8 Hidden Vacation Costs and How to Avoid Them

You've carefully selected your airfare, hotel, and car rental rates, but hidden costs like resort fees and additional transportation can blow your travel budget.
using phone in London

You've chosen your summer vacation destination, planned the itinerary, and booked your hotel and airfare. Time to get excited, right? Well, yes, of course — but just watch out for some money-related surprises you might not be expecting.

Unfortunately, a myriad of hidden costs can besiege your wallet when you travel, causing you to go over budget. Some are insignificant costs like that bottle of hotel water you thought was free, but turned out to be $3. Others, like resort fees, can add up to hundreds of dollars. To help you avoid unwanted extra expenses, we've put together a list of the most common ones.

Transport To and From Your Hotel

Touchdown, your flight has landed, and you can't wait to get to your hotel and start relaxing. But suddenly you're accosted by hundreds of alternatives for getting out of the airport, all of them claiming to be the cheapest way, while at the same time seeming to cost a small fortune. Avoid this scenario by doing some advanced research and deciding on the best price and time option for you. Bear in mind that most airports are connected by relatively cheap public transport links.

SEE ALSO: Your Hotel Rewards Program Is (Probably) Changing Soon

Necessary Extras

A vacation isn't a vacation without a little "Treat Yo' Self" indulgence like room service, the minibar, and even a trip to the spa. These are all optional extras that turn a journey into a vacation. But there are plenty of extra charges on vacation that aren't really optional.

Hotel parking is one such extra charge. In areas like Boston and Fort Lauderdale, parking can cost almost $50 per day! Avoid this charge by choosing a hotel that specifies free self-parking, or choose a car-free vacation in a city where walking and public transport are convenient.

Beach or pool towels and chairs (and even in some cases access) is another such extra that you really have little choice in. If you're booking a beach holiday, make sure you thoroughly check the hotel's policies and pricing before you book. If your hotel is one that charges for towels, it might be worth investing in your own towel at one of the local souvenir shops. You can take it home as a keepsake after!

Resort Fees

Probably the most hated concept in the world of travel, additional resort fees can double the cost of your nightly stay in certain locations. Hotels say they use this additional fee to cover things like housekeeping, coffee, toiletries, and other sundry services.

In Las Vegas, it's not uncommon for resort fees to add an extra $20 to $40 per night.

One city that's notorious for its exorbitant resort fees is Las Vegas, where it's not uncommon for fees to add an extra $20 to $40 per night. There are still a few hotels in Sin City that have held out against adding these extra charges. For more information, check out this list.

Other destinations where you can expect a daily resort fee include Florida, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The resort fee is not always included in your final price (you may find information about it on the hotel booking page, as with BookIt), so it is wise to ask the hotel or travel agent directly before purchasing.

car rental keys

Car Rental Insurance

The open road, the wind in your hair, the music blaring: You feel like you've hit the vacation jackpot and you don't have a care in the world. But did you take out more insurance than you need on that rental car?

SEE ALSO: 8 Smart Money Moves to Make While Traveling

Most car rental companies offer expensive insurance, but chances are you don't need it. Before you rent, put a call in to your credit company to check if they are already providing you with collision coverage. If they are, paying for your rental with your credit card will alleviate the need for additional coverage from the rental company. It's also worth contacting your personal car insurance provider to check if your existing policy covers rental car claims as well.

Airport and Hotel ATM Fees

Withdrawing money on your vacation can be an expensive habit, especially in areas where you have little choice of ATMs, like at the airport or your hotel. Typically, the bigger the bank, the more they charge, with average withdrawal costs for banks such as Bank of America coming in at $5 per transaction.

If you want to avoid these fees but don't fancy carrying around large wads of cash, check out your bank's International Partner ATMs. They may still charge a fee, but it will be considerably less.

Cruise Service Fees and Port Charges

Setting sail and leaving all your day-to-day stress behind can be liberating, but the pinch you feel when you see the bill will bring you right back down to Earth. When you find a cruise you like for a price you can manage and get through to checkout, you'll often notice an extra $200 to $300 added to your bill.

Watch for automatic gratuity charges when you take a cruise. They usually range from $12 to $15 per person, per day.

This is mostly tax, but it may also include port fees, which is the cost of the ship docking. Another shock may come when you see the automatic gratuity amount your cruise line charges — usually from $12 to $15 per person, per day — or when you check your bar bill and notice that a 15% or 18% mandatory gratuity has been added to the price. Check beforehand if this is the case, and if so, think twice about stuffing extra dollars into that tip jar at the bar.

Mobile Roaming Charges

In this day and age, not using your mobile device on vacation can seem like a punishment. (Though give it another day and you will probably discover that it's a liberation. Try it!) If you don't want to unplug on your vacation but also want to avoid hefty roaming charges, consider contacting your mobile service provider to find out about switching to a temporary international package while away. Notably, some T-Mobile plans already have roaming included in their service.

SEE ALSO: The Pros and Cons of Mobile Payment

Alternatively or additionally, invest in some (free) VoIP apps for texting and making calls. If your location offers free WiFi, you'll be able to stay connected. For content you want to use out and about on vacation (like guidebooks or maps), download it in advance and save it to be viewed offline.

Exit Fees

In the long litany of hated hidden charges, country "exit fees" are the most unexpected and untimely. These fees usually crop up as you are departing a country (even if your stop in that country was only a layover) and, although they are usually only $20 to $30, they start to add up when you're traveling to several countries. Expect to be charged when leaving countries or territories like Hong Kong, Cambodia, Costa Rica, and many more besides.

If you are booking a vacation package, contact the agent first and see if the package price includes exit fees. If you have booked a multi-stop airplane ticket, the airline will be able to provide you with information on additional fees to be expected.

Readers, have you ever experienced a hidden cost while on vacation? Leave us a comment below.

Paula Bradley
Contributing Writer

Paula Bradley has taught English in Japan and Italy, and she has written for several e-zines aimed at Westerners living abroad. She uses her experience across the six continents to inform her travel features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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Old ManTick
Resort fees and wifi fees can be sometimes eliminated or reduced by joining whatever frequent guest club that the hotel uses.
That can also get you free late checkout and other perks.
This is true even if you don't think you'll ever use that hotel or chain again.
Sadly, not all hotels have a frequent guest program and I've also found that using an online service to book hotels will prevent the points award. I've learned to find a good deal online and then go to the rewards program for that hotel and try to book the same room to see if it's a comparable price and get the points that way.
Re: Parking fees
I always check to see if there is less expensive parking nearby. Often there is at a fraction of hotel charges especially if all they have is valet parking (you "have" to tip every time you pick up your car) and often it's just a block away. Search using the terms "parking" and city name on the web or call/email the visitor center for help.
If you are visiting a walkable city or one that has excellent transportation, check the city site for bus/train fares, day passes, location of stops near your hotel, etc then look to park your car further away for free or at low cost. We've parked (after dropping off bags at hotel) at outlying train stations, along bus routes, and for NYC in nearby NJ just across the river. Then use the local transportation or walking to get around.