You’ve set your out-of-office reply, packed your bags and even picked out a beach read. You’re ready for vacation. After careful planning and research, you’ve thought of everything. (Alternative plans for a rained-out pool day? Check.) But what about those hidden travel expenses?
While you probably budgeted for plane tickets and a hotel, other costs you haven’t accounted for can add up quickly. With a little foresight, you can prepare for these common additional expenses and ensure you don’t blow your vacation budget.
Remember resort fees
When you book a hotel, you know what your nightly rate will be, but what about the other fees attached to it? The most frequent is commonly known as a resort or hotel fee and it’s separate from your nightly rate. It may show up on your bill as a facilities fee, destination fee or amenity fee. The charge is intended to cover the cost of on-site features and services, such as the hotel gym, pool, beach chairs and Wi-Fi. You’ll most likely see them in popular tourist destinations such as Las Vegas, Hawaii and Orlando, where they average around $27 per day.
Typically, guests pay resort fees whether they use the amenities or not. So, if those perks aren’t something you plan on partaking in, pay close attention when booking a hotel. Resort fees may not show up until the final step in the booking process when you see the full price, including taxes. If you’d like to avoid them altogether, shop around to find accommodations that don’t charge a resort fee. Booking with travel rewards or points is another way to cut out this extra charge, as many rewards programs offer to waive resort fees as a perk.
Beware baggage fees
Air travel can be expensive — and it’s not just the tickets. From food to Wi-Fi to ground transportation after landing, there are plenty of small expenses to keep in mind, but one you won’t want to overlook is luggage fees. Depending on what airline you’re flying you may need to pay an additional fee if you check a bag. Rules and charges vary significantly from airline to airline, so it’s worth doing some comparison shopping if baggage fees are a concern. And if you’re able, fitting everything in a carry-on can help you sidestep the charge altogether.
However, if you need to check a bag or two there are ways to keep costs down. Pack light to reduce the number and size of the bags you have to bring. Shop around for airlines that don’t charge an additional fee – and don’t forget to check on any airline credit cards benefits you might have access to (free checked bags might be a perk). You can also earn your way to free checked luggage as a member of a frequent flyer program.
Factor in foreign transaction fees
If your trip takes you out of the country, remember you may encounter foreign transaction fees. You’ve worked hard to maximize your vacation savings by budgeting carefully and saving strategically for your trip. Factoring in these fees will help you stay on track. Some credit card companies charge foreign transaction fees of up to 3% for purchases made internationally. Check your card’s policy and if you frequently travel abroad consider applying for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Paying in cash, when possible, can help you avoid some or all of these charges. But be sure to research the best exchange rates in the area before you reach your destination. Local banks typically have better rates than currency exchanges in popular tourist areas, (like airports and hotels). You may also be able to do a currency exchange at your local bank before you leave.
Plan for parking
Whether you’re headed out on a road trip, or plan to rent a car, if you plan to drive during your trip, you will probably need to pay for parking at some point. Choices may be limited depending on your destination but consider your options ahead of time to find ways to save. For example, if your hotel charges for parking, you might find a cheaper rate at a nearby garage. In dense urban areas where parking comes at a premium, consider using apps that can help you find the best prices or offer discounts (SpotHero, Parker or BestParking – to name a few). You might also consider public transportation, ridesharing or even walking to get around during your vacation.
Hold down expenses at home
While you might be on vacation, your financial obligations at home are not. Save where you can by adjusting your thermostat so you’re not overpaying for energy while you’re gone. Automate or pre-pay bills to avoid late fees while you’re away. And for longer trips, you might want to pause some subscriptions or services. (You may even consider making your home into a vacation rental to make a little extra cash while you’re away.)
Travel is an adventure, but you don’t want surprise expenses to put a damper on your trip. By anticipating and planning for hidden fees, you can make sure your focus remains on how much fun you’re having — and not the extra costs hitting your wallet.