Avoid Paying Unnecessary Fees When You Travel

July 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling is expensive; there’s no way around it. But that doesn’t mean you have to fall prey to the hidden costs and extra surprise charges. There are ways to avoid unnecessary fees that can come along while you’re traveling, so here are a few ways you can avoid the problem.

house-money-capitalism-fortune-12619When you’re at the car rental agency desk and are asked if you want to buy their insurance, you can politely answer with a confident “no, thank you,” as long as you know that your standard car insurance policy covers rental cars (check with your agent to be sure). Also, some credit cards provide insurance for rental cars as well, like American Express.

Hunger strikes when you’re least prepared, and it seems like the only option available would be the overpriced airport and hotel food. Not true! Since you know you get hungry approximately three times a day, whether traveling or not, avoid that $3 bottle of water by packing your own empty one, and filling it at the water fountain. Better yet, fill it from the bottle-filling stations if available.
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A Potential Tax Cut for Airline Travelers

October 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When you purchased your airline ticket last week, you probably knew you paid some fees. But did you know about these?

The Domestic Flight Segment tax, the Excise Tax of Kerosene (jet fuel), the September 11th Security fee, and, my personal favorite, the Domestic Passenger Ticket tax (where you’re being taxed because you live in the US and are traveling within the US).

Plane of Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Plane of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congress decided it might have an opportunity to boost its approval ratings by reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding (which expired September 30, and was extended for six months) in such a way that both our traveling experience and the airports we travel through might be improved.

Here’s the problem: airlines rely on an outdated IRS-instituted fee structure. That structure excludes from taxation some services like checked bags and change fees (that we all end up paying), allowing airlines to skirt the prescribed taxes by exploiting these loopholes. Those incidental fees added up to $3.4 billion in bag fees and $2.3 billion in reservation change fees way back in 2010.

Congress was also examining how it could reallocate funding so that airports could improve their facilities. Airport lobbyists have been challenging Congress to raise the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (bet you didn’t know you paid that one) from $4.50 to $8.50. The current funding for the 2012 Federal Modernization Reform Act expires September 30, and there hasn’t been a discussion about or adjustment to these fees since 2000.

Airlines are claiming that passengers have already paid enough fees imposed by the government, while trying to divert attention from the fees passengers are really frustrated about paying, like the bag fee and change fee, not mention the often overlooked pet travel fee and the last-minute seat upgrade.

Congress’ re-examining the way airlines hike their prices without increasing the ticket price could result in changes that create happier travelers. But they haven’t been able to agree on matters of graver concern than this, so is there much hope of true change that could result in more money in our wallets?

How Not to Get Nickel-and-Dimed When Flying Low-Cost Airlines

December 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The sad truth about the budget airlines is that they tend to charge extra for everything. You can get a cheap ticket, sure. But you’ll also have to pay extra for just about everything else. In some cases, you don’t get charged for luggage that fits under the seat in front of you, but you have to pay for luggage that goes into the overhead bins.

Of course, luggage charges are now part of just about every airline’s revenue stream. But a recent article in The New York Post indicates that the three lowest-cost airlines (Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant) have turned luggage upcharging into an art.

The terminal ceiling is suspended in a catenar...

Airport luggage check-in area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When traveling on one of these low-cost airlines, make absolutely sure you don’t have to check a bag at the gate. Doing so can cost you big. For example, Spirit airlines charges under $30 for luggage that’s checked or carried on, but luggage that is checked at the gate comes with a whopping $100 price tag.

Allegiant has a lower starting point for overweight fees since their overages start at 41 pounds, whereas most other airlines start at 51 pounds. Pack light and weigh your luggage before you leave the house, if avoiding these fees is important to you. Carry a luggage scale with you to avoid return trip overages.

Allegiant also may be the only airline that charges a $10 fee to book online. You can avoid the fee by buying a “walk in” ticket at the airport, which seems risky if you’re planning a vacation. You may not get the flight you want, and the TSA will give you a closer look for those “spur of the moment” ticket purchases.

You also need to watch out for fees that are now becoming common in the airline industry at large. Printing out your boarding pass at the airport can be upcharged as can choosing which seat you want to sit in rather than just taking what the airline offers.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to be careful and do some research before buying a ticket. If it’s important to you to choose your seat and bring three large bags with you, you may end up paying the same price or more than you would for booking with a more traditional airline. Do your research beforehand, and compare prices before you book your ticket.

