Traveling can be very expensive, and the more you do it, the more likely you are to look for hacks and deals to help you save money on your trips. Besides hunting down those hidden deals that can help save a couple of bucks every here and there, there are some rookie mistakes that many people make that can significantly affect the cost of the trip.
Prime examples are the fees associated with airlines, car rental services, and accommodation. Virtually every aspect of the trip. To avoid these costly mistakes, you must know what to look for, especially when it comes to booking. Keep reading this article to see some of the biggest travel mistakes that people make, and how you can avoid making these same mistakes on future trips.
1. Not Knowing the Airline’s Luggage Policy
There are many fees hiding in plain sight when it comes to discount airlines like Frontier and Spirit Airlines. Some of these airline carriers even charge for carry-ons and an increasing amount with every additional bag. To make matters worse, these fees can multiple if you decide to pay at the gate, rather than online, ahead of the flight.
To figure out which flight is really the cheapest, you’ll need to compare the costs of the airlines that charge baggage fees with the ones that do not. In doing so, you might be shocked to learn that the carrier you were planning on going with, may not give you the biggest bang for your buck and that there are other more affordable options.
2. Not Understanding the Term “Basic Economy”
When it comes to booking a flight without any luggage or upgrades, basic economy tickets are usually the ones that show up as the cheapest options, especially when comparing flights. Choosing these flights means that you have no control over what your in-flight experience is going to be like. Some airlines, Delta and United, for example, have been putting premiums on services that were once a standard part of the flight booking process.
Seat selection, in-flight drinks, overhead bin space, non-refundable tickets, and other basics are just some of the things that you’ll be giving up for a few hours in exchange for a more affordable flight. It gives new meaning to the phrase, “you get what you pay for.”
3. Not Using Airline Miles or Points Correctly
Using accumulated miles and reward points is one of the best strategies to save some money when it comes to travel, but unfortunately, knowing how to use them correctly is a science that very few have mastered. Travelers rarely, if ever, take the time out to calculate the dollar value of their reward system. You’ll need to know what they are worth if you’re going to make the most of them.
Another thing to consider is what you want to get out of it. Do you want to spend it getting to your dream destination or to pay for travel upgrades? To get the biggest bang for your buck, you should sign up for as many points and reward programs as possible.
4. Not Compromising on Dates or Destinations
There are times when you’ll need to be in a specific location at a specific time, but if you want to your trip to be as affordable as possible, you may need to be more flexible with your dates.
Travel websites like Skyscanner, find the cheapest countries to fly to for specific dates, and while it is very helpful, there’s a better option. If you know where you want to go, but you don’t dead set on when you want to go there, then you can fly off to your dream destination at the cheapest dates of the year, saving you money that can be spent on other fun activities.
5. Not Checking Several Booking Website for Flight and Hotel Deals
The Internet is an incredibly complex place, and luckily for us, its complexities make life a little easier for us. Websites like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, and other online travel agencies compare rooms and flights to numerous destinations. According to U.S. News and World Report, these sites make money by charging fees and markups, and as such, the same hotel room may be priced differently from your preferred website.
As the buyer making use of those websites, it’s important to check as many of them as possible. You might be surprised to find that one of them may be running a deal that is too incredible to pass up.
6. Packing Too Much
One of the biggest and most common travel mistakes is bringing too much stuff with you. When your suitcase is heavier that the airline’s weight limit, there are overage fees that you’re going to have to pay, in addition to having to pay for your checked bag.
Some of those overage fees can be as high as $200, specifically for international destinations. If you are traveling to a location for a week or less, then narrowing your outfit options down to a carry-on can make life simpler and cheaper for you. Also, the less things you bring with you, the more space you’ll have for souvenirs and new clothes.
7. Paying to Change Your Flight
There are times when you’ll come across some unbelievable deals, and the first impulse is often to jump on it before it disappears, and while there are times when it pays off, there are also times when it doesn’t. The excitement of a good deal makes one forget about the fine print. While Federal law states that you have 24 hours from the time of booking to cancel the flight, as long as it is within 7 days of the departure date, there are many third-party sites that do not follow the same policy.
