This week is Consumer Power Weekon Lifehacker. Every day we’ll be highlighting tips and strategies to save you money and avoid rip-offs. We’re kicking off with a top 10 list of travel expenses that are easy to avoid.
Picture by Kristina Hoeppner
The ability to search and compare online means you can get better travel bargains than ever before. However, it’s easy to get caught out with minor details that mount up and increase your costs. Here are 10 to watch out for.
10. Credit card booking fees
Airlines are often guilty of charging a per-passenger fee to book on your credit card, which can substantially increase the cost of flights. Check to see if there are alternatives such as paying via BPAY or other inter-bank systems. Not only will that eliminate the fee, it ensures you’re not spending money on credit.
9. Hotel card imprints
Most hotels will demand an imprint from your credit card when you check in to cover incidentals or damage, and it can often be a week or more before that money is refunded after you check out. That can be a nuisance if you’re travelling and relying on your card. You can’t avoid the charge, but consider paying a bond in cash instead. You get that back immediately.
8. Airport parking charges
Parking at the airport is expensive. Consider taking a taxi instead, or use public transport for the cheapest option. Picture by Ross Land/Getty Images
7. Hotel room breakfast charges
European hotels often include breakfast as standard, but in Australia and the US it’s often an additional charge. If the price is under $10, it can be a cheap and convenient way to start the day. However, paying $25 for the hotel buffet and only having a bowl of muesli is lousy value. Unless you stuff yourself silly and skip lunch, heading out to a cafe or takeaway joint will save you money.
6. Airport currency conversion fees
Exchange rates at airports are generally the worst you’ll find (those expensive airport rents don’t pay for themselves). The more organised you are, the better you’ll do. Our preferred solution is to organise a prepaid multi-currency travel money card and change money when the rates are favourable — you don’t need to carry large amounts of cash that way. But if you do want physical currency, check your financial institution; the rates are generally much better.
5. Site booking fees
Comparison sites for air fares often include a range of airlines, but then slap on a separate booking fee. Once you’ve identified a fare that looks promising, check the airline site directly. If you can get the same fare there, you’ll save plenty.
4. Hotel room phone charges
These are invariably insanely expensive; who wants to pay $1 for a local call? In Australia, use your mobile. Overseas, head to the lobby and try to locate a pay phone, rather than making a drunk call home and getting a $500 bill (yep, I’m guilty). If you’ve paid for hotel Wi-Fi (or it’s on offer for free), Skype and similar services are a much cheaper way to make calls.
3. Overseas ATMs
It can be useful in emergencies to withdraw cash from the nearest ATM, but you’ll often pay a very high charge for doing so. Not only will there be an ATM access fee, the exchange rate is unlikely to be favourable. (You’ll do better paying on a credit card if that’s an option.
2. Airport baggage charges
A cheap airfare can turn into a very expensive proposition if you end up packing too much luggage and have to pay exorbitant rates at the airport. Our complete guide identifies the worst domestic offender, but whoever you fly with, the principle is clear: work out how much luggage you’ll need and pay for it in advance. Picture by Hamish Blair/Getty Images
1.Global roaming charges
Sure, it’s convenient to be able to keep using your phone when you’re overseas, but there’s nothing convenient about a $1000+ phone bill when you get home. Check our comprehensive guide to avoid the traps.
Any other travel rip-offs you’re keen to avoid? Tell us about them in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman loves a good Scandinavian breakfast. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.