“Travel when you’re young, or you’ll regret that you didn’t.”
This was the mantra I had heard from every adult in my life way back when I first left college. And not to lie, it’s definitely advice I’d give to younger generations now. But, there’s one key component that’s often forgotten about when it comes to travel: the cost.
Traveling isn’t cheap. And it’s not just the flight and the hotel costs you have to think about, it’s the little ones too (hotel fees, airport food costs, etc.), because those are the ones that really add up.
1. Frequent flyer booking fees
Enrolling in frequent flyer programs won’t always get you a bargain. If you’re booking a flight with frequent flyer miles, you might still be charged a “redemption fee”, especially if your booking is late (and “late” varies from airline to airline).
Book as early as possible, or use miles (if you can) from an airline program without late booking fees, like Southwest or JetBlue.
2. Flight fuel surcharges
These sneaky airline charges usually won’t kick in unless you’re redeeming flyer miles or points. And they’re far more common on international flights. But fees like “flight fuel surcharges” can still be pretty hefty, and not easy to locate when you’re buying a ticket.
Before you book your flight, enter its details into Google ITA Matrix to reveal hidden fees (look in the “carrier-imposed surcharge” column).
3. Travel insurance
Internet algorithms likely showed you pricey travel insurance policies as soon as you started planning your trip. Luckily, If you’re a credit card holder you may already be covered. Most fee-based cards come with some form of travel insurance coverage, including reimbursement for trip cancellations and lost luggage.
Read more: Best Credit Cards For Travel Insurance 2021
For those who want extra peace of mind, a decent travel insurance policy shouldn’t be more than 5% of your trip’s total cost. Coverage for longer trips tends to be pricier; so does coverage for trips to countries where health care is expensive. Some plans offer optional levels of insurance, like rental car coverage, identity theft protection, and non-emergency cancellation, for higher fees. Policyholders can generally choose whether to tack on these extras.
You might also get the option to add a deductible – an amount you’re willing to pay out of pocket if you make a claim. A high deductible gets you a lower premium cost upfront, but it also puts you on the hook for a major payment if you end up using the insurance (which can be easy for travelers to forget!).
Most airlines will give you the opportunity to opt into travel insurance before you book your ticket. But some airlines will add it to the cost of the flight without giving you the option — so you’ll have to do the extra work of “opting out” before making the purchase.
4. Flight reservation changes and cancellation fees
This isn’t a hidden fee — it’s pretty transparent upon booking — but travel plans often change, and most airlines will charge a fee for changing or canceling a flight. Fees can range into the hundreds of dollars, so you really don’t want to get caught paying the price.
Most airlines will let you change or cancel for free within 24 hours of booking. If your credit card has travel cancellation or interruption insurance for a qualified reason, you may be able to take advantage of it (depending on why you need to change your plans).
5. Booking over the phone
A number of airlines add a convenience charge when you book a flight on the phone or in-person instead of making the booking online.
If you prefer a personal touch, look into airlines that don’t charge for this service.
6. Airline seat selection fees
Different airlines have different policies, but many are charging customers for the privilege of selecting their own seats. If you want extra legroom, aisle or window seats, or a spot next to your traveling companions, you’ll pay a premium ranging from an extra $4 to almost $100.
If possible, skip the seat selection process when booking your ticket. Alternatively, buy a Basic Economy ticket — the cheapest, no-frills fare — which usually connects you to any available seat.
7. Restaurants in tourist traps
Eateries near travel-heavy locations are more expensive than their counterparts elsewhere, whether they’re fancy sit-down restaurants or grab-and-go spots. You’re essentially paying a surcharge for atmosphere and convenience.
Plan ahead for meals and snacks, especially if you’re visiting a spot with a ton of tourist traffic. Research nearby budget-friendly restaurants ahead of time (they may be only a few blocks from the center of the action) or shop at a grocery store and bring your own meal if it’s allowed.