Forgetting to read the policies can lead people to make small mistakes; some people have accidentally booked their trip on the wrong dates or chosen the wrong airport. These mistakes come with big price tags to correct.
8. Paying the Full Price to Upgrade Your Seat
We all know how expensive flying premium economy and business class can be, but why spend that much money if you don’t need to? Quite a few airlines have bidding policies for flight upgrades through providers such as Plusgrade.
For those willing to spend that kind of money on in-flight luxuries, it may be worth your while to take a shot at a blind auction. If it is accepted, they’ll let you know 2 – 3 days before your flight, and if not, then you can go ahead and book the upgraded seat as advertised.
9. Paying for Over-Priced Airport Food
It’s amazing how much the cost of food can go up by simply passing through airport doors. To make matters worse, many of the food options are quite unhealthy. Convenience comes at a cost, so it’s a good idea to either eat before your flight or to pack something to take with you.
Keeping in mind that you have to throw out liquids exceeding 3.4 ounces before crossing security, paying $5 for a bottle of water, no matter the brand, seems like lawful robbery. Another idea would be to take an empty water bottle with you; there are several drinking fountains and sinks that you can use to fill it once you get past security.
10. Assuming that You Need to Rent a Car
Over the last couple of years, rental cars seem to be losing both their appeal and their usefulness. Between having to wait in traffic and the high costs of rental cars, many transportation options could be considered before booking a rental car.
Everything from using public transportation, such as buses, trains, and trams to using ride-sharing apps like Uber, Lyft, and Zimride are viable options. There are also hotels that offer shuttle services and discounted airport transportation, significantly lowering traveling expenses. Another possibility is using websites like Zipcar, which lets you borrow someone’s car by the day. They offer yearly membership plans; some which start as low as $7 a month.
11. Relying Solely on Taxis to Get Around
Coming in a close second to getting a rental vehicle is relying on taxis to get to where you’re going. Ride-sharing apps have seriously disrupted the taxi business, probably because they’re more affordable and reliable. One of the best ways to save money is to simultaneously use different ride-sharing apps to compare the estimated costs before booking a ride.
In some cities, these apps allow you to split the cost of the trip with other riders, like UberPool and Lyft Line, which is essentially carpooling. Choosing to go with these options can save you a couple of extra bucks if you don’t mind getting to your destination a few minutes later than you would if you got a regular ride.
12. Getting Rental Car Insurance, When You Don’t Need It
In situations when you need to get a rental car, there’s always that awkward moment when the agent or website asks you if you would like to purchase rental insurance. Every part of the rental car service seems to be an overpriced add-on, including the GPS device. Still, the question remains as to whether you really need the insurance, which in many cases can double the cost of the rental.
The answer to that question depends on the coverage you already have. There are instances when rental car insurance is included with your primary care insurance, or even with a travel credit card. In the event that you have to make a claim, it’s likely to raise your monthly premiums. So only you can decide whether putting out the extra money is worth it.
13. Forgetting to Refuel It Before Returning It
Depending on which rental car company you decide to get your car from, there are different options when it comes to fueling policies. There are some people, for whatever reason, who forget to read the fine print.
Rental agencies often charge a convenience fee if you don’t want to return the car with a full tank. Taking some time out to find a gas station to quickly refuel before heading off to your next stop can be the difference between only spending money to full the tank, or twice the cost of local fuel rates when your rental company does the exact same thing…so much for convenience.
14. Forgetting to Service Your Vehicle Before a Long Road Trip
Road trips can be extremely fun, especially when you have a great group of people to go with, but it can also send you over budget, that is, if you aren’t careful. It’s one of the main reasons why you should always schedule to get your vehicle checked or serviced before heading out on a long trip.
Making sure that your oil and wiper fluid get topped off and looking for any potential problems that could leave you and your group stranded is a great place to start. The tires, engine, brakes, and filters should also be checked.
15. Not Considering Other Modes of Travel
When traveling from country to country, not considering other ways of getting around, can blow your budget out of the water. When it comes to European countries, there are flight companies like Ryanair and Easyjet, which offer less expensive flights than trains or buses. According to GoEuro, air travel is a lot more affordable in places like France and Spain, than ground travel.
