Airlines, hotels, cruises and resorts seem to offer rock-bottom prices for otherwise expensive items, such as flights from the United States to Europe. For example, WOW Air recently offered a $55 promotional fare on some flights from the U.S. West Coast to Europe. That’s practically like getting a great escape for pennies on the dollar. But not all travel deals are as cheap as they seem.
Before you make travel plans, remember to budget for fees, which can show up on everything from flights to hotels to car rentals — and even your smartphone. Click through to see 20 travel fees you’ll likely encounter while globetrotting, and find out how to avoid unnecessary travel costs when you can.
1. Basic Economy Fees
American Airlines, United and Delta rolled out “basic economy” fares in the first half of 2017, which many travelers assumed were meant to compete with low-cost carriers such as Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines. But basic economy fares might not be less expensive than what the regular economy fares were before the new fares were implemented, NPR reported. And on many of these tickets, basic amenities — such as the use of overhead bins — trigger a fee or just aren’t available. In other words, your cheap flight probably isn’t so cheap.
For example, American and United allow one small bag that fits under the seats in basic economy. If a traveler with a basic economy ticket tries to bring a larger bag onboard a United flight, they will be charged a $25 service fee per bag, on top of the standard fee for checked baggage. Some carriers, such as United, will allow their elite frequent fliers and cardholders to ditch the fees. So if you expect to fly basic economy regularly, it might be worth applying for a credit card that will save you from racking up fees.
2. Foreign Transaction Fees
Many credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases you make outside of your home country, with the typical fee being about 3 percent of the purchase price. Although 3 percent might not sound like a lot, it can add up quickly.
You can avoid these fees by paying as much of your travel costs in advance, as possible, while at home. Or, use credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, among others.
3. Rental Car Collision Insurance Fees
If you want to save money on rental cars, avoid buying rental car collision insurance you really don’t need. Many rental car companies will try to sell you collision damage waivers when you rent a car, which comes with a price tag of an extra $20 to $40 per day in exchange for the extra coverage.
But many travelers don’t know that they often are covered through their own car insurance or through the credit card they use to book the reservation. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover all include some form of collision insurance when renting a car, so there’s no need to pay the rental company for coverage you already have.
4. Rental Car Airport Fees
Some rental car companies charge what they call “concession recovery fees,” which pass fees they pay to operate within the airport on to the customer. That can drive up the rental cost of the car by up to 13 percent, depending on the airport. These fees aren’t part of the base price of the car quotes by the rental car company.
The best way to determine the cost of the concession recovery fee is to compare the cost of the same car at an airport and a nearby non-airport pickup location. Of course, you’ll have to factor in the cost of an Uber, bus or taxi to any rental location not at the airport. But even with that cost, you could save a bundle on the rental fee.
5. Data Roaming Fees
It can be especially tempting to post updates to social media when traveling abroad, but be careful. Data roaming charges in a foreign country can be incredibly expensive. Fees from carriers such as AT&T can be as much as $2.05 per megabyte, leaving travelers who don’t know how much data they have used facing staggering bills upon their arrival home.
Fortunately, many carriers are starting to offer inclusive daily data rates to match your plan at home, with Verizon offering such a plan for $10 per day, or $5 daily in Canada and Mexico. Or just wait until you’re back at the hotel to upload your photos to Instagram using WiFi. Most hotels, resorts and even hostels will offer WiFi for free or for a smaller fee than you would pay to use data while — literally — roaming abroad.
6. Hotel WiFi Fee
Ironically, the higher-end hotels and resorts are the ones more likely to charge you for WiFi. Chains that are more budget-friendly, such as Holiday Inn, offer free WiFi. But pricier chains often charge significant daily fees to go online while staying at one of their properties.
There are a few workarounds you can use to avoid paying for WiFi. You can use your phone as a mobile hotspot (within the United States at no charge) to connect to the internet. Or, join a hotel’s loyalty program, where you often can then receive free WiFi as a guest.
