Top 10 charges to look out for
Finding a cheap flight is the easy part when it comes to budgeting for summer travel. Hidden fees surface from every direction when you book, pack, fly and travel both locally and abroad. The key is to do your homework and know what additional fees may be lurking that can bust your budget if you aren’t paying attention. Cheapflights has compiled a list of the Top 10 charges to keep an eye out for to ensure you save big this summer season.
Peak travel day fees
Experts contend that every day in June, July and August is considered a high peak day for travel, meaning yet another surcharge from many airlines and another hidden cost to flying during summer vacation. For those willing to do their due diligence, though, deals are out there to be had. Check airline websites for travel terms to pinpoint specific low-cost days to fly. If you’re willing to take off or land on an actual holiday like the Fourth of July, chances are you’ll find a steal. Also consider postponing your vacation days until the end of August. Students are going back to school earlier, summer is coming to an end faster, and peak summer rates are ending much sooner.
With the cost of fuel seemingly on the never-ending rise, it’s important to research different airlines’ gas-related charges. Major airlines have added fuel surcharges to routes where there’s less competition, avoiding the pressure to compete with low-cost airlines. Many carriers, like American Airlines, bundle fuel surcharges in with federal taxes, identifying them together as a generic fare increase. Read the fine print before you book and, if you’re flying domestically – when the charges apply – stick to the carriers that aren’t tacking on cloaked charges.
Buying travel insurance may be the smartest decision you make on a trip, especially when hurricanes and other natural disasters are involved. Sometimes, though, travelers are covered for insurance or flight reimbursement without even knowing it. Check with your credit card company to see if flights purchased with a particular card are reimbursed if canceled. Also revisit your health care policy. Many insurance groups cover international accidents, whether you’ve broken a limb water skiing in the Galapagos Islands or developed malaria while exploring Southeast Asia. There’s no need to double up on expenses, so reacquaint yourself with your coverage.
First rule of thumb: pack lightly. Typically for international flights, carriers permit flyers to check two pieces of luggage up to 50 lbs. each. Domestically, though, the game is constantly changing – and getting pricier. Some companies, like Southwest Airlines, count on their free baggage approach to lure travelers the discount route, while other companies charge for a second bag or even both at full cost. Factor baggage fees in when booking your trip. If a major airline has a better deal, but you plan to check two bags, the real deal could be finding alternatives. The right credit card could save you, too. Companies like Delta Air Lines offer a free first bag if you book using their credit card, like the Gold Delta Skymiles Credit Card. If you’re going for an extended period of time, consider shipping your luggage – it may prove cheaper than checking it.
Legroom is everything for some travelers, though now it comes at a cost. As does choice seating and other in-flight preferences. Do research before you fly and factor in what’s most important for you to travel most comfortably. If that means paying for checked baggage but having the option of an emergency exit seat, then choose accordingly. If you’re traveling with family, evaluate if you want to buy a seat for a child. Most airlines don’t charge for children under the age of two to fly, so weigh if you want to hold your child or use an arguably safer car seat on the flight.
Getting to and from the airport
Flying out of major cities like New York and Los Angeles can mean spending an extra $100 or more if you’re planning to get to or from the airport by cab. To avoid the hefty expense, leave a little earlier and opt instead for public transportation. Plus sometimes – like during rush hour in Manhattan – subways and buses will get you to the airport quicker than by car. If you’re daunted by the idea of public transit, book an airport shuttle online ahead of time or ask your hotel what free or inexpensive transport options are available. If you’re driving to the airport, park your car at a discounted parking lot. Short- or long-term, the savings will pay off.
Food and drink in transit
Packing snacks for your flight isn’t just healthier – it’s cheaper. Pack empty water bottles for you and your family and, once through security, fill them up at a water fountain. Fill baggies with solid snacks that can hold both adults and kids back from spending pretty pennies at terminal restaurants and food stalls. Meal and snack options are getting pared down, and can get costly, on most airlines so be sure, especially when traveling with kids, that healthy snacks are easy to reach.
Cell phone charges
The absolute worst is realizing that your phone’s getting a signal in a foreign country, then remembering you forgot to turn its data off. Keep in mind when you cross the border, by land or by sea, your cell is using data internationally – and you’re getting charged. Give your mobile service provider a call before you leave the country to review your terms and, if you’re interested in a raised flat fee, possibly switch to an international plan. Or see if a travel plan is available through your mobile company. If you’ve found yourself in the worst-case scenario of accruing charges without realizing it, call customer service to see if they’ll – very kindly – retroactively give you an international deal.
Touch base with your bank always before you travel, but especially if you’re heading overseas. Taking money out at ATMs abroad sometimes means getting slammed with fees from your own bank, the bank you’re getting money from, and – the best of them – an international fee. Know your bank’s restrictions before setting out for a vacation away. Though you’ll get the best conversion rate using an ATM rather than a currency converter at the airport, take out larger sums of money each time. Fewer stops at the ATM mean fewer fees.
Never assume when you make your rental car reservation that the estimated cost you’re quoted is what you’ll spend in the end. Make sure you budget for extra costs like fuel, insurance, upsells, parking, tolls, and putting an extra driver on your plan. Know the gas rates of the city you’re going to and decide whether the additional outlays of car transport are affordable – or necessary. Green cities like San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia, are appealing more and more to eco-conscious travelers, thanks to walkability, bike options and sustainable initiatives.
Written by Lauren Sullivan