Stretch Your Travel Budget by Avoiding These 6 Fees

Budget-busting travel fees add up fast. Learn how to save on everything from booking your ticket to renting a car.

Woman Reviewing Flights at Airport

by NEA Member Benefits

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On vacation, unexpected costs seem to spring up at every turn. If you’re not careful, items such as sneaky hotel fees or roaming data charges can start to overwhelm your vacation budget. Save that money for souvenirs with these tactics for dodging some of travel’s most common, and avoidable, fees.

1. Reservation fees. Most airlines charge a per-ticket fee to make reservations over the phone. If you have questions you’d like answered by a human, go ahead and make the call. But if he or she offers to book the ticket, politely decline. Reserve online instead. Incidentally, paper tickets will cost you, too. Opt for e-tickets.

2. Baggage fees. Most airlines charge about $25 for one checked bag and more for additional bags. Overweight fees are even steeper—up to $100 for anything over 50 pounds. Clearly, it pays to travel light. Pack early and pare down. Weigh yourself. Then, weigh yourself holding your bag. If necessary, pare down even more. Remember to leave room in your bag for souvenirs you may pick up on your trip!

3. Rental car fees. Do you really need to buy the insurance offered? Probably not, as chances are you’re already covered by your auto, credit card and/or homeowner’s insurance, but check before you leave home to be sure. Another offer you may want to skip: prepaying for a full tank of gas so you don’t have to fill up before you return it. Chances are good you won’t bring it back on empty, so prepaying is often a win for the rental company. Just make sure you return the car with the same amount of gas as when you picked it up, or you’ll pay hefty per-gallon rates.

4. International data and roaming fees. If you’re traveling out of the country, check into your phone service provider’s international plans so you know what a call home will cost. Even if your provider has a plan, track your usage, as most aren’t exactly generous. (Most phones have usage trackers, but if yours doesn’t, download an app such as My Data Manager.)

Save big on fees by turning off data, roaming and all automatic updates, including email delivery and social media pings. Only use apps and services, such as Facebook and GPS, when connected to a trusted Wi-Fi source. And look into a SIM card local to your destination (if you have an unlocked phone), inexpensive Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) digital services such as Skype and a worldwide Wi-Fi hotspot subscription such as Boingo.

5. Hotel resort fees. Some hotels, particularly in warm-weather destinations such as Las Vegas, Hawaii and the Caribbean, charge a bundled per-night fee of anywhere from a few dollars to more than $50 for various guest services such as newspapers, Wi-Fi and beach chairs. They must disclose this fee upfront, so the best way to avoid it is to pay close attention while booking and compare hotels before you make a decision. You can also ask at check-in what amenities the fee includes, then ask for a reduction if you don’t plan to use them all. It’s always worth finding out if the fees are adjustable.

6. International credit card and ATM usage fees. Many banks charge a “foreign transaction fee” of about 1 to 3 percent of your purchases abroad. In addition, you may be charged a flat “foreign ATM fee” for taking out cash. And, finally, the bank that owns the foreign ATM may charge an extra fee on top of that.

Call ahead to alert your bank or card carrier that you’ll be using your card internationally. Find out what they charge for foreign use, and if they have a per-day withdrawal limit. Ask your bank if it has a partner bank at your destination, which could erase those ATM fees completely. International fees can vary widely, so do your research to find the card that best meets your needs.

For more smart tips for stretching your travel budget, read "How to Save Hundreds on Your Next Vacation."

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