This story is part of our Travel Nightmares series, featuring helpful tips, hints, and strategies so you can travel stress-free. Read our other Travel Nightmares stories here: 10 Free Things Your Hotel Provides, What To Do About Flight Cancellations, Your Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, How to Get the Best Travel Deals, How to Troubleshoot 7 Common Travel Problems, and 6 Resources for Fear of Flying. Bon voyage!
When planning a trip, we often forget to budget for fees. But if you’re not careful, you could rack up hundreds of dollars in fees for everything from baggage to breakfast. And while some charges are simply unavoidable, you can save substantially with a little advance planning and a few creative workarounds.
Here’s how to avoid baggage fees and other costs for an (almost) fee-free vacation!
Another way to save money on your trip is to check for coupon codes for booking sites like Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak, and Hotels.com. And be sure to use some of Jeanette’s favorite travel apps to quickly find the best prices, keep track of your trip details, and more!
1. Avoiding baggage fees
Baggage fees are inevitable but you can soften the blow. Some airlines charge less when you prepay for your bag online. Others have different weight tiers, so a 35-pound bag could cost less than a 40-pound bag.
But the only way you’re going to avoid the fees on most airlines is by going with a carry-on. And if your overstuffed bag can get through security, you may be able to gate check it for free.
2. Nixing booking fees
Customer service doesn’t always come free. It used to be the phone was the only way to book your airfare, now it will cost you. The majority of airlines charge between $15-$35 for reservations made by phone, so skip the fee and book online.
3. Avoid premium seat fees
Sometimes when you buy a ticket, you’re not able to select a free seat because all the standard seats are occupied. In most cases, your ticket guarantees you a spot on the plane, so you’re not obligated to pay for a premium economy seat to ensure your spot. It also means the airline will assign you whatever is available at check in and you could end up in a middle seat next to the bathroom.
Your best bet is to login 24 hours before your flight when check-in begins and see if you’re able to select your seat. Some airlines release those premium seats during that timeframe at no additional charge.
4. Dodging airline cancellation/change fees
In some instances, it can be cheaper to simply not show up for a flight and book a new one than to change it and pay the fee. It’s not uncommon for a change fee to cost about $200.
But if you’re a no show, be cautious of any confusion if, for example, the original itinerary was round-trip and you still plan to fly home on the second leg. Same-day change fees are often significantly less ($25-$75), but it’s a gamble as you can never be sure there will be room for you on an alternative flight.
5. Skip hotel Wi-Fi fees
It’s becoming more common for hotels to offer free Wi-Fi but there are still some holding out. If you can’t get free Wi-Fi in your room, check the lobby or use the computer in the business center. If all else fails, head to a local coffee shop.
6. Avoiding hotel cancellation fees
Even a refundable hotel room typically charges a fee if you cancel within 24 hours. Some may waive it, though, if you change your reservation to a later date rather than canceling all together.
If you had to cancel a prepaid, nonrefundable room booked on a credit card, then check the travel insurance benefits offered by your card. Some will reimburse the costs for eligible reasons like severe weather or illness.
7. No more breakfast “fees”
This one may not totally qualify as a fee, but it is a tricky charge hotels sneak in. An optional breakfast can inflate your nightly rate substantially. It’s not uncommon for it to add $10-$20 more per person per night.
Is it worth it? In most cases, no. Breakfast is an affordable meal. At $20 a person, a family of four could be paying $80 a night extra for breakfast. You’d have to eat a lot of eggs and bacon to make that worth your while.
8. Avoid foreign transaction fees
Photo by Rrrainbow
Most of us have a variety of credit cards to choose from. Call your banks and compare the cost of fees across cards. Even though you have to pay a fee, your credit card is usually giving you the best exchange rate you can get. Plus, it offers protections that you won’t get carrying around and paying with cash.
9. Nix ATM fees
Photo by Paul J Martin
ATM fees can add up fast. Withdrawing cash internationally could result in three different fees: A charge from your bank for using a non-network ATM, a charge from the bank you’re withdrawing money from, and a foreign transaction fee for a percentage of the amount withdrawn.
You may be able to avoid some of these fees if your bank has International partners. For example, Bank of America members traveling to London can withdraw money at Barclays ATMs and avoid the flat fees by both banks. You’re still subject to a foreign transaction fee on the converted amount, but at least you knocked out two charges!