4 Travel Expenses You Shouldn’t Be Paying

by Lyle Daly | Dec. 31, 2018

The Ascent is reader-supported: we may earn a commission from offers on this page. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation.

Traveling can make a dent in your finances, especially if you’re spending money on unnecessary expenses. On your next trip, here are the travel expenses that you should be able to avoid.

Image source:  Getty Images.

Rolling a roller bag through an airport

Image source: Getty Images

As enjoyable as traveling is, paying for it isn’t nearly as much fun. Airfare and a place to stay are usually the two biggest expenses, plus you’ll also need to cover transportation, activities, and meals.

While you can minimize those expenses as much as possible, they’re still going to cost you some money. But there are also travel expenses that are entirely avoidable, and eliminating them can help you save quite a bit on your trips.

1. Checked baggage fees

For both domestic and international flights, many airlines will charge you a fee for each piece of checked baggage. Fee amounts vary by airline, often starting at $25 for the first bag and going up for each additional piece of luggage.

Since those fees are charged each way, you could be looking at an extra $50 to $100 for one trip. Your checked baggage can cost you even more if it’s overweight.

How to avoid it -- There are a few simple ways to never pay a checked baggage fee. Most airline credit cards include at least one free checked bag as a cardholder perk, so one of those may be a good choice if you have an airline you use often.

You could also opt for an airline that offers free checked bags. Some international carriers let you check a bag for free, and Southwest famously offers two free checked bags on all its flights.

Even though those two solutions work, what I’d recommend more than anything is to travel light. A carryon and a personal bag should be more than enough for most trips. You probably won’t need nearly as much as you think, and you’ll be grateful you don’t have a checked bag anytime you’re lugging everything around on foot.

2. Foreign transaction fees

Paying by card is a safer and more convenient option when you’re traveling. You can carry less cash, which means fewer ATM or currency conversion fees, and you won’t be out as much money if your wallet is lost or stolen.

That convenience can cost you, though, as debit cards and credit cards typically tack on foreign transaction fees. The most common amount is 3% of the transaction. So, if you spend $500 in a foreign country, foreign transaction fees will cost you an extra $15. It’s not a huge amount, but it can add up, particularly if you travel out of the country frequently.

How to avoid it -- This one’s easy, as you can simply get a credit card without a foreign transaction fee. Just about all the best travel rewards cards include this feature, since they’re designed with travelers in mind.

3. International calling, texting, and data

Thanks to the cell phone, we’re used to being able to contact people whenever and wherever. And mobile data has become a huge part of day-to-day life, as people use it for everything from looking up directions to streaming music and checking social media.

All of that activity can lead to a big phone bill if you do it internationally. While fees depend on your carrier, certain carriers charge more than $1 per minute for international calls, $0.50 or more per text, and $25 per 100MB of mobile data.

How to avoid it -- First things first, check with your carrier to see what your options are. They may have international packages available for a small fee or even offer certain international features free of charge as part of your plan. For example, on my T-Mobile plan, I get free unlimited international texting and data (availability varies by country, but quite a few countries are covered).

You can also connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible and use that for your calling and messaging. Wi-Fi calling doesn’t use your minutes, so it’s free to use internationally. Switching to a messaging app, such as WhatsApp, is a good way to avoid text message charges. Make sure you turn your mobile data off if it’s going to cost you money.

4. Travel insurance

If you’re worried about what could go wrong on a trip, travel insurance is one way to put yourself at ease. Exactly what travel insurance covers will depend on the plan, but it can include trip delays, trip cancellation, lost luggage, and medical emergencies.

The cost of travel insurance also depends on the plan you choose and where you’re going. The standard range is about 4% to 10% of your trip cost, and you can expect it to be towards the higher end of that if you go with a comprehensive plan. So, for every $1,000 you pay for your trip, travel insurance would likely cost you about $40 to $100.

How to avoid it -- Like foreign transaction fees, this is one expense that you can avoid when you have the right credit card. Many of the best credit cards on the market include similar protections to what you’d get through travel insurance. Emergency medical coverage is the most significant exception, as most credit cards don’t offer it. If you want to have that, you could get a cheaper plan focusing solely on travel medical insurance, while relying on your credit card’s protections for everything else.

Considering how easy it is to avoid the travel expenses listed above, there’s no reason you should be paying them, whether you’re a frequent traveler or you only do it once a year. With a few adjustments, you can cut those expenses and save hundreds of dollars on each trip.

Our credit card expert uses the card we reveal below, and it could earn you $1,148 (seriously)

As long as you pay them off each month, credit cards are a no-brainer for savvy Americans. They protect against fraud far better than debit cards, help raise your credit score, and can put hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in rewards back in your pocket each year.

But with so many cards out there, you need to choose wisely. This top-rated card offers the ability to pay 0% interest on purchases until late 2021, has some of the most generous cash back rewards we’ve ever seen (up to 5%!), and somehow still sports a $0 annual fee.

That’s why our expert – who has reviewed hundreds of cards – signed up for this one personally. Click here to get free access to our expert’s top pick.

About the Author