to cancel for one reason or another at the last minute, only to realize they’re beyond the cancellation period.”
Using a Credit Card That Charges Foreign Transaction Fees
Some credit cards charge foreign transaction fees, which means you’ll end up paying more than you need to every time you swipe your card when traveling abroad.
“Foreign transaction fees can really add up, and if you’re not careful with what credit card you use, you could end up with hundreds of dollars of fees in a single trip,” Miller said.
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Exchanging Money at a Currency Exchange Kiosk
The currency exchange kiosks you see at the airport and around popular tourist destinations abroad typically don’t offer the best exchange rates.
“Exchanging money at a typical currency exchange kiosk is very expensive, and there’s always a surcharge or commission to the exchange shop,” Miller said. “If you withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll pay the market exchange rate without any additional mark up. Couple this with a debit card that doesn’t charge any withdrawal fees at ATMs, and you’ve got a great way to withdraw international currency.”
Using a Credit Card To Book Certain Hotels
“Some foreign hotels charge surcharges for paying by credit card,” Miller said. “Not looking at how your room is billed can cost you a lot when checking out.”
Waiting for Airline Tickets To Go on Sale
Airlines will occasionally have sales and promotions, but these are rare and hard to predict.
“Not booking early enough because travelers are waiting for a sale to come out is a big mistake,” said Dianne Hall, founder of GoWalkabout Travel Ltd. “Just because a seat sale came out the year before does not mean it will again the following year. By waiting, they can then miss out on the cheapest tickets for the flight and find themselves paying top dollar if they have no flexibility.”
Staying at a Hotel That Charges for Overnight Parking
Many hotels will allow you to self-park for free, but others will charge you overnight parking fees — and these can be hefty.
“One travel planning mistake people commonly make is not checking to see if their hotel charges a daily parking fee,” said Monica Fish, founder of the trip planning site Planner at Heart. “For example, if you stay for a week at the Wyndham National Harbor right outside of Washington, D.C., you’ll be on the hook for $140 for parking as the hotel charges $20 a night. If you’re traveling to Hawaii this summer, you might experience some parking sticker shock on top of high rental car prices. The Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki charges a budget-busting $49 a night for parking. When comparing hotel prices, make sure to account for any parking fees for your stay!”
Not Factoring in Other Hidden Fees
In addition to parking fees, you should also account for baggage fees when booking flights and resort fees when booking hotels.
“One of the biggest mistakes a person can make when booking a vacation is not reading the fine print,” said Jennifer Jenema, a travel advisor with Passport and Duffel Bag Travel Co. in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Oftentimes there will be hidden fees that are not included in the published price. Baggage fees, parking costs and resort fees can really add up, making what you thought was a great deal more expensive in the end. It’s so important to make sure you understand what is and is not included in the price before you can determine if it’s the best decision. Just because something seems cheaper does not mean that it’s a better value.”
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Not Getting Travel Insurance
Although travel insurance will cost you extra money upfront, it may end up saving you big time.
“One of the common mistakes for travelers is not getting travel insurance to account for unexpected incidents,” said Rax Suen, a travel writer at Nomads Unveiled. “I have had my room broken into while overseas before and had a bunch of my valuables and electronics, including my laptop, stolen. While I still suffered some financial losses, the travel insurance helped to offset some of the costs. It is always good to have some form of insurance protection, especially if you are traveling with expensive gear.”
However, be sure to read the fine print before making your selection.
“Some travel insurance providers might advertise worldwide or regional coverage, but when you take a closer look at what’s offered, the destination or type of activities you do may not be covered,” said Chantae Reden, travel writer at TheSaltSirens.com. “If an accident, injury or mishap arises, you might be forced to pay out of pocket. For example, say a traveler takes out a policy that at first glance covers Southeast Asia. They then go on a trip to East Timor, a country not covered by the policy, and require medical attention. The medical treatment might not be covered, as East Timor was listed in the fine print of not being covered by the ‘Southeast Asia’ policy.”
In this case, you’ll have paid extra money for nothing.
Traveling With Someone Who Has a Bigger Budget
Choose your travel companions wisely, or it can end up blowing your budget.
“It’s hard traveling with friends, but it’s even more difficult when you have two different budgets,” said Alison Watta, creator and owner of ExplorationSolo.com. “If you’re traveling on a hostel/ food truck budget and your friend has money for hotels and fine dining, things can get tricky. Even if everyone agrees on the plan, the person with the larger budget will often try to upgrade. Bit by bit, you may find yourself agreeing to more expensive restaurants and additional outings. If you choose to still travel with your friend, always be firm with your budget and be comfortable saying ‘no.'”