7. ATM Fees
Don’t expect to find a Wells Fargo ATM while strolling the banks of the River Seine in Paris — or any other American bank abroad, for that matter. But beware that when you simply withdraw cash from any old ATM, fees can run up to $5 per withdrawal, depending on where you are and which bank’s ATM you use.
You can avoid these fees, however, by using your bank’s partner bank — BNP Paribas in France for Bank of America cardholders, for example. Just ask your bank who its international partners are, and make a note of where the ATMs are. You don’t want to pay to access your own money just because you’re abroad.
8. Eurail Train Reservation Fees
Eurail is one of the least expensive — and most scenic — ways to travel between cities and countries in Europe. And it might seem like a good idea to make a reservation in advance when traversing Europe by train.
But as Eurail itself notes, in most cases you don’t need a reservation. Outside of holidays and other peak travel times, you usually just can show up at the train station, buy your ticket there and hop on the next train. This is especially true if you are willing to take a regional train that makes more stops in quaint villages along the way, instead of hopping on an express train taking you straight to your destination. Considering that reservation fees can add a few dollars to your fare, it might be worth taking the gamble.
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9. Cruise Port Fees
One of the benefits of taking a cruise is the opportunity to see multiple destinations on one trip, but don’t be fooled. Every time you arrive at a port, you will likely be charged a port fee. Port fees go toward taxes, charges and tolls a government or a port imposes upon boats pulling up to its docks.
Although there is no way to get around port fees, you can try to avoid higher fees by checking online to see how much these fees will add to the cost of your ticket. It might be worth comparing different cruise lines or trips to look for lower fees, or follow these insider tips to save more money on your cruise.
10. Visa Fees
Americans enjoy the privilege of traveling to many countries around the world without a visa. But you’ll need to buy a tourist visa when visiting some countries. And these visas can be expensive. A visa to visit Russia, for example, can cost between $90 and $540, depending on how many entries you will make into the country and how quickly you need to receive it.
There is no way to avoid paying for visas to some countries. But booking well in advance can keep you from having to pay for an expedited visa, which can add a significant cost to your bill — $85 for travel to Nigeria, for example.
11. Non-Internet Airline Booking Fees
You might wonder what difference it makes to an airline how you book your ticket. Whether online, in person or over the phone, it’s all revenue in the airline’s pocket, right? Well, if you’d like to talk your flight options through with a customer service rep, either on the phone or in person, that’s going to cost you.
United charges $25 to book tickets on the phone and $50 to book at the airport. American Airlines’ fee to book through its reservations center is $25 for domestic travel and $35 for international travel. Even booking a premium cabin doesn’t circumvent these fees.
So if you’re looking to book for free, either stick with online, or consider flying another airline. Delta, for example, eliminated the fee for all tickets except those issued in select European countries. It also waives the charge for all Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members.
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12. Airline Pet Boarding Fees
If you want to bring your beloved cat or dog onboard the airplane, it’ll cost you. The fees vary among airlines — Southwest charges $95, American charges $125 and Delta charges $75 to $200. But no airline is going to let you get away with toting your toy poodle in your handbag as a piece of gratis carry-on luggage. However, if your animal is a documented emotional support animal or service animal, most airlines will not charge a fee.
13. Tourism Tax
Tourism taxes are often hidden in hotel bills, or imposed on visitors the moment they get off the plane and are faced with the requirement to buy a tourist visa in the airport.
The Balearic Islands of Ibiza and Mallorca are famous for this tax. Although the islands are synonymous with holidays, hotels there will charge up to 2 euros per night per person as a tourist tax, meaning a two-week vacation for two people could cost up to an extra 56 euros — about $65, depending on the exchange rate. But some tourist fees can work to your advantage.
Bhutan, for example, requires visitors to purchase a minimum tour package that costs between $200 and $250 per day. But, it covers travel within the country, lodging, meals and a tour guide. It also funds something called a “sustainable development fee,” which goes toward free education and healthcare, along with infrastructure development, in the country.
