Even when you carefully plan and budget for a vacation, additional travel expenses often crop up, thanks to a sneaky technique called drip pricing. BBB recommends the following tips to predict, prepare for, and even avoid the hidden travel fees buried in the fine print.
Identifying and avoiding hidden travel fees
- Watch out for resort fees. These fees – sometimes called “destination fees” or “urban fees” – are often not listed on hotel aggregator websites, which means you need to click through several pages to find the hotel’s final price. If you want to avoid these fees, you have a couple of options: book hotels that don’t charge resort fees; get elite status at a large hotel chain if you travel often; or use loyalty points for your stay. The last option only works with certain hotel chains, so make sure you double-check before booking.
- Look for hospitality tax. Some cities charge hotel or hospitality taxes, which aren’t included in the hotel’s nightly rate. Check the total amount you’ll be charged before paying to see if you are charged any extra taxes.
- Not all airport shuttle services are free. Just because a hotel says it offers an airport shuttle service doesn’t mean it is complementary. If you have to pay for this service, compare prices with other transportation services to get the best deal. You might pay less and have a shorter wait by booking an Uber or Lyft.
- Find out about parking. Not all hotels offer free parking, so ensure this is included before you book, especially in high-traffic areas with limited parking space.
- Don’t assume hotel amenities are complimentary. Poolside towels, early check-in, in-room snacks, and even a continental breakfast may not be included in your room rate. Avoid getting hit with a bigger bill than you expected by asking before using any of these services.
- Pack as little as possible when flying. Avoid baggage fees by reducing your luggage to a single carry-on if possible. Keep in mind that some airlines also charge for carry-on bags. Always research baggage fees before booking a flight since baggage charges vary from airline to airline.
- Find out precisely what is included in the price of your airline ticket. Picking your seats, for example, and even in-flight entertainment, headphones, snacks and beverages, airline pillows and blankets, and in-flight Wi-Fi are not always free services. More and more, airlines are adding extra fees for services that used be included in the price of a ticket. Think about what you’ll need, bring what you can yourself, and ask if that blanket is free before you bundle up.
- Check in and print your boarding pass before going to the airport. Some airlines now charge steep fees to check you in and print a physical boarding pass at the airport. If you prefer checking in in person, speak with the airline ahead of time to find out if there is a fee. Otherwise, do it ahead of time online and use the self-check-in kiosks to avoid extra fees.
- Understand your airline’s change and cancellation rules. Many airlines advertise free cancellations and change policies, especially since COVID-19 made traveling much more unpredictable. However, there are usually time limits or other limitations. For example, a free cancellation might not mean you’ll be reimbursed with cash. Many airlines simply offer a voucher to fly with them another time, usually within a year.
- Don’t get hit with roaming charges. If you are traveling outside your home country, don’t forget to check with your cellular provider about roaming charges—before you travel. Your provider may have reasonable packages, but you likely need to sign up in advance. Another option is to completely turn off your phone’s data and use Wi-Fi when you need to communicate. If your phone is unlocked, you can purchase a local SIM card for calls in your destination country.
- Get the most from currency exchanges. Changing currency at the airport or a big hotel is not your best bet. Both places charge steep exchange rates and may charge you extra transaction fees too. Instead, get local currency out of a local ATM. Just find out what kind of international fees your bank charges beforehand. Some credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees, so this might be a better option instead.
- Double-check visa and tourist fees. In a world recovering from a pandemic, many countries have revised the length and cost of their tourist visas. United States citizens should check Travel.State.gov to find out what they need to enter another country. With travel picking back up and tourism surging once more, some cities, such as Venice, are going as far as implementing tourist fees and reservation requirements for incoming visitors.
For more information
For more ways to get the most out of your next vacation, visit the BBB Travel Page. Avoid getting scammed while traveling by reading up on the top 5 vacation scams to watch out for. Read more about travel insurance and what it covers. To report a scam, visit BBB.org/ScamTracker.