Unexpected Travel Costs To Consider in Advance

Young blonde woman sitting inside an airplane, using laptop and drinking coffee.
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We often travel to experience the freedom and relaxation of being on vacation, even for just a few days. Whether you’re traveling for an extended time, or just for a quickie weekender, you want to be able to get to your destination and release the stress you leave behind in your daily working life. In order to best set yourself up for travel success, you want to be sure you’ve created a realistic budget for all the expenses you’re likely to incur. This means thinking ahead and considering some expenses that might have slipped your mind or haven’t even made it onto your radar. Here are some unexpected travel costs to consider before you ever leave the house:

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Cellular Roaming Fees

When you travel out of your regular cellular network, or off Wi-Fi, you can begin to incur roaming charges or use up your data package, which requires costly additional data purchases. Instead, Airolo.com recommends you check with your carrier to see if they have packages and plans you can buy in advance that will, at least, limit how much you spend on travel data. Additionally, use local Wi-Fi whenever possible.

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Baggage Check Fees

Airlines were already beginning to charge baggage check fees before the pandemic, but many used to offer one free bag per customer. Now, many charge for all baggage checked. So, according to Lifehack.com, prepare in advance to pay these fees, join an airline membership program that offers free or cheaper baggage check, or pack lightly so you don’t need to check bags at all.

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Airline Snacks

The pandemic has also changed the way food is provided on flights. Most flights do not offer complimentary food beyond some sort of small packaged snack and non-alcoholic beverages. Remember, too, that if you purchase snacks in the airport, they’ll likely be a lot more expensive than if you buy them at a grocery store and pack them on board with you. According to USNews.com, some rewards credit cards offer cash back that will more than cover the cost of travel snacks, but it’s probably best to bring your own.

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Flight and Hotel Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi may be complimentary on some flights and in hotels, but it’s not guaranteed. These costs can add up, especially if you’re staying multiple days. Loyalty programs and mileage accounts may offer these services to you free, according to USNews.com, but it may end up being a better idea to just pre-load a device with movies, shows or games in advance to stay entertained while you’re traveling.

Parking and Transportation Fees

If you’ve already rented a car, you’ve probably factored in the cost of transportation, but you may have forgotten to consider parking costs, depending upon where you’re going. While most parking lots take a credit card, there are some that still rely upon cash, so be sure to have some you’ve budgeted on hand. Additionally, if you are going somewhere that you did not think to rent a car, such as a resort, you may still find at some point you want to go somewhere. Whether that means taking a bus, a train, a shuttle or something else, be prepared to have some cash or credit easily accessible for getting around, according to How Stuff Works’ money experts.


How much you spend on souvenirs will vary widely depending on where you’re going, whether you have children with you and if you’re buying gifts. For instance, you will spend more money on souvenirs at somewhere like Disneyland than you would on a beach or nature vacation. The Stuffed Suitcase recommends budgeting about $50-$100 per person for souvenirs, but this will vary from person to person and family to family. Know your limits and stick to them.

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Emergency Expenses

No matter how well you plan, emergencies happen–whether that is an injury, a theft, a loss of an item or other problem. It’s a good idea to have some cash on hand or a credit card that is not close to maxed out for anything that comes up, according to LifeHack.org.

Testing COVID-19 Positive

One emergency that could occur during the pandemic, particularly if you are not vaccinated, is testing positive for COVID-19 while on vacation. What does this mean for your budget? Well, consider that, on average, rapid tests run between $137 for a rapid PCR test and $189 for a rapid antigen test, according to Mira Health. Depending on how many people in your party need to get tested, that cost will add up quickly. Then, if you do test positive, and are required to quarantine, this may add additional hotel days to your stay. The CDC recommends a quarantine period of 10 days–that could potentially add hundreds to thousands of dollars to your budget. You will most likely need to have food delivered to your room, as well, which incurs delivery fees on top of the cost of food. You may also have to pay cancellation or change fees on scheduled activities and flights. Though this is a worst-case scenario, at the very least, you’ll want to have a credit card that can handle this much unexpected expenditure.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

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