Another point to consider is the time aspect. If a bus from New York to Boston is half the cost of the train ride but adds an hour or two to your travel time, then you need to ask yourself if the savings are really worth it.
16. Paying Expensive Airport and Hotel Parking Fees
Rental vehicles can be very costly as it stands, but when you factor in parking fees, the numbers really begin to add up. Luckily, there are several GPS-powered websites that can tell you the cheapest and closest parking lots in your area.
Apps like SpotHero and ParkWhiz can save you what can add up to a couple hundred dollars. To save even more money, you should also skip the valet parking services; having to tip the driver an additional $4-$10 every time they take your car, can cost quite a bit of money.
17. Staying at Hotels with Outrageous Resort Fees
When it comes to lodging costs, resort fees are one of the most vexing charges that customers have to deal with. Hotels have begun adding on anywhere from a few dollars to upwards of $100 per night for amenities that you thought were included, like the Wi-Fi or swimming pool. The scary part is that these fees aren’t advertised upfront; they often show up after you refresh the page to see the final price.
Many people call the act dishonest, but unfortunately, it will not change until the Federal Trade Commission does something about it. Cities like Las Vegas, Miami, and many Caribbean resorts are particularly prone to these fees. Booking directly through the hotel’s website is one to avoid some of these costs.
18. Not Exploring Other Lodging Options
It doesn’t take much to get a better rate these days, and something as simple as an email could be all it takes to get a great discount. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll never know until you try. Negotiating a deal with the hotel for bookings during its off-season or for late arrivals can be the thing that saves you some money.
You can also stay somewhere other than a high-priced hotel. There are many hostels that offer private rooms, and countless Airbnbs also offer the same thing. Another option, which is not as popular or comfortable, is couch surfing at a friend’s home.
19. Making Use of the Hotel Minibar
We all know what it’s like to be hit with the munchies at odd hours of the night, and fortunately or unfortunately, hotel executives realize it too, and they’re hoping that it happens. The markup on the nicely stacked candy bars, water, and alcohol, can be anywhere from 75 to 300%, according to a 2010 Mint survey.
It would be a good idea to stock up on drinks and snacks from one of the local grocery stores in the event that you feel like your hunger urges get the best of you. Not only will you be saving some money, but there’s also more variety. Another option would be to find a hotel that offers free amenities.
20. Not Knowing Your Travel Insurance Options
Many things can go wrong with travel experiences – lost baggage, canceled flights, missed flight connections – and they highlight the importance of travel insurance. While it is important, not everyone needs to get it. Certain credit cards and insurance providers offer some form of protection.
You must also need to assess your risk level; you’ll need to find out what kind of traveler you are, how long the flight is, and how expensive the trip is. There are different comparison apps and websites, like InsureMyTrip, which can help to determine which options are best for you. They can also help you to understand what your plan covers for medical emergencies, natural disasters, and terrorism.
21. Using Credit Cards Which Have Foreign Transaction Fees
Foreign transaction fees are surcharges that appear with every purchase made outside of the United States. The bank adds on an additional 2 – 3% of each of the sales charges, and these fees can add up very quickly.
There are several banks that offer travel rewards cards with a bonus incentive of zero transaction fees. Some of the most popular credit cards include Bank of America’s Travel Rewards and Chase Sapphire Preferred. This can easily be avoided by finding the best banks and credit unions for travelers.
22. Not Talking to Your Cell Phone Provider About an International Plan
Most people will use their cellphones for more than just selfies while on vacation. It can be extremely helpful when looking up which restaurant to go to, which attractions to visit, and for mapping out different locations. Unfortunately, using your data abroad can rack up hundreds of dollars in charges.
You should always check the options that your cell phone carrier has before jetting off on your trip. Verizon customers traveling to Canada or Mexico might find it cheaper to change their plans to an unlimited monthly plan rather than adding the daily $5 international TravelPass. Another option would be to buy a local SIM card, but it could be more expensive depending on where you’re going.
23. Not Knowing the Best Currency Converting Options
The thing about currency exchange rates is that it is constantly changing; you might look it up today to find one rate, and by the time you get to your destination, it has changed. Each seller has a different rate that varies by a few cents but can add up depending on how much you need.