14. International Departure Tax
A departure tax is a fee — often added into your plane ticket price — that you pay to be allowed to leave the country. And the fees aren’t cheap. The price in Australia is $48 ($60 AUD). And the United Kingdom is famous for having some of the world’s most onerous departure taxes in the world: Departure fees for travelers on long-distance, business class tickets can run up to about $195 (150 British pounds).
The good news is that children under 16 are exempt from the tax, at least in the U.K. And if you’re traveling in multiple countries and don’t have a specific order you have to see them in, it might be worth exploring traveling via train to a departure country on your itinerary that doesn’t impose a fee for visitors just for the privilege of leaving. Chunnel to Paris, anyone? The U.K.’s Air Passenger Duty is 150 pounds, while France’s is only 22.60 euros. That’s about $200 vs. $26.
More Travel Gotchas: 13 Hidden Expenses to Watch Out for When Vacationing in Europe
15. Resort Fees
Resort fees cover amenities, such as newspapers and the gym, that you might or might not use during your stay. They aren’t usually advertised as part of the room rate and can run an average of about $25 per day, Reuters reported.
It’s always good to call and ask whether resort fees are included in the price. You might be able to get a fee waived if you tell the resort representative that it’s a factor in whether you choose to book a stay at the resort. During the phone call, also ask about other hidden hotel fees.
16. One-Way Fees for Car Rentals
In some cases while traveling, the journey is as much the point as the destination. Consider a scenic drive along California’s Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco, or Argentina’s Ruta 40, which runs from the north of the country all the way to the south along the coast.
But if you’re renting a car to make the trip, prepare to pay extra for dropping the car off at a different location from where you picked it up. This fee can be surprisingly easy to circumvent — just use “one way” as a search term, and you might find coupons that waive the fee. Hertz now offers one-way car rental packages with no separate drop-off fees.
17. Award Ticket Fees
The whole point of an award ticket is that it costs nothing to you, right? So it can come as an unpleasant surprise when booking a ticket using the miles or points you’ve accumulated that you’ll have to pay a fee to have an award ticket issued. And should you need to cancel your ticket, there will be another fee to have the miles re-deposited into your account — for example, Delta charges $150.
Sometimes there is a rush booking fee to use miles for tickets for flights less than 21 days before departure, as well. United charges $75 for award tickets booked within three weeks of the departure date. Use your miles for trips you are able to plan out well in advance to avoid being charged. And if you do need to book or cancel reservations at the last minute, it helps to have status with an airline that sometimes will waive fees for high-status members.
18. Corkage Fees on Cruises
Like in many restaurants, if you bring a special bottle or two to enjoy on your cruise and want to enjoy it with dinner, be prepared to see a corkage fee on your final bill. Royal Caribbean charges a corkage fee of $15 per bottle, as does Carnival Cruise Line.
But packing a spectacular bottle you’ve been saving for a special occasion doesn’t have to cost you. An easy way to avoid this travel fee is to simply open the bottle yourself and enjoy it in your room before heading to dinner or the bar.
19. Hotel Shipping and Delivery Fees
Maybe you’ve spent your vacation stocking up on souvenirs and are eager to ship some home to avoid carrying them through the airport. Or maybe you realized you left an important item at home and need to have it shipped to you. Either way, you might assume that your hotel would be happy to mail your things out or receive them for you.
But beware, a fee might apply. For example, the Hyatt Regency San Antonio charges guests up to $25 to drop off or receive a package. There might be no way to avoid the fee if you need to receive a package while traveling. If you need to ship, look around for a post office to do the shipping on your own.
20. Mandatory Valet Parking Fees
You might prefer to park your car in a hotel’s garage yourself, but some hotels no longer offer that option. For example, the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles charges $36 per night. Some companies, such as Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, will waive the fee for elite members of its rewards club. If valet parking fees are going to add hundreds of dollars to a longer hotel stay, it’s worth exploring other parking options, or seeing if taking Ubers and taxis might be more economical.
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