8. Airline and airport food
Even the most money-conscious travelers get a little frazzled in airports, where hungry fliers don’t have many options beyond restaurants with a $5 snack-size bag of chips and $16 cocktails. With fewer airlines offering free in-flight meals for travelers with economy tickets, you’ll pay markups for food in the air too.
Pack some non-perishable food for your flight and layovers – liquids can’t go through airport security, but solid food should be fine. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up in the water fountain once you’ve checked in. You might want to bring more food on multi-leg journeys or budget for an airport meal or two if necessary.
9. Hotel occupancy taxes (domestic and international travel)
Many cities and states in the US charge hotel occupancy taxes — look under the “lodging tax” column for a breakdown by state. Airbnbs and other forms of lodging will collect this tax too.
Research before you go and add the tax into your budget as you plan how much to spend on housing.
10. Hotel resort fees
Have you ever heard of a ? Unless you read the fine print when your last vacation, you probably didn’t even realize that you paid this hidden cost!
These tacked-on charges are usually buried in the fine print when you book an upscale hotel. They can run as high as $45 per night; if you prepaid, they’ll be charged when you check out. They’re intended to cover extra privileges of the hotel (like the pool and the in-room phone) whether or not you take advantage of them.
Resort fees are controversial, and legislators are fighting them on a federal level, so they might be on their way out.
Hotels are actually required to disclose this fee when you book, even if they make the information nearly impossible to find. Ask an agent or read the hotel’s info on their website. Hotels.com is a good resource to see all the fees you’re expected to pay.
If you already made your reservation, you can try your luck negotiating the fee when you check-in. Find out what perks it covers, and if you don’t plan to use them, see if you can get the fee waived or reimbursed.
11. Hotel parking fees
You’re often charged to use the private hotel parking lot, especially in cities with high population density and limited parking.
Check the fine print for a parking fee before you book, and look at Google Maps to see if you can find a cheaper parking garage nearby. If you opt for street parking, pay attention to local parking regulations so you’re not stuck with a ticket.
12. Airbnb service fee
Whenever Airbnb guests book accommodations or other services through the platform, they’re charged a 6% to 12% service fee. This added cost won’t appear on the main page where you see the price-per-night rates; the price is updated when you select your check-in and check-out dates. You’ll be able to see the full cost before you book a reservation.
There isn’t a way around this one, unfortunately. But when you’re initially comparing prices on Airbnb you can add around 12% to the price per night, getting an upper-end estimate of what you’ll end up paying.
Read more: Hotels Vs. Airbnb: How Much Can You Save?
13. Airbnb cleaning fee
Many, though not all, Airbnb hosts charge an additional fee to cover the cost of cleaning. Some include the fee in the price of the room while others list it separately.
The fee will vary based on many factors since hosts get to set their prices. Long-term guests (those staying a week or more) might be charged less than short-term guests depending on how often the host wants the place cleaned.
If you think your cleanup needs will be minimal, look for an Airbnb that has no cleaning fee (or a small one).
14. Traveling to and from the airport
This cost isn’t really hidden as much as overlooked. The most convenient option—a cab from the airport to your destination and vice versa—is often the priciest.
Instead, find out if a train, bus, or subway travels to and from the airport; larger city airports are often connected to some form of public transit.
If that option isn’t practical, consider sharing an Uber or Lyft with other travelers and splitting the cost.
15. Airport parking
Airport parking fees add up, especially if you’re leaving the car for a while.
Long-term or satellite parking lots are the cheapest (they’re furthest from the airport). Find out if you’re being charged by the day or the week to park so the charges don’t surprise you.
16. Rental car insurance
Rental cars can ultimately save money on a trip where you’re traveling to remote areas. And if you’re renting one, it might be tempting to get the extra insurance that all try to sell you at the counter.
But in most cases, this will be an unnecessary expense. The fine print on many credit cards includes rental car insurance, so you may already be covered. And if you have car insurance at home, your policy might cover rental cars too.
