So you got a great rate on an airfare or hotel. Watch out, there may be hidden fees lurking in the shadows. From baggage fees and extra leg room to late check-out fees and expensive water, ancillary fees from airlines and hotels are an ever-present threat to the frugal traveler.
Here’s how to combat hidden charges and get the most for your travel dollars, courtesy of CNN.com.
Be aware of ancillary airline fees
By one estimate, airlines across the globe brought in almost $60 billion in 2015 from extra fees alone. Charging extra fees began with low-cost carriers, and it’s often why they can charge lower ticket fares.
Full-service airlines have followed suit in this push to charge passengers more whenever possible, including devising more categories of seats, allowing for more a la carte fees.
“What we’re seeing is about five different strata of cabins from first-class downwards,” says George Hobica, president of airfarewatchdog.com, in a CNN.com story. “If you buy one of the super-cheap fares, you’re going to be in the last row by the bathroom.”
“I think one of the worst ones is the change fees,” Hobica adds. “It used to cost nothing to change a ticket or a schedule. Now it’s $200. It doesn’t cost the airline $200 to change the ticket. You actually do it yourself.”
Getting less from loyalty programs
Frequent travelers have long relied on airline and hotel loyalty programs for perks such as free upgrades and checked bags.
But elite status doesn’t buy what it used to. “It used to be that the number one reason to be loyal to a particular airline was the free upgrade.” With airlines selling more of these seats — and some airlines routinely overselling — “it’s almost impossible now to get an upgrade,” Hobica says.
Hotels are doing it, too. Their ancillary fees can include everything from charging for bottled water, to high connection fees for Wi-Fi and the hotel room phone.
Also beware of the “resort fee” — an additional mandatory charge that supposedly covers the upkeep of hotel facilities and can be as much as $30.
Tips on beating charges
To not fall prey to ancillary charges, travelers have to be ever vigilant, especially when booking the flight or hotel.
Don’t assume it’s free. Never make assumptions that something is complimentary — read the fine print of each airline or hotel before you travel, and be careful and proofread what boxes you check when booking online.
Pack carry-on only. An increasingly popular travel option is to pack carry-on only, if possible. Not only will you save on baggage fees, you’ll exit your destination airport a lot faster.
Don’t be afraid to haggle. According to many travel experts, consumers can haggle almost anything, especially in person at a hotel. Depending on how much effort you’re willing to expend, you could get a fee dropped or even an upgrade.
Use helpful travel apps. We live in a digital, mobile world, and it often pays to download helpful travel apps to book online, find free Wi-Fi hotspots nearby, and sometimes be eligible for special online- or app-only discounts.
Possible fees to come
Airline expert Hobica thinks parents might eventually have to pay for a seat for very young children, even if they spend the trip in an adult’s lap. He also predicts more airlines following the lead of low-cost carriers Ryanair and easyjet by charging for the use of a credit card, as airlines have to pay 2 percent to 4 percent to the credit card company when consumers use a credit card.
Hotels may also start charging for the option to select the room of your choice. Some people prefer to have a room near a fire exit or ice machine, for example.
And now that many hotel chains have apps that allow you to check in and out electronically, without seeing a human, this will likely soon become the default offering. Travel experts predict we’re going to start paying more for human contact and help.