How do you avoid airline fees? Any useful tricks you’ve learned over the years? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Airlines Promise to Return Civility, But It’ll Cost You

January 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Once again, airlines are charging their customers new fees in an effort to boost revenue. If you’re getting ready to roll your eyes, not so fast – once you hear some of the perks that accompany these optional fees, you may be more than willing to fork over the extra dough.

It’s no secret that airlines make the majority of their revenue from the extra fees they charge, namely, baggage fees, in-flight meals, cancellation fees, and the like. While we’re all guilty of griping about airline fees (and no one likes paying them), many consumers don’t realize that thanks to the high cost of oil, these additional fees help keep fare prices from skyrocketing – up to 15% higher, according to some experts. In fact, such fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are one of the reasons many airlines are profitable.

Julie Watching Ponyo on Plane

Photo credit: camknows

Unfortunately, revenue from such fees is dropping. According to recent figures released by the government, 2013’s Q2 revenue from bag fees fell seven percent compared to the same period last year. In other words, airlines are now scrambling to find new sources of revenue, and this means more fees.

Thankfully, airlines have learned a lesson from their last few fee changes. Instead of opting to charge customers more for things that used to be free, they’re using this as an opportunity to find new ways to improve their customers’ travel experience by offering VIP worthy perks and services in exchange for a small fee. While some of these upgrades have been around for a while (think access to private lounges or a seat with extra legroom on your flight), some of these new upgrades are designed to make travelers’ lives easier.

For example, we’ve all had those times when we need to get work done on our flight, but can barely fit a large, unwieldy laptop on the tray table. To remedy this issue, some airlines are now offering in-flight iPad rentals. You’ve probably also had those moments where you find yourself wishing you’d sprung for the extra leg room upgrade – now, many airlines are offering in-flight upgrades. And, our personal favorite, some carriers are even offering luggage delivery service.

As airlines begin to focus more on customer experience, particularly through the use of technology, we expect that we’ll see more perks come available in the future. According to John F. Thomas of aviation and travel consulting company L.E.K. Consulting, “We’ve moved from takeaways to enhancements. It’s all about personalizing the travel experience.”

Would you pay extra for VIP-worthy add-ons? If so, what type of perks would you like to see airlines offer? Share with us in the comments section or via our Facebook page.

How to Avoid These 5 Gotcha Travel Fees

November 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s no secret that it’s becoming more and more expensive to travel. If you think that airlines are the only ones tacking on additional fees, think again. Thankfully, most of these fees are avoidable. Whether you’re flying, renting a car or staying in a hotel, there are a slew of hidden fees that everyone should be aware of when traveling. After reading USA Today’s article on gotcha fees, we pulled a few of our favorites, add weigh in with our own experiences.

1. Telephone booking fees

Do you prefer to book your flights through a telephone customer service agent? If so, you may be surprised to learn that you’ve been paying extra for this privilege. At $25 per telephone booking through several major airlines, it might cost you more to book a flight than it would to call Ms. Cleo’s psychic hotline.

To avoid this fee, use the same tool you’re using to read this blog post: your computer or your tablet. Visit the airline’s website to purchase your ticket. If you need assistance, you can still call and speak to an agent without incurring a charge, as long as you book your ticket online.

2. Hotel parking fees

Visiting a big city and planning on bringing (or renting) a car? Expect to pay big bucks for hotel parking. Parking in most big cities is already quite expensive, and hotels typically charge even more than the norm. If you must bring a car, do your research. There are plenty of websites you can use to find the cheapest nightly parking rate in the area you’re staying. If you’re renting a car, consider picking up your rental only when you need it, or renting it for the day and returning it at night. Other services like Uber ride sharing service, a taxi, or even public transportation like San Francisco’s BART or Boston’s T are much less expensive and sometimes faster.

3. Car rental insurance

English: Car rental counters of New Chitose Ai...

English: Car rental counters of New Chitose Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Renting a car? The insurance the car rental agent insists you need can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of your rental. If you already have car insurance, you may not even need this insurance. Call your insurance company to find out if your existing policy covers rentals. Additionally, some credit cards (such as American Express) offers low-cost car rental insurance. Do your research before you book a rental car and avoid the need for this redundant insurance.

