Some travel fees are unavoidable, but others can be skirted or reduced with some crafty planning. AAA Travel experts detail seven instances when fees can be reduced or eliminated:
1. Airline ticket change fees. If you need to change an airline ticket, you almost always will be charged a fee — plus any difference in price. Every carrier has different policies, but most charge $200 just to change the flight, on top of a fare difference, so do your research before purchasing. Southwest Airlines is one of the few airlines that only charges the fare difference and does not assess a penalty should you need to change your ticket. Travel insurance may cover change fees, fare increases, or even miles if you are using a frequent traveler program. Be sure to work with a travel agent when buying insurance, as coverage varies by policy.
2. Baggage fees. Know the details of your airline’s baggage fee policy in advance. Most airlines have baggage fees and weight limits of 50 pounds, but weights also might vary based on where you are flying to and from (for example, weight limits when flying from Europe are sometimes lower). You might save a few dollars if you prepay your baggage fees. For example, United Airlines currently offers a prepaid baggage subscription for frequent flyers, which allows you to pay an annual fee starting at $349 to check two standard bags for no additional charge for a year. If you have luggage small enough to carry on, sometimes the carrier will check it for free at the gate if the flight is full.
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3. Hotels. Before deciding on a hotel, you should take into account the cost of parking if you are driving or renting a car, or the cost of transportation to and from the airport. Hotel parking fees can reach $25 to $30 per day. Also, check to see if your hotel has an additional resort fee that includes such amenities as free rounds of golf, access to fitness facilities, in-room snacks, or Internet access. If you know you will need to be online, choose a hotel that offers free Internet access to avoid daily rates usually around $10 to $20 per day. If the hotel charges for Internet in the room, sometimes access is free in the lobby.
4. Credit card fees. When traveling internationally, most credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of 1 to 3 percent. Check with your credit card companies before you travel to see what fees may apply. Then plan on using the card with the lowest rate or one that doesn’t charge a fee.
5. Money exchange. There will always be fees to convert dollars to foreign currency, but those fees can widely vary. Be sure to price them out at more than one place. Banks are usually less expensive to exchange money at than commercial exchange counters and hotels. If you’re comfortable withdrawing larger amounts of money, ATMs often offer better rates. Keep in mind, however, that some ATMs may have fees charged by both the local bank and by your own bank.
6. Cruises. When purchasing beverages on cruises, review your receipt before signing. Typically, cruise lines automatically add in a gratuity (usually 15 to 18 percent), so there’s no need to write in another tip.
7. Excursions. The cost of excursions varies, and sometimes you can pay more or less for the same excursion. AAA travel experts recommend pre-booking excursions so you secure your space and know the rate. Waiting to book once you’re there may result in a lack of space or a higher price.
AAA is the largest leisure travel agency in North America. For more information, visit AAA.com/travel.