Let’s face it: travelling is expensive. Hotel rooms, airline tickets, food, activities – the expected costs soon add up even before leaving the ground. And then there are unforeseen local charges, laws, and customs.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! We’ve put together this list of expenses so that you can expect the unexpected during your holiday or trip.
1. Weigh your baggage
Fees for excess baggage can be steep. It makes sense – the weight of a few extra suitcases means more fuel is needed to transport them. Considering the price of jet fuel, it is no wonder why this charge is so hefty.
But the airline industry does milk their baggage charges on top of this. As the airline industry rapidly decreased in value in the early 2000s, baggage fees became a way to raise profits quickly. By the time 2010 rolled around, the average airline charged $50 for one standard piece of luggage and a whopping $70 for any extra bags!
Thankfully, you can avoid these expensive fees by being savvy about your luggage. If you have to bring a large suitcase, weigh it before leaving home to ensure it is under the weight limit.
These days, most airlines don’t charge for carry-on or hand luggage – bags that fit under your seat or in the cabin’s overhead bins. So, if you manage to fit everything you need into one or two carry-on bags, you’ll be saving $50! Generally, anything you can carry is fine, but remember to check the size limit for carry-on luggage on your airline’s website before you leave.
You can also save space in your bags by wearing most of your heavier clothes to the airport – your raincoat, thick fleece, and socks upon socks. It is drastic, but some companies even make unique travel jackets with extra pockets to bring more of your clothes and excess items along without needing to check in a big bag. Just don’t pocket anything that won’t get through security!
2. Pack the right things
I know we just said to travel light, but it is still important to make sure you bring the right things along, whatever their weight.
How often have you gone on a trip only to find yourself rained off thanks to the lack of a cheap folding mac or forced to stay indoors due to an unexpected cold snap? Though you may be able to pick up these items at your destination, wouldn’t you rather save your shopping budget for much cooler souvenirs?
You can still pack smart as you make room for these essential weather-proof items. A lightweight raincoat will work just as well over your cosy sweater as it would over a t-shirt in more tropical weather – no need to pack two.
3. Save on transport
It is easy to overlook the cost of transport when you travel. You already had to sort out the aeroplane tickets, dig out the passports and get your paperwork in order; why shouldn’t you all just relax in the taxi as soon as you leave the airport?
But this essential aspect of any trip is incredibly easy to save on. As you hop on buses or trains to your activities, you probably see the locals scanning mysterious cards at the turnstiles. As you plan your trip, looking into transport passes could save you a lot, especially if you have lots of bus-hopping planned!
If you need an address for your travel pass to be delivered to, ask your hotel if they will accept the letter. Otherwise, you could have an app up and running before leaving for the airport!
4. Cancellation policies
Cancellation is something to look into before you even book the trip. We don’t like to think about it, but cancelling your trip is an all-too-likely scenario, whether it is due to illness, extreme weather, or anything else. So, it is worth looking into your hotel’s cancellation policies, cruise line, airline, and everything else you book.
Is it possible to just call or go online and reschedule? If so, how much advance notice will you need? Will you be able to cancel without losing your deposit or paying a fee? These are all things to look out for.
If some situations are not covered, you may like to consider travel insurance. You’ll get all or part of your trip refunded if you have to cancel.
5. Play the exchange
Exchange rates are constantly fluctuating, and things that cause the exchange rate to go up and down are always catching everyone out, not least tourists and travellers.
You can often check for exchange rate fluctuations by using sites such as XE, the first thing you do before you go travelling is arrange to change over some of your money to the destination’s local currency. But in today’s card-based society, how necessary is this?
If you have a card with an international bank, you might find that your bank offers a better exchange rate than the moneychangers. Thus, as long as you can use your card in your destination country, paying using Australian dollars may prove more lucrative.
Most developed countries have national regulations on who they permit to exchange currencies. These countries’ exchange rates are generally set nationwide, too. So you can trust the exchange rate not to fluctuate, no matter where you withdraw your money. That said, some moneychangers may still charge hefty service fees.
But some countries have less regulation. In these countries, anyone could accumulate cash and charge whatever fee they want, however steep. They have no competition, after all. If you are heading to a less regulated country, change your money before you go. You’ll need a way to keep your cash secure, but at least you won’t get stung with exorbitant fees!
6. Prevent unexpected theft
A surprising hidden cost when you travel is theft. Whether it is your home becoming ransacked when you are away or pickpocketing as you see the sights, theft can be the most expensive consequence of travelling. However, there is a lot you can do to reduce the likelihood of items being stolen.
When you are away, put timers on your home’s lights to create the illusion that you are still there. Hide your most precious possessions by pulling blinds and curtains or even using shutters. Lock your jewellery in a safe or drawer.
The most effective way to protect your home while away is to have someone house sit. A robbery is much less likely when someone is at home. Would you rather pay the small fee of someone staying at your house or try to replace priceless sentimental possessions and repair damage?
As you explore your destination and take in the surroundings, keep your money and possessions secure in a locked backpack or waist pouch. Keep your phone in the backpack on loud. If you bring your phone out, listen to music on it so that you’ll know if it gets lifted.
Want to avoid hidden costs when you retire, too? Check out this post to find out more.
7. Hiring a car
You may not always rent a car when you go travelling. Sure, using a car can open up new possibilities and make transporting picnics, toys, and mobility aids easier. But with so many new accessible all-inclusive tourist resorts opening up, many travellers end up just staying there. If you hire a car, there are some hidden charges you should anticipate.
You’ll need to purchase special auto insurance that allows you to drive a hire car. Your existing policy may cover this, or you may be able to add hire car cover. When you pick up the car, your rental may offer some insurance, but going through your usual insurer is generally cheaper.
Your hire car may also only be allowed to drive a certain distance, too – it may not be allowed to leave that town or area, for example. Check this before you leave.
Though it varies across countries, an International Driving Permit (IDP) shows that your driving license is legitimate and can prevent you from getting into trouble. Consider applying for one to avoid paying unexpected fines.
Smartphones are so important when we travel. They are our instantaneous postcards, our newspapers (in English, too!), our wire transfers – and how we make phone calls! So the last thing you want is to end up with a hefty unexpected bill for using it.
Does your phone plan have free-roaming to allow you to use your data at no extra cost, even when abroad? If so, you can make international calls over an app like Whatsapp or Skype rather than paying a fortune. Many plans do, but it is worth checking before you set off.
When you cross a border, you should receive a text detailing the price of calls, texts and data usage in this country on your network. Read this text carefully to avoid hidden charges.
If you try to make any call that will prove expensive, your network will either prevent the call from going through, play a recorded message informing you of the charges, or show a warning symbol on-screen as the phone rings. If you want to make an expensive international call, you may have to allow this in your network’s app if they block the call.
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I am Adeyemi Adetilewa, a media consultant, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ideas Plus Business Magazine, online business resources for entrepreneurs. I help brands share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and online marketing. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Hackernoon, The Good Men Project, and other publications.