When you’ve stashed away enough quarters in your “vacation fund” jar to finance that dream European adventure or all-American road trip, don’t find your plans derailed by hidden fees and costly surcharges.
Traveling may seem to grow more expensive each year, but you don’t have to fall victim to unexpected fees that can drive up your costs even more. No matter which mode of transportation or final destination your travels take you on, read the fine print and plan ahead.
Here are 11 common travel fees you’re likely to encounter and how to avoid them.
1. Printed boarding passes
Budget airline travel will save you on bare minimum fares, but you’ll often pay for any further conveniences along the way, including your boarding pass.
If you fly Spirit Airlines, you’ll need to check in online and print your boarding pass at home to avoid a $10 fee per boarding pass at the check-in counter. Allegiant Air charges a $5 fee for customers who wait to print their boarding pass with an attendant at the airport. For round-trip flights or families traveling together, that adds up quickly.
To avoid these fees, pay close attention to when check-in begins for your flight, and print your boarding pass before you leave for the airport or take advantage of mobile ticketing options.
2. Seat selection
It’s not just a first-class upgrade that will cost you — some airlines charge you for selecting your economy seat at booking. So if you’re a window or aisle seat devotee, be prepared to pay.
This charge is mainly applicable for super-savers who purchase tickets on budget airlines or choose budget ticket options on major carriers. On Spirit Airlines, seat assignment costs vary but begin at $5. Frontier Airlines has a similar tiered seat assignment price model beginning at $6. On other airlines, like Delta Airlines and United Airlines, you can save with basic economy fare classes, but these often don’t allow the option to choose your seat. You’ll have to fork over more cash in premium fare classes to guarantee an aisle seat.
However, if you’re not picky about being assigned a middle seat or getting stuck toward the back of the plane, this is a great way to save while booking.
3. Checked luggage
Nearly every flyer has encountered a costly checked bag fee, which can be among the most difficult to avoid.
Checking your luggage can quickly turn a great travel deal into a costly endeavor. Delta Airlines and American Airlines charge $30 for one checked bag and $40 for a second. Spirit Airlines’ baggage fees vary by flight but generally range between $30 and $50 for the first two. Other major airlines have similar charges, except Southwest Airlines, which offers two free checked bags. These charges increase for any luggage that’s over the specified weight limit for each airline.
If you want to save on baggage fees, the solution is simple: Pack lightly. For longer trips or in cases where you can’t avoid multiple bags, consider shipping your luggage to your destination in advance. Sometimes, UPS or FedEx delivery may be more cost-effective than an airline’s hefty fees.
4. Priority boarding
If you’re able to save on checked baggage fees by opting for a carry-on, be prepared to encounter extra fees in order to guarantee space in the aircraft’s overhead bins.
On many airlines, priority boarding is a complimentary perk for elite status flyers, business-class customers and rewards card holders. General passengers can purchase priority boarding upgrades, but prices vary. For example, Delta Airlines and United Airlines both charge $15. Southwest Airlines charges between $30 and $50 depending on your itinerary.
Travelers who book basic economy seats or similar low-fare options may not be eligible to upgrade. If you’re a basic economy flyer worried about overhead bin space on a crowded flight, attendants may offer to check carry-on-sized bags free of charge at the gate. Just keep in mind, you may sacrifice a few extra minutes to retrieve your bag at the gate upon arrival.
5. Onboard extras
Gone are the days of in-flight freebies. Be prepared to pay for any extras you purchase for comfort after boarding.
If you want to take advantage of in-flight entertainment, Delta Airlines charges $2 for earbuds on domestic flights, and JetBlue Airlines headphones will cost you $5. If you forget your headphones at home, it may be worth picking up a better-quality pair in the airport before boarding, so at least you’ll get some use out of them later.
Another luxury that may cost you: pillow and blanket bundles. For example, a JetBlue Airlines pillow costs $6 and a blanket costs $5, but they’re yours to keep. Charges may differ for international flights, though. If you plan on dozing off during your flight and need some extra comfort, go ahead and bring your travel pillow from home.
6. Entry and departure fees
For some travel destinations, you should anticipate fees for entering or upon departure.
Countries across the world, from Egypt to Japan to Costa Rica, charge for travel duties and visas. Some countries accept these taxes only through direct cash or credit card payment while others mandate airlines include the taxes in their fare fees.
If you want to enter the country or return home after vacation, these fees are mostly unavoidable. But it’s important to double-check on your order confirmation whether duties are included in your airline ticket or if you’ll be expected to pay upon arrival to the airport, as well as if the country you’re visiting is visa-free, so you’re not blindsided at the customs counter.
7. Foreign exchange fees
One of the most frustrating aspects of international travel is converting your currency.
When you resort to airport currency exchange counters or local international banks, your transaction may result in exorbitant fees on top of any unfavorable exchange rates. To avoid high fees, exchange your currency at your home bank branch before your trip. Or, if you bank with an international financial institution, look for a local branch or ATM once you’ve reached your destination.
If you can get by without much local cash at all, though, you’ll often get the best exchange rates using your credit card abroad.
8. Credit card foreign transaction fees
Though you can get great exchange rates using your credit card abroad, watch out for any surcharges your provider may levy on foreign transactions. These fees are usually around 3 percent of each transaction, which can add up quickly.
Consider applying for a credit card with without foreign transaction fees. If you’re not looking to take on another credit card, book and pay for as many thing as you can online before you leave home, from international hotels and car rentals to excursions and guided tours.
9. Rental car insurance
If you decide to rent a car while traveling, it’s a good idea to purchase insurance.
Insurance can save you thousands if anything happens while the rental is in your hands, but purchasing these policies from the rental company can result in costly fees. The most common type of rental insurance, a collision damage waiver, may already be covered by your auto insurance provider or even your credit card company. Before you agree to any add-ons the salesperson may push you toward, look into your current policies to see what you already have covered.
You may find the coverage you already have is enough to forgo costly alternatives. Just remember to use the credit card that provides the coverage when you book your rental.
10. Hotel Wi-Fi
Unless you’re a dedicated hotel rewards member, you’ve likely run into issues getting Wi-Fi access during hotel stays.
Chains like Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton offer complimentary in-room Wi-Fi to their rewards members and credit card holders, but limit free access for other guests to the lobby and other common areas. However, some brands or individual hotels under these companies’ umbrellas may offer Wi-Fi to guests. If staying connected during travel is important, search for hotels that offer complimentary Wi-Fi before you book.
Don’t forget, you can also use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hot spot to access the internet on the go, or simply use your phone’s data.
11. Cruise fees
On the surface, an “all-inclusive” cruise can seem like a great deal. Just make sure you read the fine print for any hidden fees that may not be included in your ticket.
Once you’re on board, you may find yourself paying extra for some dining options, activities, access to adult-only areas of the ship and even uncorking fees for bottles of wine you bring onboard. Scour your ship’s website before boarding to ensure you’re prepared to pay (or avoid) any of these fees.
Before you book your cruise, also remember to consider fees that will be added on top of the advertised fare and any travel costs you’ll incur getting to and from the port.