You booked the flight, you got the hotel, the rental car — maybe you even figured out how much your food costs are going to run you on your upcoming vacation. You’re set, you’re done, no surprises. Right? Well, maybe not.
As we too often find out when traveling these days, the cost of the trip is not necessarily, well, the cost of the trip. Little fees, taxes, charges and surcharges pop up along the way, sometimes so often that before you’re even in your destination, your budget has been all but blown up.
Hitting the road? Keep your eyes peeled for these eight often very expensive travel fees. With a little extra effort, many of them can be avoided.
• The “what the hell?” rental car fee. From convention center expansions in San Diego to sports stadiums in Houston and Seattle, cities are increasingly finding the airport rental car counter to be a swell place to pick up some quick cash. At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, you’ll pay $8 per day — on top of your already giant pile of taxes and fees — for the city to be able to build a fancy new rental car center at the airport. In Charlotte, travelers unwittingly helped build one of the city’s most popular attractions, the NASCAR Sports Hall of Fame. Often, these fees show up as murky, undecipherable line items on your final bill. You may have no idea what you just paid for, but you paid. Sometimes, a great deal.
How to avoid: In many destinations, you’ll find that the overall tax burden is far lighter when you rent a car at an off-airport agency location. Anyone headed to a destination that has reasonable public transit links might consider picking their car up a few stops away. You may be surprised at how much you’ll save; you’ll also be surprised to find out that very often, you can pick up a car at an in-town location and return it to the airport without an additional charge, streamlining your trip home.
• The UK departure tax. The government calls it an “Air Passenger Duty” and it’s supposed to end global warming — or something. You’ll call it shenanigans, when you see how much it can drive up the cost of your trip. Flying London to New York? Since April, the fee for those flying on a basic coach ticket has been $100. Everyone else pays just over $200. It costs even more if you’re flying to the West Coast. And yes, you’ll pay it if you’re using frequent flyer miles.
How to avoid: Flying home from London via a close-in continental destination definitely lowers the cost of the fee; just check that it doesn’t raise the cost of the ticket to the point where you’re not really saving. Or just take the money and put it to good use: Round-trip fares on the Eurostar to Paris start at around $100 — just fly round-trip to Paris and see two cities in one trip. Also, one U.K. airport, Belfast in Northern Ireland, isn’t subject to the tax (yet).
• The “resort fee.” Remember when you used to get a newspaper, a cheap packet of in-room coffee, some Internet and access to the fitness center for free at your hotel? Oh, wait — at thousands of perfectly good hotels across the country, you still can. So why are we buying into the notion that hotels must now charge us $25 per day (a common number) for the privilege on top of our nightly rate? And worse, why won’t the hotel come straight out and tell us?