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Overstaying Your Visa
Some countries require a travel visa to enter, and there are usually limits to the length of your stay with this type of visa.
“You should be careful when you are staying close to the allowed number of days on your visa,” said Maarten Cox, founder of the travel planning site Gecko Routes. “Overstays are often very expensive and minutes can make a difference. If your issued visa is for 30 days and your flight back home leaves at midnight, this still counts for one day. If that happens in a country like Indonesia, you’ll have to pay 1.000.000 IDR ($70) per extra day you overstayed in the country.”
Taking Airport Taxis When Abroad
In the U.S., taxi fares are regulated, but this is not the case in every country.
“If you arrive in a new country, taxi drivers will be waiting in queues to bring you to your hotel,” Cox said. “When traveling to Asia, I see taxi drivers charging up to five times as much as the normal fare. My advice is to always check in advance what the regular taxi fares are or use a taxi app.”
And when you are quoted a price, make sure you are clear about what it includes.
“For example, clarify that the rate is for both people and all luggage, not per person or luggage is extra,” said James Ian, a travel expert and blogger at Travel Collecting.
Withdrawing ‘With Conversion’ at Foreign ATMs
“When you withdraw cash in another currency, make sure to always select ‘without conversion,'” Cox said. “ATMs can charge 10-15% extra conversion fees. No matter how ‘low’ the fee is, it will in all cases be higher than your own card would have charged you.”
If your bank has branches abroad, this is your best bet for withdrawing funds without having to pay a foreign bank’s ATM conversion fees.
Waiting Until the Last Minute To Book Your Rental Car
You’ll end up paying more for your rental car if you book shortly before your trip — or worse, upon arrival.
“I looked at domestic bookings by lead time and trip duration and found that the optimum time to book is 31 to 40 days prior to your trip departure,” said Kelly Soderlund, senior director of communications at the corporate travel and expense management company TripActions.
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Booking the All-Inclusive Option When You Won’t Actually Use It
If you book an all-inclusive resort and plan to stay on the hotel’s property the whole time, this can be a good deal. However, if you plan to explore the area while on your trip, you’ll be prepaying for meals you may not even eat.
“Most people make this mistake in excitement without even realizing that they’re not going to stay in the hotel all day,” said Eva Lerma, co-founder of MyTravelTripod. Plus, “street food costs a lot less” than hotel meals.
Going Shopping Early on in the Trip
“It is normal to go shopping during your trip, but doing it early in your trip is a huge mistake,” Lerma said. “If you overspend early in the trip, you’ll mess with your budget, causing problems for you later.”
Trying To Cram in Too Many Activities or Destinations
“People have overly ambitious ideas for how many places they want to see,” said Charlie Neville, marketing manager at JayWay Travel Inc.
In addition to this being exhausting, the more places you have on your itinerary, the more your trip will end up costing.
“Every extra city involves extra costs, whether it’s taxis to and from train stations, or the cost of a train, bus or plane ticket,” Neville said.
Eating Out for Every Meal
“The biggest hidden travel cost is meals,” said Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U and SoloTravelPricingTracker.net. “I always visit a mini-mart or full-service grocery store when I arrive at my destination. Even fast food can be pricey, besides not being healthy.”
While it’s fine to spend some of your travel budget on dining out, preparing some of your own meals or choosing affordable grab-and-go options will help you to stay within your budget.
Not Comparison Shopping for Flights
You may have a preferred airline, but you should look into all your options to make sure you are getting the best deal available.
“Through in-depth flight search and comparison, you can prevent booking a costly ticket by either opting for budget airlines, patching flights by airline hopping, booking months ahead of trip date, or even clearing browser cache and cookies before booking,” said Yulia Saf, blogger at Miss Tourist.
Booking Trips During International Holidays
Just as domestic flights and hotel prices tend to be higher around American holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, trips can be more expensive during international holidays.
“Make sure you check the public holidays of the countries you are visiting,” said Hayley Crane, business development manager at the trip planning and tour booking site Door2Tour.com. For example, “trying to find a hotel in China during Chinese New Year or National Day can be very expensive, and finding [transportation] can be difficult.”
Not Taking Advantage of Discounts You Are Eligible For
Don’t leave free money on the table!
“A costly mistake would be to not check for special travel discounts through organizations and credit cards,” said Kathy McCabe, travel expert and host of the “Dream of Italy” series on PBS. “AARP, AAA, military, professional organizations, alumni groups, the corporation you work and many other groups have negotiated special discounts for members. So be sure to check before you make your travel plans.”
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