Travelling is expensive enough as it is without airlines, hotels and other companies surprising you with big fat fees. While the travel industry might enjoy preying on the exhausted, it only takes a little knowledge to avoid these fees altogether.
Save Money On Flights
Airlines love charging fees. While every airline is a little different, there are a few elements you can usually skip over or avoid when you’re booking your flight to save a little cash.
Is travel insurance worth it? That depends. For overseas flights, it makes sense, if only because medical expenses can be so horrendous. For expensive journeys, having a cancellation option can be useful. For shorter domestic trips, it may not be worth it.
Regardless, buying insurance from an airline when you book the flight is rarely going to offer the best deal. Shop around and compare prices. Annual policies are often substantially cheaper. In many cases, you can also score free insurance simply by paying with the right credit card.
Avoiding baggage fees is almost impossible these days, but how much you pay is still a variable you can tinker with. Check our detailed guide to the fees charged by domestic airlines. The most important rule? If you do need to check baggage, pay for it in advance; it’s much more expensive if you wait until you hit the airport. While you can avoid these charges by not checking baggage, remember that airlines are cracking down hard on hand luggage.
Credit Card Fees
Most airlines charge a fee if you use a credit card to book. These are difficult to avoid, but there are workarounds. Qantas will let you pay via BPAY, and Virgin will let you use POLi. Jetstar waives fees if you use the Jetstar Mastercard, and Tigerair waives fees if you use a Mastcard debit card.
Never book a ticket over the phone — you’ll be slugged with a hefty fee for doing that. And be cautious when using comparison sites; some whack an additional charge on (yes, we’re looking at you, Webjet). If you don’t want to book direct with the airline, use a travel agent — no booking fees there.
Save Money On Your Hotel
You might not think of a hotels as overpriced, but they can hit you if you’re not careful. Hotels add on small fees for cancellations and Wi-Fi, but they’re easy to avoid paying.
Hotel Wi-Fi Fees
After a long day of travelling, it sucks to arrive at a hotel and find out they want you to pay for their terrible Wi-Fi access. Before you do, check for other options. Some hotels charge for Wi-Fi but not for wired access. If that’s an option, turn your laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot (or just always bring along your own router) and browse the web for free. Alternatively, check if Wi-Fi access is free in the lobby, or tether your phone (assuming you have a reasonable data allowance).
Hotel Cancellation Fees
Hotels usually charge you a cancellation fee if you cancel within 24 hours of when you’re supposed to arrive. However, they don’t charge you to change your reservation to a different date. So, as we’ve pointed out before, you can often avoid paying the cancellation fee by calling and changing your reservation to a later date, then calling back later and cancelling it altogether. It’s a little sneaky, but it can work. Note that if you’ve booked a no-change cheaper room, this won’t be an option.
Never Use The Phone
Making calls on hotel room phones is ridiculously expensive. Stick to your mobile if you’re in Australia.
Save Money Everywhere Else
It’s not just hotels and flights, of course. Fees are everywhere. Here are a couple of others you’ll want to watch out for.
Mobile Roaming Charges
Roaming charges can pile up really quickly. Check out our list of roaming mistakes to avoid for detailed guidance.
If you don’t need to use your phone and want to rely on Wi-Fi, that’s very easy to do. Just download everything you need for your trip before you leave (don’t forget the maps), turn on flight mode, then switch Wi-Fi on. There’s no need to call your phone company this way, it will just look like your phone is powered off to them.
ATM Fees and Conversion Fees
If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll probably need to convert some money. When you do so, your bank will charge you, both at the ATM and for every credit card transaction. Those can add up quickly!
Avoiding these fees requires a little bit of preparation. Your best bet is to find a credit card or travel money option that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Check out our roundup for some good options. On the ATM front, try and avoid them if you can — getting out of those fees is difficult unless your main account is with a bank that operates in multiple countries.