Find out if you already have car rental insurance coverage by checking with your credit card or car insurance company. And check out these tips to save cash on car rentals.
17. Rental car alternate drop-off
This charge kicks in if you plan to drop off your rental car in a location that’s different from where you started. These fees will vary based on where you are and where you’re going.
Ask if the rental car company has this fee (not all of them do) before you sign on the dotted line.
18. Rental car fuel charges
If you don’t return a rental car with a full tank of gas, you’ll get charged for it — and the charges can go as high as $8 per gallon.
Make sure to fill the tank before you drop off the car. Plan ahead so you have time to find a reasonably priced gas station since stations close to rental car drop-off points and tourist hubs are often pricier. But even if you have to use an expensive station, it’s still cheaper to get the tank filled.
19. Overweight baggage fees
If you’ve ever checked luggage at an airport, you’ve seen the airport scale. Bags over the airline’s weight limit, usually around 50 pounds, get hit with hefty surcharges which can go above $100 per bag.
Train and bus travelers aren’t off the hook either. Amtrak charges $20 for oversized bags, but they measure by height: anything above 75 linear inches (length + width + height) is charged.
Greyhound also has a 50-pound cutoff for checked luggage. They’ll ship overweight baggage to your destination for a $39-49 charge.
Make sure to weigh or measure your luggage before you leave to make sure you’re under the limit. Place heavier compact items in your carry-on luggage — carry-ons have a size limit but no weight limit on airplanes — or leave them behind. You can even invest in a luggage scale if you fly a lot.
20. Checked baggage fees
Almost all air travelers are familiar with these annoying fees. Most airlines start charging $25 for the first checked bag, while some will only charge for a second bag. A handful of airlines — Southwest is one of them — give you a free checked bag on domestic flights.
You have a little more room with train and bus travel. Greyhound lets you check up to three free bags, and Amtrak lets you check two for free. Additional checked luggage is charged $20 apiece.
To avoid these fees, consolidate as you pack. If you’re flying and want to avoid checked luggage altogether, stick to the 3.4-ounce containers for liquids to get through security. You’ll save cash by purchasing anything else you need at your destination.
If you’re in a frequent flyer loyalty program, find out if you get a free checked bag as a perk.
21. Luggage storage after checkout
This charge may apply if you’re checking out of a hotel or Airbnb in the morning but don’t want to haul your bags around in the afternoon.
You can request a late checkout or ask if you can stash your bags for a limited time. If the hosts don’t plan to fill the room immediately they may let you leave some luggage for free.
22. Tipping internationally
Tipping etiquette differs from country to country. In North America, tipping is expected for restaurant service, and at least 20% is considered appropriate.
In other countries where servers may earn more (and where accepting large tips may be a cultural taboo), you don’t need to budget quite as much.
Make sure to do some research and learn how much you’re expected to tip for different services whenever you travel. You can easily do this by executing a quick Google search.
23. Departure fees (for certain countries)
Yes, some countries — including Cambodia, China, and the Philippines — charge you to leave. The fee is usually included in the price of your plane ticket, but a few countries will spring the departure tax on you at the airport.
Unfortunately, this one isn’t really avoidable, but you can plan ahead by researching whether you’re expected to pay departure tax for your destination (and whether you need extra airport cash).
24. Guided tours
Guided tours can be a great way to see a city, but a lot of them are pricey, especially if they’re heavily advertised online before you reach your destination.
With a little shopping around you’ll find most big cities have cheap or even free tours that are less well known. Check out Free Tours by Foot or Guruwalk if you’re able to walk long distances. Though the tours are free, it’s appropriate to tip the guide.
25. Destination parking costs
Even free attractions may charge for parking, which is sometimes an expense that travelers forget about.
Look into available public transportation. The destination’s website will usually mention parking and transit options, including any fees attached.
