15 Travel Fees Smart Travelers Always Avoid
Save a bundle on your next trip with these must-know money-saving tips.
Weigh your carry-on before you leave
This is especially true if you’re flying a cheaper airline. “Many low-cost airlines limit the total weight of your carry-on items,” Viktoria Altman of gotraveltipster.com says. “If you’re flying a low-cost airline, check these limits before you pack.” Then, if the total sum of your carry-on weight exceeds airline allowance, “buy additional bag allowance in advance, online, and at least 24 hours prior to departure,” she suggests. “If you wait until you’re at the gate, you’ll often pay triple.” Here are 16 more mistakes to ditch before your next trip to the airport.
Consider the long-term perks of co-branded credit cards
“A smart traveler rarely pays for checked baggage,” Altman says. “Consider getting a co-branded credit card for any airline you would normally fly. Many airline credit cards offer a free checked bag, early check-in, and other perks.” Check out the best credit card reward programs for travelers.
Pack snacks for the kids
“Unless your child is a having a meltdown and your snack bag has been depleted, skip the airplane menu,” Kelli Bhattacharjee of freebiefindingmom.com advises.
Don’t book at the last minute
“Booking at the last minute is one of the worst travel mistakes you can make,” Liana Corwin, resident travel expert for Hopper, says. “It can put you back an average of $139 on domestic trips and $529 on international trips.”
However, if a last-minute booking is unavoidable, Corwin says you can minimize financial penalties by shifting the dates of your trip. According to new research from Hopper, Tuesday is the cheapest day to depart. And you’ll save even more if you return on a Friday.
Wait until you’re at the gate to choose your flight preferences
“Don’t pre-pay to pick your seat in advance. Instead, ask the agent at the check-in counter to place you in a preferred spot,” Altman says. “They have a lot of power. If you’re polite, they will often accommodate your request.”
Don’t take a cab if you don’t need one
Before you leave for the airport, call your hotel and ask if they provide complimentary ground transportation. “Hotels often have shuttle services—either running between the hotel and major airports, between the hotel and downtown, or both,” Corwin says.
But do consider pre-scheduled rides for early morning flights
If you’re leaving at the crack of dawn for a business trip, consider booking a ride with Uber’s Scheduled Rides feature to lock in a lower fare ahead of time. “Using this feature not only helps secure a lower fare but also allows you to skip the fees associated with airport parking or renting a car,” Lexi Levin, Uber’s senior communications associate, says. Here are some other Uber hacks every passenger should take advantage of.
If you’re renting a car, pay for insurance with your credit card
“Rental car insurance coverage fees can easily double the cost of your rental. But most credit cards provide rental car protection,” Sarah Hollenbeck, savings expert at Offers.com, says. “Turn down the additional coverage at the rental counter and pay with your card to avoid those fees.”
At the same time, it’s important to know the protection limits associated with your card. Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews, says some credit card companies won’t cover luxury vehicles. “So if you’re set on driving something in that class, you’ll want to purchase extra insurance,” she says. “Also, know the area where you’re going to be driving. If it’s a no-fault state, or if there is a high rate of uninsured drivers, a fender bender could be extremely costly compared to a state without those issues.”
Ask about your hotel’s WiFi policy
“Make sure your hotel offers free WiFi,” Isar Meitis, travel industry veteran and president of Last Minute Travel, says. “If they don’t, it may be cheaper to add hotspot capabilities to your phone instead of paying the hotel to use their Internet.”
Invest in a travel protection supplement for solo trips to remote areas
“In a medical emergency, most travel insurance policies or platinum card plans will only bring travelers to the closest ‘medically acceptable’ facility if a local doctor deems the transfer necessary,” frequent traveler Rebecca Singelenberg says. “So if a medical transfer is required—which can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000—or if you’re stuck in an international hospital for more than one day, the fees can be exorbitant. Smart travelers heading to remote areas should consider purchasing a protection supplement to get them home if they are hospitalized.” Singelenberg recommends Medjet, a service that arranges air medical transfer to the member’s hospital of choice (not just the closest hospital), regardless of whether it’s deemed necessary. Medjet memberships start at $99. These are the emergency phrases you should commit to memory before you travel.
Be wary of the goodies in your hotel room
“Make sure the water bottle on the bedside table is actually complimentary before you take a swig,” frequent traveler blog SherSheGoes says. “Also, avoid the mini bar—not only are those travel-size Snickers outrageously overpriced, but some hotels will even charge you a restocking fee.”
Go out for breakfast and stay in for dinner
According to recent findings from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, about 62 percent of hotels offer complimentary breakfast. But if a complimentary breakfast isn’t included with your stay, skip it altogether. The SherSheGoes blog advises avoiding paying for breakfast at hotels due to hidden higher prices on early morning menus. “They know you don’t want to walk even a block for a coffee first thing in the morning. On the flip side, many hotels offer great deals at dinner since there are so many restaurant options available and they have to compete on both quality and price if they want your business.” If you do go with the complimentary breakfast, here’s the only thing you should be eating.
If you plan to BYOB, watch out for corking fees
“Cruises will allow passengers to bring their own alcohol on board at times,” Julie Ramhold says. “However, if you want to take your own wine to the dining room, you’ll be forced to pay a corking fee, which can usually amount to between $15 and $25 per bottle. So pop the cork in your stateroom and enjoy at your leisure, whether that’s before or after dinner.” Check out 28 more secrets cruise lines won’t tell you.
Pay in the local currency of the country you’re visiting
Most credit cards come with international transaction fees—but you can minimize them if you run your card in the currency of the country you are visiting. For instance: “If you’re in Europe and your card currency is USD, ask the hotel to charge in EUR and not in USD,” hotelier and travel blogger Mokshta Chauhan says. “If you pay in the local currency, the international transaction fee charged by your bank will be much less.”
Gabe Saglie, senior editor for Travelzoo, recommends following a similar rule when you take out cash in a foreign place. “If you’re traveling internationally, go to the bank or ATM in the country you’re visiting rather than the conversion centers at the airport—they tend to charge large fees,” he says. “You won’t get charged as many fees at the ATM or bank, and the conversion will be exact.”
Challenge hidden gratuity fees at the end of your trip
“Cruise lines charge gratuities automatically. They usually run about $13-15 per person each day,” Tanner Callais, founder of Cruzely.com, says. “This makes it seem like a mandatory extra fee, but many people don’t realize they can talk to guest services at the end of their trip to adjust the gratuity amount. If there’s poor service on the cruise, you don’t have to pay the full charged amount if you don’t think it was earned.”