A vacation is always an extremely exciting adventure, with the opportunity to visit new destinations and explore new cultures.
We believe that getting out of your comfort zone and traveling anywhere in the world opens your mind, and gently pushes you to willingly learn, change and grow.
With a fun trip on the horizon, you are excited to plan; but the best plans also miss out on unknown facts. Traveling is no doubt expensive, and surprise costs can be impactful and surely unwelcome. We have identified some costs that have the tendency to crop up. So, before you drive, cruise or fly, keep an eye out for these pesky expenses. We have also added a few useful suggestions to avoid these surprises, or account for them in your plans.
1. Entry (visa) charges
Before we explore expenses related to visa fees here, we wanted to first mention a little bit about checking passports. When traveling internationally, it is very important to ensure your passport is up-to-date. Make sure that your passport expires at least six months after the return date of your upcoming travel, else you would not be allowed to board the airplane. If this is not the case, then we would recommend you start early, and begin the application to receive a new passport in time for travel.
Now, most countries require a valid visa for travel, and some will provide you with a visa on entry at customs. Of course, you cannot avoid these costs, but again they can be better managed. Plan for visa costs or border crossing costs into your budget. Research in advance regarding visa requirements for all ports of travel in your itinerary.
2. Luggage charges
This one is the most common and tricky one. Gone are the days when airlines offered free check-in baggage facilities. There is a charge for each piece of luggage you check-in. Some airlines also charge for carry-on baggage. Although this is the most common unexpected charge, and a fat one at that, this can be managed with some prior planning.
Research about the airline baggage specifications and weight / size restrictions. Every piece that violates these requirements will be charged as extra baggage. A golden rule is to travel light. That way, you could only have carry-on luggage, and also skip wasting time in baggage claim. But this only works if carry-on is allowed free of charge. This makes it all the more important to educate yourself with luggage information about each and every airline you are using during your travel. Every airline has different requirements.
We would highly recommend investing in a portable, digital weighing scale to carry along, so you know the exact weight of your suitcases at all times.
3. Credit / Debit card fees
This one is a creeper, difficult to research, also tough to account for. Many unnecessary fees crop up when you charge your card, especially outside your local area. There are ATM fees, merchant fees, out of country fees or withdrawal fees, and it is impossible to keep track of all of them. Extensive foreign exchange rates, dynamic currency conversion, transaction fees etc all add up to prove that using your card while on vacation is a bad idea. Banks all around the world make their money through charging people with these useless and excess fees.
Keeping some cash by withdrawing before travel is a great idea to avoid these hidden fees. The cash could be used for smaller purchases like souvenirs and snacks. If you are already in between your vacation when you realize that you are being charged these extra fees, look for activities that may be free like visiting a free art museum.
Use a travel card. You are still charged the fees, but all are reimbursed fully. A travel card can also be used internationally without any ATM charges or penalties on any purchases. Make sure to notify your bank of your travel location. This will ensure that your card will neither be denied for purchases, nor blocked for suspicious / fraud activity. Many banks offer a fee-free card for use outside the country, so when you call to notify them of your travel, inquire if they offer such a facility.
4. Currency exchange fees
Converting your currency is expensive, and you lose money more often than not. This is one cost that cannot be avoided, but can definitely be managed with a little research on best places to convert money from.
Ensure you are getting the best rates by using a currency converter. Remember, it is economical to convert at the destination city rather than at home.
5. Ride-share expenses
When ordering an Uber, especially internationally, there might be added surcharges. Be aware of this when you order that ride. Also, during these days of COVID-19 pandemic, expect less ride-share availability, delays and a steep spike in the costs. Car rental companies also have fewer cars, and the charges are sharp enough. Do your due research before you start your trip.
One tip is that there are flat-rate taxis and you can use them. Just educate yourself with their rates and you will not be ripped off. If you feel prices are skyrocketing, use public transportation.
6. Lodging reservation fees
Great, you did your research and found a perfect hotel with the perfect reviews, location and price. When you are prepared to book the room, you encounter additional charges - the service fee, the cleaning fee, the parking, the Wifi and maybe even the coffee. Read fine-prints, take stock of all the extra charges. Go through the reservation process on the website, till you reach the final payment page where all the fees are included. Understand that is your price. This way, it is not so much of a surprise.
Also, remember AirBnBs require you to pay a hefty cleaning fee at the end of your stay. Account for all these extra expenses in your budget.
7. Tax - City tax, Departure tax
Interestingly, many cities in Europe charge you simply to be in the city. City taxes are charged at your hotel or through tolls on highways. When collected at hotels, these may be labeled as tourist tax. These can vary from a couple Euros per person or some percentage of your hotel stay. Most times, you might be required to pay for these taxes in cash. So, again, make sure to research beforehand for any or all of these unanticipated expenses.
Many countries like Argentina and Costa Rica charge a departure tax at the airport. There is no way to avoid these fees, but now you are aware of it, and can plan your vacation better.
8. Internet / Roaming charges
It is interesting that in today's super-linked digital world, many hotels and airlines still charge for internet usage (Wifi). It is important to check the Wifi policy of a hotel before you reserve it. Maybe a little expensive hotel is worth it if they are offering free Wifi.
Roaming charges can be extremely fat, and there's no way you and your family will not be using your phones during the international trip. One way to avoid these charges is to turn off roaming, buy a local SIM card or a prepaid card. Be on the lookout for local Wifi hotspots like Starbucks, although be aware that you are connecting to public networks. Use Wifi whenever possible. Notify your phone carrier and get on the international data plan where data can be unlimited, and so texting is easy. But calls are still expensive and charged by the minute, so avoid making calls. Use local phones for that, or a local SIM card.
9. Gratuity / Tips costs
Many times, restaurants simply add the tip (18% gratuity) to your total food bill, and this can be hefty. Account for these in your eat-out plans.
10. Medical costs
Medical situations are undesirable but they happen, sometimes requiring an emergency, and they can be expensive, especially when traveling internationally. Nobody expects emergencies to happen, but everybody should prepare for them.
We recommend investing in travel insurance, especially internationally, and especially for more than a week-long travel. Make sure to do your due diligence in understanding what is covered by your travel insurance policy.
When traveling in Europe, many restaurants in Spain will charge you more to sit outside on the patio to eat. These are called the patio fees. It is often common for places to charge for sitting and drinking your coffee in Italy. Again, read the fine-print at the bottom of the menu. These fees will be mentioned. Also, check reviews on Yelp. Someone would mention it, and you would know. Anything you don't know, and you encounter it, is a surprise. Anything you know, you can plan for. Maybe also account for some miscellaneous costs in your budget for these kinds of unexpected expenses. Hope this helps guide you to acquire some peace of mind and enjoy your trip hassle-free.
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