4. Resort fees

Surprise. The hotel you’re staying at may not resemble a resort in the traditional sense of the word, but they may still be charging you a resort fee, especially if you’re in a tourist town. These fees generally run about $25 per night, which add up if you staying long enough. The best way to avoid this fee is to simply ask the hotel if there are any additional fees before you book, and negotiate your way out of them. If you wait until checkout, you’re too late.

5. Early check-in fee

If you arrive at your hotel too early, it may cost you. Many hotels charge an early check-in fee for travelers who arrive before the official check-in time, which is usually around 1pm. If you arrive earlier in the day, be sure to ask about any hidden check-in fees before going through the check-in process. Don’t want to sit around the lobby for hours? Most hotels will store your bags for free until your room is ready (don’t forget to tip the bellman though).

What’s the craziest hidden fee you’ve run into when traveling? Share with your fellow travelers in the comments section.

7 Common Expenses That Take Travelers by Surprise

August 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Atlantis Resort - Bahamas

Atlantis Resort – Bahamas (Photo credit: derekskey)

You may have budgeted carefully for your next trip, but there’s a good chance you’ll still be surprised by a few of the
unexpected expenses you encounter. A great Budget Travel article, reprinted on CNN’s website, mentioned a bunch of those expenses and explained what they are.

There really isn’t much you can do about these fees except know what they are — knowing is half the battle, after all — and grouse about them to your friends and colleagues. Here’s a look at those seven shockers:

1. Visa Fees

If you’re traveling to a foreign country, there’s a good chance you’ll need a visa. The costs can vary, but places like China and Brazil charge more than $100. Check in with the country’s consulate for costs, and be sure to give yourself plenty of time for your visa to come in — or you’ll pay extra to expedite it, too.

2. Departure Taxes

International flights, in addition to the other secret fees few know anything about, also include a tax just to leave the country, especially if you’re traveling from the Caribbean and South America. The CNN article says those taxes can go to fund things like airport construction work, road work, and water and sewage system maintenance.

3. Resort Fees

CNN calls these the most hated fees among travelers. Sometimes a flat fee and sometimes a percentage of the room rate, resort fees include things travelers often assume come for free, like towels at the pool or that daily newspaper outside the door. (You know, the one you step over on your way out?)

Some hotels include gym access and wireless internet in their resort fees, which you can’t sweet talk your way out of even if you don’t plan to use the services they cover.

4. Cruise Gratuities

Major cruise lines charge anywhere from $10 to $12 per person, per day, in gratuities alone. If you’re on a 10-day Caribbean cruise and have already been buying drinks and splurging on extras left and right, you’ll be even more stunned when hundreds of dollars in gratuity shows up on your final bill.

CNN notes that though the charges seem mandatory, you can take it up with the ship’s purser in person to adjust the gratuity, up or down, if you think you’ve received better or worse service than the rate indicates.

5. Baggage Fees

Need we say more? Baggage fees are killer, and rarely an actual shock, but it takes our breath away every time all the same. These fees are changing all the time, and usually not for the better — we’re all for carrying our bags onto the plane whenever possible. Failing that, be sure to do your research beforehand to find a carrier with reasonable baggage fees and fares to match.

6. Money Exchange

Especially if you plan on hitting smaller towns with mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, it’s always a good idea to visit a major ATM before you leave the city. They usually offer the best exchange rates and less hassle than a foreign exchange, too.

7. Foreign Transaction Fees for Airline Tickets

If you’re booking an international flight on a foreign carrier, you might want to find another flight or consider booking a code-share flight from a domestic partner airline — your credit card company could levy a foreign transaction fee for booking with British Airways, Air France or another foreign-based international carrier.

You can also use a credit card that doesn’t charge those fees, like Capital One. But your safest bet is just to book with an American carrier.

  • 7 common expenses that take travelers by surprise (cnn.com)
  • Watch out for new hidden hotel fee (newsnet5.com)
  • Hotels expected to fetch $1.95 billion in fees (travel.usatoday.com)
  • 10 most annoying hotel fees (travel.usatoday.com)