Hidden Travel Costs...and How to Avoid Them

MoneyTravel is a discretionary activity subject to the economy, natural disasters, health scares and the like.  When times are tough, it's one of the first things to get cut from people's annual budgets.  With hotels and airlines constantly riding the wave of the masses' elective spending, in the past 10 years MANY hidden costs have crept into the overall cost of vacationing.  As a result, the total cost of hidden travel fees could be its own line item in your travel budgeting!

Here are the Major Hidden Costs of Travelling:

  • Booking Online:  Whether you are booking through expedia, travelocity, priceline or hotwire, there's a always a service fee applied.  This is the cost of doing business with a travel re-seller, yet sometimes, the cost of booking through a travel discounter can be way lower than booking through the hotel direct.  Travel re-seller's service fees can run somewhere 10 - 20% of your booking's cost.
    • How to avoid it: Search via Kayak, who will send you to the Airline or Hotel's own website which won't likely have online booking fees.
  • Travel Insurance: I am including this in the hidden fees of travel because it's something people often forget, yet is a necessary expenditure.  This small investment in your well being can cost between approx: $1-2/day depending on your age and health.
    • How to avoid it: Many travel credit cards have travel insurance included for up to 8-days or more.  Check with your travel credit card for complete details.  You want to be sure about this!
  • Airport Parking/Cab to and from Airport: Because this is not often an exorbitant fee, getting to and from the airport is not always a cost people account for in their vacation's budgeting.  Cab fares can vary, but airport parking can run from $5 - $20/day at most airports.
    • How to avoid it:  Get a ride to and from the airport, take public transit (some cities have better transport than others) or opt to park in the lot further away from the airport for slight savings.
  • Airline Baggage: Most airlines are now charging for checked baggage as well as checked baggage that's over the weight limit (which seems to get smaller everyday).  This cost is usually from $15 - 40/bag.
    • How to avoid it: Travel with a carry-on, but also be aware of carry-on weight limits as well. One other option, best for frequent travelers is an annual bag fee program. For $249 a year, you can check an unlimited number of bags on all United flights. So far, no other carriers have come out with a similar program.
  • Airline Food: For domestic and some international travel, most airlines are scrapping meals unless you're flying Hawaiian, LAN, Turkish or the like.
    • How to avoid it: Eat beforehand or bring a snack.  Recently I was leaving for a week-long trip, travelling on a 7-hour international flight with only pay-for food service.  Realizing that I couldn't leave much in my fridge, I brought along brie cheese, carrots and bread sticks --a much nicer snack than you could buy on the plane anyway!
  • Hotel Resort Fees: Upon check-in, most resort-style hotels now charge a non-negotiable resort fee ranging from $15 - 20/day.  Sometimes this includes parking, a drink and a daily newspaper; worst-case scenario you just pay the fee to use the hotel's facilities...isn't that what your original hotel fee is for?
    • How to avoid it: Paying resort fees is largely unavoidable, however, if you book your travel through hotwire, priceline or the like, hotels are supposed to give the option to decline the resort fee. Also consider booking a condo through vrbo.  Many condos have free parking included.
  • Hotel Parking:  It's now rare to find a hotel that doesn't charge an extra fee for parking.  Sometimes they are kind enough to include it in the resort fee, but if you're not staying in a resort-style hotel, then you're likely going to pay between $12 - 25/day to park.
    • How to avoid it: Book a business-oriented city hotel on the weekend.  Most hotels who largely welcome business clientele tend to discount or offer free parking on the weekends to fill rooms when business travellers are at home.  Most motels don't charge for parking.  Otherwise, you could look into other parking options on the street, etc..
  • Hotel Internet: With generation Y aging into independent traveling age and expecting included internet, my prediction is that in 10 years hotel internet fees will be a thing of the past...if hotels want to compete.  But in the meantime, hotel internet charges run from $10 - 20/day.  Note that wireless is sometimes included in resort fees.
    • How to avoid it:  Most hotel loyalty programs offer free wireless.  Otherwise, go to a nearby coffee shop, restaurant or mall to pick up a wireless signal. Note that most US cell carriers have very reasonable packages for inter-us calling and data, but Canadian companies are 'behind the 8-ball' on this topic and charge the moment you leave your city.

Approximate Totals (3-day domestic trip) Online Booking ----50 Travel Insurance --6 AirportParking---30 Airline Baggage---30 Airline Food-------15 Hotel Resort Fees-60 Hotel Parking-----45 Hotel Internet----30 Total------------$256 Finally, here's a VERY HELPUL Airline Fee Matrix (bags, food, pets, seat assignment) comparing many major airlines.