11 Unexpected Travel Expenses and How To Avoid Them

There is nothing worse than starting out your grand adventure, and then getting hit with a barrage of unexpected, un-budgeted travel expenses. Those hidden surprises can often break a trip (and your pocketbook).

Car Rentals

Don’t forget to bring your credit card with you if you are renting a car! If you go to rent a vehicle for your adventure with a debit card, the company will often place a hold of several hundred dollars on your card in case of damages. I’ve been in places that charge a higher fee for renting with a debit rather than a credit card in addition to that hold. It was a very unpleasant experience when I first encountered that policy.

Online Booking Fees

When you’re looking online to book your travel, hotel, and more, you might not see the hidden fees, such as taxes, cleaning, and other fees. If you find a booking you like, click through the purchase page, but don’t input your credit card information. That should tell you the true cost of the booking, allowing you to better compare deals.

Uber Eats Costs

Food delivery apps have soared in poularity with the pandemic! I now find myself even preordering my food to pick up if I’m in the area. However, that is not the most cost-effective measure to take.

Uber Eats and other food delivery apps charge extra for their services. For example, I regularly eat at a restaurant called Fish’s Wild Island Grill in Davis, CA. I usually order the Grilled Salmon Bowl. If I call in my order or order in person, it costs me $8.95. However, if I order with Uber Eats to pick up, it costs $10.95. That’s a pretty substantial price difference. I used to use Uber Eats, especially with the pandemic, to place my orders while travelling. Now, I’ll dial up the store and actually talk to a human being.

Airline Fees

Baggage fees can really add up! I usually try to just use carry on, but pack a collapsible duffle to check on the way back in case I find awesome souvenirs.

Do you need to check a bag on your flight? Perhaps you need to book your flight in person or over the phone? Do you want to choose your own seat?

These days, airlines are charging for more and more services. From baggage fees to food charges (no more free snacks). Many airports are even charging for WIFI while in the terminal, not even mentioning the WIFI on the airplane.

Before you leave in the stupid-early hours of the morning to catch your flight, make you you have listed out the services you know you’ll need a budget for it. Luckily, Smarter Travel created a handy table that lists out the more popular services and corresponding charges for 11 of the most popular airlines.

If you regularly travel, there are many airline programs and credit cards that offer free baggage checks. My day-job often includes travelling across the country to vend at different events. My credit card with free baggage checks saves me a substantial penny annually.

Hidden Cruise Charges

You are celebrating. You purchased a full package ticket on your favorite cruise line! Now you’re looking forward to just relaxing on deck, sipping that refreshing drink while reading that book you heard about on Parrotfish Adventure.

But… does your full package really cover everything? It’s important to read the fine print. The cruise usually expects you to pay for drinks, additional dining options, tours, and extra cruise activities, such as climbing walls, spas, etc. Double check to see if the activities you want to do are included in your package. If they are not, you’ll want to budget ahead of time so that you can fully relax on your trip.

Hotel Fees

Definitely double check tipping etiquette for your destination.

You might have booked your room, but does that include free parking? How about WIFI, laundry, or extra cleaning fees? Do you get free continental breakfast? Before you hit the road, double check for those extra fees. The one that gets me most often is parking. Many hotels, especially high-end hotels, don’t include parking or have obligatory valet parking.

You also don’t want to forget to pack some extra cash to tip room service and valet. Double check, though, because some higher-end hotels have no-tipping policies in place. Keep in mind that tipping is primarily a United States custom only. Check a travel guide if you are travelling abroad for the proper tipping etiquette.

ATM Fees

Do you need to withdraw cash while on your trip? Be aware of ATM charges if you withdraw out of network! It isn’t unusual for the charges to range from $3 to $5. Instead of withdrawing money from an ATM, try to pair it with a purchase you already have to make, such as at the grocery store or Target.

Transportation Costs

When budgeting for your trip, it’s not unusual for smaller transportation costs to slip through the cracks. You’ve budgeted for the plane ticket or the drive to your destination, but what about the gas to get around while you’re there? Public transit costs? Tolls?

When I first visited Dallas, Texas, I was not expecting the tolls. I was staying on one side of the Dallas International Airport, and my event I was attending was on the other. I had two choices: take the long way around the airport, which would add at least 45 minutes to my commute, or pay the entry and exit tolls to cut through the airport. Going back and forth racked up to about $50 of unexpected expenses. Now, I always double check for tolls beyond just the expected bridge tolls of California.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a good thing to have, especially in uncertain times. If someone gets sick, something comes up at work, or you have to cancel your trip for some other reason, travel insurance can save you a lot of money. That said, travel insurance can add up, too. Many travelers purchase their trip on credit cards that offer travel insurance as a benefit.

Foreign Travel Fees

There are so many hidden fees to consider when you travel abroad.

Credit Cards

It isn’t uncommon for credit cards to charge an additional 3% on international transactions. It’s beneficial to try to pay mostly with cash rather than card. You can also apply for a travel credit card that waives international fees, but be wary of APR of some of those cards.

Cellphone Data and Roaming Charges

Before you go on your international trip, talk to your cell phone provider. Many providers offer international plans that could be more affordable for your destination than the roaming charges. Two great examples are Verizon’s TravelPass and AT&T’s Passport programs. These programs allow you to use your regular plan, but just charge a small surcharge when travelling a set number of countries.

If you cannot get an international plan for your phone, don’t forget to set up your phone to avoid extra charges. Turn off roaming, deactivate texting, and turn off non-vital apps. Definitely do not stream on your phone. Streaming eats up a lot of data. Many people that travel aboard purchase a temporary international phone, especially if you will be making a lot of calls while on your trip.

Expect the Unexpected

Things happen, so it’s good to have flex in your budget to accommodate. There was the time that I went to summit Mt. St. Helens with my Dad, and he left his waterproof pants at home, so we made an emergency stop at REI. There was also the time when my socks got soaked and uncomfortable at Disneyland, so I needed to purchase new socks, with the added Disney tax, of course.

When I am on my trips, I usually recommend budgeting $20-$30 extra each day for those “just in case.” It’s rare that I use that money, but when I need it, I have it. There’s nothing worse than straining your budget for an unexpected need. It gives me a better peace of mind.

Did I miss a hidden travel expanse? Let me know in the comments below!


Want to learn more about financially-savvy travel? Check out 10 Ways to Save Money While Travelling and 16 Best Tips and Tricks for Solo Women Adventurers.


Happy Adventuring!

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