Travel expenses can really add up. But they don’t have to be quite to hefty is you know how to work the system. Follow these ten tips to travel as cheaply as you can.
Avoid baggage fees.
Depending upon the airline, you can pay $15 to $75 for the first checked bag, and more for overweight bags. When possible, pack lightly enough to carry on one bag, or fly airlines that still allow free checked bags (two bags for Southwest and one for JetBlue). Many airline frequent flier programs give members with a high status a free checked bag, so check your status.
Watch your hotel Wi-Fi.
Hotels charge from $10 to $30 per day for in-room Wi-Fi. Set up a personal hot spot on your smart phone and use your cellular service to access Wi-Fi on other non-cellular devices. Some hotel chains offer free in-room Internet access to members of their loyalty programs, so ask in advance and sign up to take advantage of the offers.
Avoid paying double for rental car insurance.
Check your current car insurance policy to see if it covers your rental car. Don’t forget to call your credit card company to check their coverage of rental car insurance, too. Major credit card companies (including American Express, MasterCard, Discover, and Visa) offer protection if you use your card to pay for the rental.
Bring an empty water bottle with you through security at the airport.
Then, fill it up at a water fountain or ask a barista at a coffee shop to fill it up for you to avoid the overpriced water sold at airports. Pick up some snacks at a local corner store instead of hitting the hotel room mini bar, which can lead to expensive surprises on your final bill.
Review restaurant and hotel bills carefully
Mistakes often occur by accident, so be sure to go over every bill when you get it. It sounds obvious, but it can’t be repeated enough. And if there is a mistake, politely ask the staff to fix it. A polite request will go much further than an aggressive accusation.
Avoid paying transaction fees for using your debit or credit card overseas.
Check with your bank before you leave town. Some charge $5 per withdrawal, and an added 3% for all credit card purchases. Many credit cards and banks do not charge these fees. Avoid carrying a ton of cash around with you while abroad. Use your credit or debit card and go to ATMs for cash. Before you go call your bank and credit card companies to put a “travel alert” on your file detailing your travel plans, so they don’t think the foreign transactions are fraudulent and freeze your accounts.
Look out for tourist trap restaurants.
If you’re visiting a restaurant or attraction that has an online presence, Google it or search it on Yelp! to see what the locals say about it and to see if there are coupons available for some extra savings. Often restaurants run deals on Yelp! where if you “Check in” at that restaurant and review it, you get a free dessert or 15% off the total bill. If the reviewers say it’s a big tourist trap, steer clear.
Bring your own food for a long flight.
The in-flight meals are often expensive and disappointing, and everyone will drool over the takeout burrito you were smart enough to pick up en route to the airport.
Think ahead and pick up some nips.
Make sure they are three ounces or fewer to comply with TSA requirements. Bring the small bottles with you to avoid the $6 “cocktail” charge many domestic airlines charge for weak drinks.
Ask lots of questions and read the fine print before signing up for an organized tour
Questions to ask include: “Is tax included in the price? What can I expect to pay in tips? Any meals that are not included? Is alcohol included? Are all side trips/shore excursions included in the price, and if not, how much are they? What are your cancellation policies?” The point is, sometimes the tour is not worth the price, and it’s often cheaper to do it on your own — so be discerning.
In the end, remember: Getting ripped off is often an unavoidable part of trouble. If it happens to you, learn from your mistakes, but don’t let it ruin your day.