BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
7 Common Expenses That Take Travelers by Surprise
You've carefully planned your vacation budget to the last cent, factoring in flights, hotels, transportation, and even three meals a day. Don't get too comfortable. There are a host of additional fees that you need to be aware of. Here are the seven biggest ones that could take you by surprise.
There is a dizzying amount of variation when it comes to which airlines charge what for checked bags, excess luggage, and even carry-on bags. Spirit Airlines famously charges $30 per carryon bag (it's $45 if you wait until you reach the gate to pay the fee, and is said to be going up to a staggering $100 in November 2012), while your first checked bag is free on Jet Blue and each passenger gets to check two bags free with Southwest. Delta doesn't charge for the first checked bag to most international destinations, but that exact same bag will cost you another $25 if your flight is staying within the U.S. or Canada. The rules are always changing, and it's hard to keep up (Airfarewatchdog.com has a comprehensive and continuously updated chart). It's well worth researching airline baggage policies before you even book. That $50 difference between fares can disappear quickly if you have to pay $70 to check two bags.
Setting off to explore an off-the-beaten-path beach or a tiny village that's large on charm is all part of the adventure. The mom-and-pop restaurants and shops that line main street are a nice change from the chain stores that every city seems to have, but don't count on them taking credit cards-or the presence of an ATM. It's worth those few minutes on your way out of town to stop at a major ATM (which offer the best exchange rate) before you head out for the day. If you don't, you'll be hit with much higher fees at a foreign exchange bureau—or let the shopkeeper determine how many USD that souvenir is worth.
FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES FOR AIRLINE TICKETS
Finding a great price on a flight directly from, say, British Airways or Air France is fantastic. But be aware that just because the price is in USD doesn't mean you won't be charged a foreign transaction fee by your credit card company. The airline is still an overseas business. There are ways around the fee, though. One is to use a credit card that doesn't charge for international transactions (Capital One is one). Or find a U.S. airline partner of the airline you want to book with. For example, if you're looking into flights to Germany and find a deal with Lufthansa, book through their partner United's website instead to avoid foreign transaction fees showing up as part of your charge. Not sure if the airline has a U.S. connection? Airline partners are listed on the company's website, or check to see if they are part of the larger networks (such as the Star Alliance, which includes Lufthansa and United as well as South African Airways and Air New Zealand).
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