To find out which seller has the best exchange option, not only do you need to consider the exchange rate, but also the transaction fees, and how quickly you’ll need the money. Many places can convert cash: your local bank, the airport, and even the banks and ATMs at the destination.
24. Not Signing Up for Different Deal Alerts
People love to feel like they’ve gotten a good deal, which is why sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights, Travelzoo, and Groupon exist. Many of these discount websites and apps trackers allow users to add in their favorite cities, and airports so that the deals that show up are customized to their travel plans.
The deals that show up range from restaurants, to tours and events, to spa treatments, to goods for purchase. Having multiple deal apps can save you hundreds if the deals apply to activities in the city that you are headed to.
25. Not Making Use of All the Possible Discounts You Can Get
There are many discounts out there, but some of them aren’t the coupon codes you find online. AAR, AARP, members of the armed forces, and loyalty club members are eligible for a number of travel discounts that are seriously underutilized.
These discounts can be applied to everything from upgrades to percentages off hotel bookings. They are rarely advertised, but if they contact the airlines, hotels, and attractions ahead of time, you might be surprised by the amazing deals you find. American Airlines, Budget Car Rental, Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney World, and Hilton Hotels all offer great deals for some of these groups.
26. Not Knowing Your Destination’s Tip Policy
Living in America, we’ve been conditioned to think that we should always tip between 15% and 20%, but the same rule doesn’t always apply for every country. Some countries only expect a bonus of only 5% and in many European countries; gratuity is automatically factored into the bill.
It’s a good idea to look up the tipping guidelines of the country you are heading to. There are also some countries, like Japan and Hong Kong where sliding someone a tenner is considered rude. Not only can you save a couple of bucks, but you also learn the proper etiquette.
27. Not Telling Your Bank About Your Travel Plans
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is that they forget to place travel alerts on their debit and/or credit cards before leaving. By skipping the alert, you’re putting yourself at risk for having your cards frozen on suspicion of fraudulent activity. The embarrassment of having your card declined is bad enough but trying to get it resolved can also cost you, big time.
While you wait for your bank to prove that you are who you say you are, you might have to borrow money from a friend, or have it sent to you via MoneyGram. Luckily, most banks have toll-free numbers for handling this common emergency.
28. Waiting for Your Passport to Expire Before You Renew It
One of the most common yet preventable problems that can occur is finding out that you have an expired passport close to your travel date. There are several countries in the world that will not allow you to enter unless your passport is valid for at least 3 to 6 months either before or after your travel period.
In the United States, the standard wait time to get a passport can range anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks, but there is an expedited option. To shorten the processing time to 2 to 3 weeks, it will cost you an additional $60.
29. Eating Near or At Tourist Traps
Tourist traps are services and attractions specifically marketed for attracting large groups of tourists, and more importantly, their money. These establishments tend to be more expensive, but lower in quality than many other attractions. By visiting these places, you’ll be sacrificing taste, something that could potentially ruin the entire experience.
If you happen to be a foodie or someone who plans on visiting many restaurants, researching the restaurants ahead of time using websites like Eater or even TripAdvisor can off a great deal of insight. Another option would be to ask the hotel staff for some recommendations.
30. Booking Cruises or Tours for Solo Travelers
No one likes being singled out, but that is exactly what some tour companies do. Many of them charge more money for solo travelers. It’s actually very common, particularly with cruise lines; they often charge between 50 – 100% markup for those who travel on their own.
There are websites like Contiki that offers to pair solo travelers up on various excursions and hotel stays across 6 continents. It’s a great option for people not wanting to pay the extra fee but aren’t shy about spending time with strangers.
31. Getting Robbed
There is nothing that ruins a vacation like realizing that something important has been stolen from you. Discovering a missing phone, wallet, or even worse, a passport, will have you wishing that you never left home. No one asks to be robbed, but certain things that make you a target.
Wearing expensive brands and carrying designer bags and accessories makes you more noticeable. Another tip is to store your valuables, at least one credit card, and some money in the hotel’s safe. Some people purchase money belts and scarves to help conceal their valuables, but perhaps the most important tip is to remain vigilant, especially in crowded areas.