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5 Hidden Travel Expenses and How to Minimize Them

Posted by Lisa D. Buff on 26/07/2016
5 Hidden Travel Expenses and How to Minimize Them

When you begin planning a trip, you likely have the basics of your budget in mind, such as your flight, ground travel and hotel. You probably also have a general idea of how much your entrance fees, activities and meals will cost. And even though it seems that’s all there is to think about, travellers are often surprised by additional, hidden costs of traveling that get overlooked when planning a holiday budget. These costs might seem small, but they can and do add up. At the end of the trip, some can total as much as your car rental or hotel stay.

The following are some of the most frequent hidden travel expenses and tips for minimizing their impact on your budget.

Drinking water

In some popular travel destinations, water isn’t suitable for drinking. Local hotels will occasionally provide a water dispenser, but because there are no rules, purchasing bottled water is the only reliable option. Taking into consideration that the recommended daily intake is 2 litres per person, paying for bottled water for a week or more could get pricey. This is especially true if you’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors, in a hot environment, or if you’re going to participate in activities that will increase your need for water.

To cut this cost, always carry an empty water bottle with you so that you can refill it in case you come across a clean water source. You might also want to consider purchasing a water filter bottle that can purify local tap water and make it safe to drink.

Airline surcharges

In the past ten years, airlines have increased the types and amounts of their fees. While you can find an incredible deal on the ticket, during your checkout a whole slew of fees will be added onto your total. Fees for checked bags, carry-on luggage, early boarding, a window seat, a meal and drinks will add a pretty penny to your total.

You can cut out some fees by not choosing your seat, bringing your own ear buds and packing minimally to avoid baggage fees. Bring your e-reader or a crossword book and relax.

Ground transportation

The cost of getting from the airport, bus or train station to your hotel or resort (and vice versa) is another often forgotten expense. By the time you arrive at your destination, you may be tired, rushed and desperate to put your feet up. Opting for the most convenient option, such as the nearest taxi, could result in a considerable expense.

Consider walking a bit to get a cheaper taxi or taking a bus out of the transit station. You can also look into shuttles provided by your hotel or resort. A shared van service is another low-cost option.

ATM and currency exchange fees

ATMs are convenient when you don’t want to carry large amounts of cash around. However, fees for withdrawing money from a cash machine abroad are constantly on the rise, with hotel ATMs being some of the priciest.

Before your departure, look into your bank’s international partnerships for ATMs. They probably charge a fee as well, but a much lower one. You could also get a smartphone app that will help you find lower-fee ATMs once you’ve arrived at your destination.

Wireless internet

If you are used to free Wi-Fi, fees for this service may be an unpleasant travel surprise. Some hotels even charge for in-room Wi-Fi per device, which could run up a big bill if you and your travel companions each have a phone, a tablet device and a laptop.

To minimize the need for internet, try to save as much information on your device from home before you leave. Consider choosing a hotel that includes Wi-Fi with your room as well. Those rooms might be a bit pricier, but you won’t have any unexpected fees at the checkout.

International roaming fees

If you are traveling internationally, there is a good chance that you will incur roaming charges on your phone bill. These fees are often high and it can be difficult to find out exactly what they are in the details of your phone contract. These fees can also apply to data, which could be an issue if your smartphone is set up to automatically download email messages or weather updates.

Shut off the data while traveling and set up your Wi-Fi access instead. You could also opt for a short-term international calling plan. If you’re staying for a while and have an unlocked phone, consider purchasing a local SIM card.


Most travellers like to buy a gift or souvenir from the places they visit so it’s important not to forget to include this expense into the travel budget. This also applies to any extra baggage you might need to pay for in order to transport purchased gifts or souvenirs home.

Prices for most items vary significantly so try to shop around and avoid buying something at the first stand or shop that you see. If you bought a few too many things to fit into your luggage or you estimate that luggage fees will be too high, try mailing things home in a carefully packed parcel. Ground mail is a very affordable option as it costs about half as much as faster air mail. 

Traveling is not cheap, but there are definitely ways to avoid some fees and still have a great time. Oftentimes, avoiding the most convenient options and doing some research from home will help you to stay on budget. This applies to any destination that you might have in mind and for any type of a vacation.


About the author:

Lisa is a twenty-something travel and food lover who enjoys sharing her travel tips and experiences with the world. When she doesn’t travel, she pretends to be a sociology student.  In her spare time, you can find Lisa perfecting her macaron baking skills or reading a book on women’s issues across different cultures.

Twitter: @buff_lisa

featured photo credit: Torsten Dettlaf on Pexels, published under CC0 1.0