How to avoid: Read the fine print before you book – particularly in cramped destinations like San Francisco, where we’ve seen overnight parking fees that nearly scrape the $70 mark. Either don’t rent a car or stay in the suburbs; there are some nice hotels in Marin County, for example, where you can park your car for free (or much cheaper) and then take the ferry into town, which is a much more relaxing way to arrive, anyway.
• The credit card transaction fee. Like Rome isn’t expensive enough. Then you get home and find out that your credit card provider tacked on 3 percent (or more) every time you whipped out your Visa, netting them a tidy little profit off your little Italian vacation. How’s that feel? Even if you use your card in your home country, if the vendor (airline, hotel, etc.) is located abroad you’ll probably get hit.
How to avoid: Anyone who travels regularly should be looking for two things in a credit card. First off, your card should be giving you rewards that make travel easier and cheaper, whether with free hotel nights or free plane tickets or general points that can be applied to all of the above. Also, that card should not carry a foreign transaction fee. Capital One’s popular Venture Rewards card is one option worth considering.
• Not that change fee, the other change fee. Did you see the news that airlines like United and American are now charging $200 to change a domestic flight and even more for international trips? Crazy, right? Well, if you’re looking to change an upcoming itinerary and you booked through a third-party Web site, brace yourself, because the site may also want to charge a rather hefty change fee as well. Say you booked a flight on United from New York to Orlando and it cost you $280. You booked it through a third-party site like CheapTickets. You have to change the flight because you’re needed back home a day early. That’s right — the cost of the change is now greater than the cost of the original ticket. Or almost.
How to avoid: Fly Southwest whenever you can! They never charge you to change a flight, plus you have no choice but to book with them directly, so that solves the problem of any third-party charges. Or, if there’s a good chance you’ll make changes, consider buying one of American Airlines’ Choice Essential fares. For a bit more, there’s no change fee, you get a checked bag round-trip and “Group 1” priority boarding.
George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing site Airfarewatchdog.com.