Financial Travel Tip #119: Hidden Travel Fees

by Nora on August 7, 2014

When I travel, I’m perpetually afraid that I’m getting ripped off – by airlines, by taxi drivers, by hotels – you name it. If I have to pay for it, I figure there’s a good chance I’m paying too much.

This isn’t an unrealistic fear. A lot of the time, we unwitting travelers overpay for all kinds of things, and it’s usually in the form of pesky little fees – often hidden from our awareness, sneakily snuck in to part us with a wee bit more money than we actually needed (or wanted) to pay.


Examples of Hidden Travel Fees

Here are a few random examples of hidden travel fees that are sometimes avoidable, and always annoying:

Some airlines sneak travel insurance into the cost of the flight, and you must go back to a screen to specifically DE-select the insurance. I once found it was so masked in fine print it took me half an hour to locate where to deselect it.


Speaking of sneaky airlines, I once got on a long-haul flight that claimed to offer meal service on the ticket, only to discover it was meal service – for a fee. At 36,000 feet and with a grumbling stomach I didn’t have much choice but to fork over some cash for food.


Hotels are in on the hidden travel fees game too; don’t crack open that “complimentary” bottle of water on your bedside table unless you’re sure it’s free. Although you’d think snacks and drinks placed in your room outside the mini-bar are free, they aren’t always.


Speaking of hotels, they consistently overcharge for currency exchange services. I was given this tip by a hotel concierge, who said I should never use a hotel desk to exchange money.


If you’re renting a car, remember that adding additional drivers to the rental agreement means extra fees. This is never worked into the quote, and can be a nasty surprise when you arrive to pick up the car.


Some of the worst hidden travel fees come with currency conversion. No matter what you do and how you pay, you’re forking out hidden travel fees to convert your money, and more often than not they’re completely invisible to you. The best you can do is to minimize conversion fees; usually by using debit cards or credit cards.


ATMs are not only currency conversion culprits, but they also get you with withdrawal fees. Here are a few tricks to using ATMs abroad so you can keep more money in your bank account instead.



More Hidden Travel Fees

This is just a teaser. The last time I did a count of hidden travel fees, I came up with 37 of them. Some are more hidden than others, but all of them are unnecessary if you know how to avoid them. Check it out:

37 Hidden Travel Fees You’ve Probably Paid But Shouldn’t Have




{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenny August 7, 2014 at 11:31 am

Every time we book our flights, we check carefully if upgrades are already included in our net cost. If yes, we try as possible to deselect these. It is better for airlines to not automatically include these hidden fees.


2 Nora Dunn August 8, 2014 at 6:40 am

Jenny – I think it’s better for airlines to include these hidden fees; it’s just not better for us! 😉


3 Andreas Moser August 8, 2014 at 4:24 am

RyanAir is particularly sneaky in this regard:


4 Nora Dunn August 8, 2014 at 6:44 am

Yup, that’s the trick with Ryan Air. They got a corner on the budget airline market when they offered all those flights for ridiculously low fees, and now they tack on extra fees at every turn to make their money.


5 Adam August 8, 2014 at 9:26 pm

ATM international fees are my least favorite kind of travel tax … $5 on each end to take out money? Ouch! This is why I always do a max withdrawal when aboard…!


6 Nora Dunn August 9, 2014 at 5:19 am

Hi Adam,
In some cases, there is a disparity between the max withdrawal amount your bank will allow in a day, and the max withdrawal amount allowed by the ATMs. In Peru for example, I had to make three separate withdrawals of the maximum amount allowed by the ATM to reach my daily maximum set by my bank. And each withdrawal was $5….(before I upgraded my account to alleviate foreign transaction fees).


7 NZ Muse August 13, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Yep, I found the maximum withdrawal amounts in Thailand to be puny! Same in Vietnam, I think.


8 Nora Dunn August 14, 2014 at 5:31 am

NZ Muse – I wonder why those banks set those limits? Is it for security, or is it some sort of measure to get more withdrawal commissions out of us? Hmm…


9 Raymond @ Man On The Lam August 10, 2014 at 2:21 pm

One hidden travel fee I’ve seen here in Europe is with rental cars. The lowest price shown on most rental car sites will be if you return the tank empty. Then of course you are charged after you have left an exorbitant amount for gasoline for them to fill the tank. Best to seek out a rental that allows you to return it full, even if the per day cost is slightly more.


10 Nora Dunn August 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Wow – good point, Raymond. I’d never have thought to look out for that!


11 Christine | GRRRLTRAVELER August 11, 2014 at 6:14 am

Nice list Nora. Ryan isn’t the only sneaky one. Jetstar and Allegiant are two low-budget carriers I flew on which had extra fees at every corner. Just booking was like navigating a secret land mine… choosing your seat, water!, blankets (of which they crank their AC so you want one), etc… Just not fun how on-guard you must be. I suppose at some point they’ll charge for ticket confirmations.


12 Nora Dunn August 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Hi Christine,
Yep, I too feel like I’m navigating land mines when booking airfare! Let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse.


13 Nic Hilditch-Short August 11, 2014 at 7:25 am

Ryanair as mentioned above can be quite bad, but I feel there are ways around those charges. We travelled to Dublin recently and the price was £9.99 each way, we ended up paying exactly that… but you have to take a carry on and be wary of those check boxes. Easyjet and Jet2 can be just as bad but there are still bargains to be had with them.

One thing which really annoyed me a couple of years ago was a Thompson hotel in Kos, Greece. This is not usually where we would either go or who we would travel with but we had a family wedding to go to so had little choice. We felt as it was a package we paid over the odds to begin with but once we arrived we were told that air conditioning was an additional charge of 10euros a night!! We had to go without in the end, Internet was also an additional charge at the Hilton in New York, where as we have stayed in hostels who offer both these for free!


14 Nora Dunn August 11, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Hi Nic,
I never seem to get those great Ryan Air deals, but then again I haven’t had to book that many flights in Europe.
It’s sad when we see the hotel industry taking up the same trend of adding expenses here and there; hopefully that doesn’t become the norm!


15 Rachel October 4, 2014 at 12:30 am

I remember the last time I had traveled it had been a while since and when they had changed the rules for paying on the plane to the hotel fee’s and luggage I was so relieved I had brought extra money but sad I couldn’t spend it on other things instead. I also wasn’t very prepared for the amount it would cost me to use the currency exchange or ATM. Well lesson learned and next time I will be more prepared. Thanks for the tips.


16 Nora Dunn October 4, 2014 at 9:09 am

Hi Rachel,
I’m glad the tips helped, but sorry that you lost your spending cash on silly fees! Happy travels…


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