Saw a great airfare sale, or dug up some reasonable hotel rates? We love a cheap getaway as much as the next travel site, but before you start celebrating, we wanted to point you to the fine print — costs associated with taking a holiday are rarely as clear as they seem at first blush. Here, to combat sticker shock, we’ve compiled the most common hidden fees that many don’t often think of beforehand.
1. Entry and exit fees: Many countries bake embarkation and debarkation fees right into your airline ticket price, so you pay that alongside the base fare. Nations such as Costa Rica and Samoa, however, require you to pony up as much as $40 per person at the airport just to get on your flight back home. Many airports of these require the payment in local currency, so make sure have some bills left at the end of your trip.
2. Foreign exchange fees: More often than not, converting currency is a losing game for the traveler. Unless your bank has international branches or partners that don’t charge a fee, you’ll be dinged $5 to $10 and/or up to 3 percent of your withdrawal amount at an international ATM. Still, this is usually preferable to going to the Travelex counter at the airport, which is the worst deal you’ll possibly find. These changers often charge service fees and have less attractive rates. Be on the lookout for “no commission” claims offset by even higher rates, and don’t use unauthorized brokers, to avoid counterfeit risks.
3. Room tax: Hotels charge an “occupancy tax” on top of city and state taxes. These typically fall between 10 and 18 percent in the States, occasionally more. This means that a reasonable $200 a night room will actually inch closer to $250 per night. Unfortunately, there are no regulations currently in place in the U.S. that require hotels to list the total amount at the outset, like airlines were made to do, so don’t celebrate too early when you see a nice base rate.
4. Daily “resort charges”: Similarly, if you’re happy with the nightly room rate at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, be aware that there’s a unavoidable $25 daily fee that provides you Internet access, gym access, and bragging rights. The same goes for many other resorts in popular destinations, whether or not you intend on using all the amenities that the fee covers.
5. Visa fees: Americans get such a good deal with one of the most powerful passports in the world — with visa-fee access to 172 countries internationally — that sometimes we forget that visiting a foreign country may still require a visa with an accompanying fee. Tanzania, for example, charges American visitors $100 per person, and some countries charge even more.
6. Rental car insurance and fees: If you’re already a car owner, you may or may not have an auto insurance policy that overlaps with that rental companies are offering. Most plans, however, don’t cover damage when you’re outside of your home nation. Car rental insurance can cost $10 to $20 per day, and extra gear like a GPS could also add an additional $15 per day.
7. Airport transfers: Not renting a car? Depending on where you go, going between an airport and city can add up. Public transit and buses are the cheaper option, while taking taxis for door-to-door service could cost you anywhere between $25 and nearly $70, counting tip and tolls. Psst — considering the high airport parking fees, driving yourself to the airport might not always be the cheaper option.
8. Food expenses: Convenience has its premiums, whether you’re looking for a bite by an attraction or at the airport. Depending on your hometown, most meals will likely cost more than you usually spend at home wherever you go. We like apartment rentals with a full kitchen so that we don’t need to eat out for every meal, though grocery prices can also vary drastically from destination to destination.
9 Baggage fees: They’re old news, but they’re still real. These days, flyers are most frequently surprised by higher-than-average baggage fees on budget carriers, who use them as a way to recoup the ultra-low base fares that they sell. (Spirit Airlines is notorious for this.) Mercifully, most airlines let at least one bag fly free per person for international flights, and elite airline status or affiliated credit cards can also waive fees domestically.
Any other vacation gotchas you want to share? Let us know in the comments section below!