It’s finally time to hit the road and take to the skies. You’ve prepaid for your flight, hotel, and rental car. So, the only things left to pay for are your meals, gas, and souvenirs.
Think again! There are several hidden travel fees you could run into while getting to your destination, arriving home, or anywhere in-between. By adding these extra charges up, you could pay way more than you originally planned.
From resort fees to parking costs, it helps to do your research before you head out. So, let’s look at the more common hidden travel fees you will likely encounter on your next trip.
Airport Parking Fees
Are you driving to the airport or riding in a fellow traveler’s car? Unfortunately, parking at the airport isn’t free. And even if you park offsite, there’s nearly a 100% chance you’ll have to pay to park at an offsite lot or garage.
That’s because most nearby hotels discourage travelers from parking in the lots guests have to use. So instead, these lots require guests to use a temporary parking pass and provide the car’s license plate and description to the front desk.
The parking fees you’ll pay are usually charged daily or weekly. You’ll also pay various rates for open versus covered parking. However, researching the prices and specials at the airport and different offsite lots can help you get the best deals.
Checked Bag Fees
You used to get so many carry-on and checked bags included in the price of your flight. Sadly, this is a rare occurrence nowadays. Most, if not all, airlines limit carry-on bags and charge for checked bags. Carry-on bags also must meet certain size restrictions.
Complicating matters is the available overhead bin space. If you’re in one of the last boarding groups, there may not be enough space to store your carry-ons. You’ll have to check them at the gate for a fee. Some airlines even charge for bringing carry-ons on board.
Before choosing an airline or booking a flight, look at the carrier’s baggage fees. Some airlines, such as Southwest, let you check two bags without charging extra.
Be willing to shop around or change airlines if you want to avoid checked baggage fees—otherwise, figure in these costs.
Hotel Resort Fees
Resort fees are something hotels with a lot of amenities sometimes charge. It usually shows up as an added percentage to your nightly rate. For example, say you book a hotel for $90 a night. A 10% resort fee means you’ll pay an additional $9 per night.
The resort fee may cover the use of the pools, spa facilities, exercise rooms, and other amenities. You pay this fee regardless of whether you use any of these facilities. That being said, hotels must disclose this fee upfront.
When you book the room, you should receive a disclosure of any resort fees and the percentages. If you prepay your booking, you’ll also prepay these charges.
Some travelers don’t mind paying for amenities, but you can often get a better deal by avoiding hotels that charge these fees.
Money Under 30 offers more great information on avoiding hidden fees.
International Cellphone Roaming and Data Charges
Are you planning on taking your cellphone with you overseas? You’ll likely pay more for roaming and data use there. This is because many wireless carriers charge different fees per their agreements with local companies in each country.
Before going, check with your carrier to see if you can use your phone and buy an international roaming plan to control your costs. Besides this strategy, you can opt for a SIM card with a local number or a prepaid phone at your destination.
Saving on data charges is a little more straightforward. You can use complimentary Wi-Fi at restaurants, public places, and hotels. Some carriers also won’t charge for certain things, like incoming text messages. Ask your carrier ahead of time and plan to limit your data use.
Rental Car Add-Ons
Renting a car might be more convenient. You don’t have to rely on public transportation options and schedules. However, there are other expenses besides the fees and taxes to rent a car.
Some of the additional charges you might pay include:
- Liability and collision insurance
- Fuel surcharges
- Additional driver fees
- Under 25 driver fees
Here’s a secret rental car companies won’t tell you. Most insurance companies will cover you in a rental car if you have full coverage. A credit card will also cover you up to a certain amount if you book the rental with that card.
Check these options before adding insurance coverage with the rental car company. Another thing you’ll want to do is fill up the car’s gas tank before you return it. Don’t prepay for fuel or return the vehicle with anything less than a full tank. You’ll usually pay more if you do.
Hotel Onsite Parking Fees
This one can come as a surprise, primarily if you’re used to parking in hotel lots for free. But the hotel might not even let you park your car in cities where parking is scarce. So instead, they may charge for mandatory valet parking in an onsite garage.
Even if you get to park the car yourself, having to park in a protected garage may come with an extra charge. So, check the fine print when you book the hotel room. Any parking or valet fees should be listed.
You might also pay a little more to drive in and out of your hotel if it’s on or near a toll road. Some states, like Florida, are known for toll roads.
You can try to avoid them, but it’s usually inconvenient. Also, be prepared to budget cash for this expense, as some don’t accept cards.
Budgeting for Hidden Travel Fees
In reality, you’re not done paying for your trip until all is said and done. Budgeting for an add-on or surprise expenses is the smart thing to do. While you can avoid or reduce some of them, there are some you’ll need to pay for.
A good rule of thumb is to read all the fine print beforehand. Make a list of fees you know about and those you can anticipate. Researching the area and your chosen service providers will help you uncover most (if not all) hidden travel fees.
Establish a budget for these extras and set aside that money before you leave. This way, you won’t be caught empty-handed or bewildered when you’re asked to pay. But hey, what’s a little adventure without a few surprises?
Photo by [Gustavo Fring]