26. Tourist taxes (international)
Big-ticket travel cities in Europe, and elsewhere around the world, often charge tourist taxes that vary widely by city.
In most cases, they’re under the equivalent of $10 a day, but in some far-flung countries, like New Zealand or Bhutan, they’re much higher. You’ll usually pay them when you check-in or out of your accommodation.
This is another fee you can’t do much to avoid without disrupting your travel plans. Research your destination’s taxes and work them into your budget.
27. Foreign currency exchange – cash and credit cards
It’s easy to think you’ll complete the cash exchange once you get to the airport. But currency exchange counters in high-volume tourist areas, like airports and hotels, usually overcharge.
Research the best exchange rates before you travel abroad. Once you’re at your destination, go to a local bank — they’re likely to have better rates. Or visit a bank to change your cash to the local currency before you leave.
Many credit cards also tack on foreign transaction fees of up to 3% for international charges. This can add up quickly when you’re on the road.
Read your card’s fine print to find out if foreign transaction or currency exchange fees apply.
To avoid the fee, switch to a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card.
Read more: Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards
28. ATM fees
When you withdraw cash from an international ATM or use your debit card for purchases, there’s almost always an added ATM fee.
Banks tack on charges to use their ATMs unless you already have an account — this applies both in the United States and abroad. And there are additional fees for international transactions.
Combined, these charges could add up to over $10 every time you get cash or use your card. Still, the ATM conversion rates are often cheaper than other forms of foreign currency exchange.
To skip the fee, keep your cash withdrawals strategic, and make sure you take out as much as you need each time. If you do use an ATM abroad, make sure it’s affiliated with a bank, since private ATMs charge even more.
29. Credit card advance fees
These fees kick in if you use your credit card to make an ATM withdrawal domestically or internationally. The advance fee itself is around $5, and you’ll be charged a higher compounding interest on your entire remaining credit card balance.
30. Traveler’s cheque commissions
Traveler’s cheques are becoming rarer these days; most of us pay via plastic or phone. If you do use traveler’s cheques you might face a hefty commission to get them cashed (some vendors will add a fee for the inconvenience).
Minimize your use of traveler’s cheques and get them cashed at a local bank rather than a high-traffic airport kiosk.
31. Cell phone data and roaming charges (international)
International roaming isn’t cheap. Travelers often don’t realize the full amount they’re paying to text, call, or use data abroad until they return home to their cell phone bill.
Before you go, ask your cell phone provider what international plans they have for travelers.
You can also get a prepaid global SIM card—these can be purchased before you go abroad or at your destination in most cases. Prepaid cards ensure you use only the cash on the card, so you know how much you’re spending. You’ll need to unlock your phone to use the card; some people purchase unlocked phones just for travel.
Otherwise, keep your phone in airplane mode (which turns off WiFi connections) unless you’re in a spot with free WiFi.
32. Hotel WiFi
Some hotels in the United States and abroad do charge for WiFi in this day and age. Prices can exceed $20 daily. Hotels may also offer free WiFi in common areas like the lobby but charge for it in your room.
Book a spot with complimentary WiFi, or invest in a portable wireless modem or pocket WiFi to take with you.
33. Airport and in-flight WiFi
Some airports, but not all, charge for WiFi. In-flight WiFi can rack up charges too. There are subscription plans, but they’re pretty pricey (starting at $50/month) and can be a hard extra to justify.
If you’re taking a laptop, open any applications you plan to use while you’re still on your home connection. You’ll load less data at the airport.
Once you’re in flight, avoid the WiFi entirely to save major cash; functionality is pretty limited. Airlines may be planning to improve their in-flight WiFi (and drop their prices) in the near future, though, so stay tuned.
Travel doesn’t have to break the bank. There will definitely be surprises and adventures since that’s the nature of traveling, but the biggest surprise shouldn’t be the amount on your credit card bill.
Any of the tips and cards above will help you keep unexpected expenses to a minimum and enjoy yourself as much as possible.