I heard this expression once, and it has stuck with me – When you travel most people pack twice as much as they will need, and spend twice as much as they had planned. While you may do an unexpected tour/adventure or purchase that perfect painting for the living room, those types of things should have hopefully been panned in your budget. While these things may be unexpected, they are not unplanned and hopefully won’t mess up your budget too bad in the long run. What can wreck and stress your budget are those unexpected travel expenses that you can sometimes avoid before you even leave home.
Trying to figure out bag fees can be a mind field. Each airline has different weight and size dimensions that can cost you a pretty penny if you don’t meet them. Some airlines use baggage fees as a way to supplement and boost profits. Thus they have an incentive to charge abnormally high fees for extra baggage. Of course, the best way to avoid the unexpected travel expenses due to baggage fees is to take advantage of your carry-on baggage allowance and pack some clothing and other necessities to take with you as a carry-on. We have not checked luggage in probably ten years (even if we are on a two-week trip as we can wash clothes wherever we are). Bringing only carry-on bags means not having to pay for checked-in luggage, and also saves time on all the procedures in the airport on both ends of the trip. If you do need or watch to check luggage, check your ticket and make sure luggage is included with your ticket. Budget airlines/tickets don’t always include free checked luggage or even a carry-on! Also, to avoid ever having overweight luggage, invest in a portable luggage scale so you can weigh it BEFORE getting to the airport. If you haven’t planned the content of your bag well, then it is easy to go over the weight limit and have to reorganize at the airport, in line, while other people give you the stink eye, lol. If you are in the US, here is my post on Checked Bag Fees of 4 Top US Airline Carriers that you might find interesting.
Ever hear of something called the tourist tax? Most likely you have, but if you haven’t, it is a city tax that many accommodations in some places like Europe will add to the price of your hotel, Airbnb, etc. The fee can vary from 2 euros per person to a percentage of your total price. What many people don’t know is that this tax is usually paid when you get to your accommodation and usually has to be paid with cash only. Not very pleasant when you have just landed after a long trip, and haven’t exchanged currency yet. We had learned through the years and always have a few Euros on us before we even leave the US. If you are not sure if there will be a fee, simply ask your hotel or host if they have any tourist taxes or additional fees and how much they will be. It’s always better to be prepared as much as you can.
Debit/Credit Card Fees
We have a few different credit cards and debit cards we use while traveling. They are all with different banks, and each one has different rules. If you go to an ATM not affiliated with your bank, or as they call them, a non-member bank, you’ll probably end up paying ATM or withdrawal fees. And they can add up fast! If you’re traveling internationally, some cards may even charge you a small percentage for each purchase. You can avoid these unexpected travel expenses by having a travel card that reimburses these fees or one that can be used internationally with no ATM or purchase penalties. Again, each card and bank is different so I can stress enough that before leaving your own country, make sure to read the policy of your credit card company or you may be in for a nasty surprise when you return home. Most of our cards also have no international exchange fee which can also add up. We also have a debit card that we can use internationally and they will reimburse any ATM fees incurred. This is nice so that we can grab some cash here and there, and not have to worry about carrying a lot of cash around just to avoid ATM fees. One more thing to note: don’t forget to always notify your bank when traveling out of the country to avoid your card being denied or worse eaten up by a machine. That happened once to my husband’s card in London and we never got it back 🙁
Here is another fee that can sneak up on you in a very bad and expensive way. As we are all connected to our phones, social media, etc, we want to be able to use them wherever we go and share where we are and what we are doing. However, roaming fees can make this harder and or more expensive while traveling outside of your phone coverage area, especially internationally. Yes, you could turn off roaming on your phone to avoid the potential for a large cell phone bill, or you can use Wi-Fi when possible, but it is not available everywhere. That doesn’t even include the need to use data for GPS directions and such. Luckily we have some coverage with our cell service and haven’t needed it, but we have considered purchasing a Sim card when we have traveled. It might also be beneficial to call your phone company to see if they might suggest an option to cut some costs. You may be able to temporarily change plans or do an add-on for a certain period of time. It never hurts to call and see what they have to offer.
If you have ever traveled outside of the US, you may have found that some restaurants add automatic tips to your bill. This may put a ding in your wallet if it was more than you planned on tipping. Ask beforehand if tips are applied automatically, or add the 15-20% tip to your dining budget for every meal to help you stay on budget. BTW, in some countries tipping more than what is already on the bill will make you look like you are trying to be a hot shot, or being rude. So different than the customs here in the US.
This is another fee that might surprise many travelers from the US or different countries. In the EU it will often cost you more to sit down or sit outside at a restaurant. I read that in Italy, it is common for places to charge for sitting and drinking your coffee. In Spain, guests are often charged extra if they want to sit on the patio outside rather than inside. This sounds crazy to me, but when in Rome, lol. Seriously though, restaurants will often note the additional fee at the bottom of the menu or on a sign. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask before ordering.
Currency Exchange Fees
Before our first international trip, we had no idea how pricey converting money could be especially since it was before the Euro and every European country had its own. We quickly found out that currency exchange places usually take a fee for their services, costing even more. We learned quickly to avoid those, especially at the airport where the exchange rates are quite often the highest. One more thing to note: Even with what I just said, it is also often cheaper to exchange money in your destination country rather than at home before your trip. Check the rate exchange and fees for several places before you trade your hard-earned money.
Before I close I want to end with some good advice I have been told by many and always use when we travel internationally. While the above-mentioned unexpected travel expenses can be frustrating and expensive, they can be eliminated or reduced by doing a little due diligence before traveling or patronizing an establishment. However, there are a few issues that are beyond all of our control. These are such things as emergencies (at home or abroad), lost luggage (although airlines will sometimes cover this), flight cancellations, weather issues that cause evacuations, or even medical expenses if you get sick and need to see a doctor. These things are out of our control and it is with much advice I share with you to GET TRAVEL INSURANCE!
There are many companies out there, with different amounts for length of stay, destination, etc. You can find a plan that fits your needs to help with these types of unexpected travel expenses. Pre-pandemic they weren’t too bad for the peace of mind in case something happened. No idea about prices now (thanks stupid Xi Jinping and his idiot followers, NOT), but no matter what the cost I still highly suggest it. You never know what could happen when you are in another country and need to get home unexpectedly. You can search from some companies on your own, but here is a list Forbes says are some of the best of 2022. I am not suggesting or backing any of them, just throwing it out there. If you have a favorite, please comment below. Happy and safe travels!
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