8 Surprising Travel Fees—and How to Avoid Them - AAA Living

Don’t let these unexpected charges blow your travel budget.



Whether you’re vacationing in Budapest or Baltimore, taking a trip often includes unexpected expenses. Here’s how to escape these budget-busting costs.

Smartphone Surprise

The fee: Cell phone roaming charges, even if you turn on your phone only occasionally, can make for an unpleasant surprise on your bill.

The fix: Get a plan. Many carriers offer international data and voice plans for affordable daily rates—on the days you need it. Caution: If you don’t plan on using your phone every day, remember to shut down all of your apps. If they’re running in the background, you’ll be charged for roaming.

Credit Card Complications

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The fee: Many credit card companies charge foreign transaction fees—about 3 percent—for purchases made internationally. If you’re planning to spend $1,000 or more, the extra charges could weigh down your wallet.

The fix: Shop around. Some credit cards don’t charge extra fees for purchases made abroad. Or, consider using cash for all your purchases—but keep in mind currency exchange fees can be hefty, too.

Rental Car Coverage

The fee: You would never drive your own car without insurance, but is the extra protection necessary with a rental car? Most companies always ask if you want collision coverage and other extra protection.

The fix: Rental car insurance is often covered by your credit card company (if you pay for the rental with your credit card) and also sometimes by your own car’s insurance provider. Before you purchase protection from the rental car company, learn what coverage your credit card and personal auto insurance offer. In some overseas destinations, additional coverage may be required.

When All-Inclusive Isn’t

The fee: All-inclusive doesn’t always mean all-inclusive. Some resorts charge extra for wifi, alcoholic drinks and special activities, such as scuba diving.

The fix: Do your research—or work with a travel advisor. Some properties do include tax, food and drinks and activities in the advertised price. Travel advisors have working relationships and knowledge of many properties—and are a great way to save you time and peace of mind.

Carry-on Charges

The fee: Airlines have been charging for checked baggage for years, but mainstream carriers—not just discount airlines—are adding fees for carry-on bags if you book discounted seats.

The fix: Read the fine print. Certain seats, often dubbed as “basic economy seats,” are cheaper, but may require additional fees for carry-ons. Do the math to make sure the ticket savings aren’t undone by the extra charge for your carry-on.

Phone Call Phooey

The fee: Telephone booking charges on airline tickets can be an unwelcome surprise. Some airlines charge as much as $25 when you cash in miles over the phone.

The fix: Go online. It’s free, and often faster, to book rewards tickets on the internet.

Unexpected Taxes

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The fee: International value added tax, or VAT, often found in Europe, charges tourists extra taxes on goods, sometimes as much as 25 percent.

The fix: Keep your receipts. Most countries exempt exports from the VAT, and you can often get a refund at the airport as you’re leaving. The easiest way to do this is to work with the merchant—they can often handle the paperwork as you’re paying.

Lavatory Levy

The fee: While we may take free restrooms for granted, the custom isn’t universal. In Europe especially, it’s common to pay about 50 cents for using public restrooms.

The fix: Find free relief. Public buildings (think train stations, libraries and museums) rarely charge for bathroom use.

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