How to Avoid Summer Travel Fees

The summer months are peak travel times, so beware of extra fees and incidentals.

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 are some useful travel tips on how to avoid hidden charges and get the most for your travel dollars, courtesy of Christopher Elliott and USA Today.

Asterisks and airline fees – Remember when you could buy an airline ticket and you actually got a ticket? Today, that purchase is just a starting point—optional seat “assignments” are a big source of airline revenue. A recent study by suggested that more than 38 percent of airlines’ total revenue can be attributed to “extra fees.” If you see a very low airfare advertised, chances are, there’s something the airline isn’t clearly communicating, such as high fees you’ll have to pay to get a seat assignment.

Travel companies like to advertise prices “from $99” or slide in an asterisk next to the rate, indicating that there’s important information they’re omitting. If you see fine print, read it, and don’t buy anything until you understand the true cost.

Overseas mobile data and roaming fees – In many cases, paying high fees for data or cellular connections when you’re overseas is a rip-off, say many industry insiders. Unless you absolutely have to be online at all times—and few of us do—try and wait for free Wi-Fi. Several major carriers include international mobile data in their plans—ask if yours has one or if they offer special rates.

Traveler-specific credit card fees – If you have a favorite credit card to use when traveling, make sure the company isn’t charging you extra when you’re on the road, such as a foreign-currency fee and ATM fees. To avoid paying them, contact your credit card company before your trip. A credit card company will often waive certain fees or can advise you which ATMs to use to avoid paying a surcharge.

Unnecessary hotel resort fees – If you plan on staying at a high-end hotel, be aware that many charge mandatory “resort” fees for amenities you may or may not use, such as spa and fitness center. These can add $20 or more per day to the room rate you thought you were going to pay, even if you have no intention of using them.

Never make assumptions that something is complimentary: read the fine print of each hotel or airline before you travel, and be careful to double check what boxes you check when booking online. Good news: the federal government might soon act to make these egregious “resort” fees illegal.

Wireless Internet fees – Another expense to be aware of at high-end hotels is charging extra for Wi-Fi. An Internet connection should be considered a basic utility, and most consumers resent having to pay extra for it.

When booking a hotel, make free wireless Internet a criterion for staying there. If not, another option is to use your cellphone as a mobile hotspot to supply Wi-Fi to your laptop rather than agreeing to pay another fee. But as mentioned above, be sure your carrier isn’t charging you extra for data and roaming fees.

More money-saving travel advice:

Check the reviews. Performing a simple web search for the hotel or cruise line you’re considering, along with the word “scam” or “fee” should reveal all you need to know. Be sure to cast a wide net and don’t just rely on a single source.

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.

When it comes to ancillary fees, most travelers know they exist, but not to the extent in which the travel industry has built a business model around them. To avoid falling prey to extra fees, travelers have to be ever vigilant, especially when booking their flight or hotel.

Source: USA Today