You've received your mission, picked up your super spy gadgets from M and booked your travel arrangements to get to your exotic rendezvous. You see the total payment in bold and balk at how much money you've agreed to spend, but thankfully the government is picking up the tab. You grab your briefcase and practice saying the secret password safe in the knowledge that there won't be any surprises... or will there?
Unfortunately, a myriad of hidden costs can besiege your wallet when you travel, causing you to go over budget. Some are insignificant costs like that bottle of hotel water you thought was free, but turned out to be $3. Others, like resort fees can add up to hundreds of dollars. To help you avoid unwanted extra expenses, we've put together a list of the most common ones.
Transport to and From Your Hotel
Touch down, your flight has landed, and you can't wait to get to your hotel and start relaxing. But suddenly you're accosted by hundreds of alternatives for getting out of the airport, all of them claiming to be the cheapest way, while at the same time seeming to cost a small fortune. Avoid this scenario by doing some advanced research and deciding on the best price and time option for you. Bear in mind that most airports are connected by relatively cheap public transport links.
A vacation isn't a vacation without a little "Treat Yo'Self" indulgence like room service and even a trip to the spa. These are all optional extras that turn a journey into a vacation. But there are plenty of extra charges on vacation that aren't really optional.
Hotel parking is one such extra charge. In areas like Boston and Fort Lauderdale, self-serve parking can cost as much as $45 per day! Avoid this charge by choosing a hotel that specifies free self-parking or choose a car-free vacation in a city where walking and public transport are convenient.
Beach or pool towels and chairs (and even in some cases access) is another such extra that you really have little choice in. If you're booking a beach holiday, make sure you thoroughly check the hotel's policies and pricing before you book. If your hotel is one that charges for towels it might be worth investing in your own towel at one of the local souvenir shops. You can take it home as a keepsake after!
Dreaded Resort Fees
Probably the most hated concept in the world of travel, additional resort fees can double the cost of your nightly stay in certain locations. Hotels say they use this additional fee to cover things like housekeeping, coffee, toiletries and other sundry services.
Las Vegas is notorious for its exorbitant resort fees, where it's not uncommon for fees to add an extra $25 to $35 per night. There are still a few hotels in Sin City that have held out against adding these extra charges. For more information, check out this list.
Other destinations where you can expect a daily resort fee include Florida, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico. The resort fee is not always included in your final price (you may find information about it in the terms and conditions, as with BookIt) so it is wise to ask the hotel or travel agent directly before purchasing.
Car Rental Insurance
The open road, the wind in your hair, the music blaring: You feel like you've hit the vacation jackpot and you don't have a care in the world. But did you take out more insurance than you need on that rental car?
Most car rental companies offer expensive insurance, but chances are you don't need it. Before you rent, put a call in to your credit company to check if they are already providing you with collision coverage. If they are, paying for your rental with your credit card will alleviate the need for additional coverage from the rental company. It's also worth contacting your personal car insurance provider to check if your existing policy covers rental car claims as well.
Airport and Hotel ATM
Withdrawing money on your vacation can be an expensive habit, especially in areas where you have little choice of ATMs, like at the airport or your hotel. Typically, the bigger the bank, the more they charge, with average withdrawal costs for banks such as Bank of America coming in at $5 per transaction.
If you want to avoid these fees but don't fancy carrying around large wads of cash, check out your bank's International Partner ATMs. They may still charge a fee, but it will be considerably less.
Cruise Service Fees and Port Charges
Setting sail and leaving all your day-to-day stress behind can be liberating, but the pinch you feel when you see the bill will bring you right back down to Earth. When you find a cruise you like for a price you can manage and get through to checkout, you'll often notice an extra $200-$300 added to your bill.
This is mostly tax, but it may also include port fees, which is the cost of the ship docking. Another shock may come when you check your bill and notice that a 15% mandatory gratuity has been added to the price, even if the meal was self-service. Check before hand if this is the case, and if so, think twice about stuffing extra dollars into that tip jar at the bar.
Mobile Roaming Charges
In this day and age, not using your mobile device on vacation can seem like a punishment. (Though give it another day and you will probably discover that it's a liberation. Try it!) If you don't want to unplug on your vacation but also want to avoid hefty roaming charges, consider contacting your mobile service provider to find out about switching to a temporary international package while away. Notably, many T-Mobile Simple Plan customers already have roaming included in their service.
Alternatively or additionally, invest in some (free) VoIP apps for texting and making calls. If your location offers free WiFi, you'll be able to stay connected. For content you want to use out and about on vacation (like guide books or maps), download it in advance and save it to be viewed offline.
In the long litany of hated hidden charges, country "exit fees" are the most unexpected and untimely. These fees usually crop up as you are departing a country (even if your stop in that country was only a layover) and, although they are usually only $20 or $30, they start to add up when you're traveling to several countries. Expect to be charged when leaving countries like Hong Kong, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Columbia, and many more besides.
If you are booking a vacation package, contact the agent first and see if the package price includes exit fees. If you have booked a multi-stop airplane ticket, the airline will be able to provide you with information on additional fees to be expected.
Unless you really are a super spy and the government really is picking up your tab, hidden costs can really hit you where it hurts. The worst part of these expenses is that they sneak up on you, rather than declaring themselves honestly. Now that you are armed with the knowledge of where to look to find them, you will hopefully be able to avoid them.
This article first appeared in DealNews.