We are about to enter one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. According to AAA, more than 43 million Americans journeyed 50 miles or more from home during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend alone, and that number is likely to increase this year.
If you plan to travel this season and you’re a Living on the Cheap reader, chances are you’ve done your homework and researched the best travel deals, hotel rates and airplane tickets. But you should also be aware of extra fees that have a way of sneaking into your travel budget.
These expenses may not be advertised in advance, but don’t let yourself be charged for something that’s unnecessary or cheap. Here are seven sneaky travel fees, and how to avoid them.
- Hotel self-parking fees. You can save money by choosing not to use your hotel’s valet parking option, but know that many large hotels will also charge you to park your own car on their premises. These fees can add an extra $15 or $20 to your daily room rate. Make sure you ask about self-parking charges before you book a room. Depending on your travel plans, it may be cheaper to use a shuttle service instead of renting and parking your own vehicle.
- Hotel Wi-Fi. Many hotels charge $10 or more each day to bring wireless Internet to your hotel room. But what hotels don’t often tell you is that many offer free service in the lobby and other common areas. If you only plan to get online to occasionally check email or surf while you’re on vacation, consider skipping the in-room Wi-Fi charges, and making a trip to the hotel lobby with your device instead.
- Hotel mini-fridge. Don’t even open the door. Even if you fight the urge to grab a midnight snack from the hotel mini-fridge, you may still end up with a charge on your bill: Some hotels charge a fee if they determine that a mini-fridge door has been opened or the contents moved around.
- Business center printing. Many hotels state very clearly that you’ll be charged for every page you print from their business centers. But some hotels make exceptions: For example, some hotels won’t charge you to print a boarding pass for your flight home. Check with your hotel before you print anything to see if an exception to its fees can be made.
- Incoming package fees. Do you plan to bring gifts with you on your trip? Sometimes, you can save money by shipping packages ahead of time so they don’t count against your baggage weight on the airplane. But if you’ll be staying in hotel, watch out for incoming package fees. Some hotels will charge $5 or more for each box that they receive on your behalf. Before you ship, check with your hotel to see if it has box pick-up fees. If it does, ask whether they can be waived.
- Resort fees. Even if you avoid the charges mentioned above, some hotels charge a ton of extra fees at checkout. Many travelers have been surprised to find gym usage charges or newspaper delivery expenses tacked on to their bills. If you are staying at a resort, ask for a specific list of add-on fees for extra services, and make a point to avoid the ones you don’t want.
- Water toys. If you’re planning to go to a warm locale, be aware that some beach areas or resorts will charge you each day to for the use of water toys. It’s convenient that you don’t have to pack water cannons, inner tubes and rafts, but those fees can really add up. It may be better to drive to a local big-box store to get the toys on the cheap, and then leave them behind for the next guest.