When planning a trip, you obsess endlessly about saving every single penny. You make sure that you get the best deal on airfare, either by paying cash or using your miles. You’ll look all around town to find the hotel that is the best value. You use Autoslash to make sure you get the cheapest rental car. You’ve undoubtedly done all of your homework to get the most out of our vacation budget, right? Maybe not.
One of the most significant unseen expenses might be the dreaded hotel fees. No matter if it’s called a “resort fee” or a “destination fee” or a “we just want to charge you more money fee”, the result is the same. You’re going to have extra money added to your hotel bill.
We’ve explained why hotels add on these fees, shown an easy way to see if your hotel charges these fees and how much they’ll be, and even found a list of over 200 hotels in one of the biggest cities in the U.S. that don’t charge hotel fees.
Whether you still want to stay at that hotel or if you change to a different one, it’s best to know how much you’ll be paying before your stay.
Here’s an area where there are so many different ways you can get tripped up.
- If you’re renting a car, the hotel might charge a parking fee and/or a valet fee. It also pays to be careful because they might charge you even if you don’t have a car with you.
- You also have to make sure to check in advance if you’re going to be driving on any toll roads. If so, besides not knowing what the actual toll charges might be (check here to find out), you might be stuck paying the rental car fee for using their transponder unless you make arrangements in advance (Orlando has a great deal for toll transponders right now).
- When you need to get from the airport to your hotel, check out your options. If you’re flying into JFK in New York or one of the major airports in London, you’ll have several choices and some may be cheaper and faster than the other.
- Speaking of trains, check the pricing ahead of time. For city trains, it may be more expensive to travel during rush hour. Waiting 30 minutes could save you 50% on the price of your ticket.
- Compare ride-sharing service pricing. Not all services charge the same rate. Have the Uber, Lyft and other taxi apps for where you’re going loaded on your phone before the trip. We’ve found that sometimes in New York City, it’s easier and cheaper to hail a cab than it is to call for a car.
One expense that’s easily overlooked when you travel is eating. When you’re home, you’ll have snacks in the house if you get hungry. You’ll also be able to make a cup of coffee or tea when you want. Not necessarily true if you’re sitting in a hotel room.
- If you can, stop by a store and pick up some snacks and drinks for the room. They’ll be much cheaper than if you need to raid the mini-bar at 2AM.
- If you have access to a hotel lounge, take advantage of it. Stop in for breakfast. Grab some snacks during the day. You earned that status, make some use out of it.
- Bring a water bottle. If we’re visiting a city such as San Francisco or New York, we’d rather drink tap water than bottled water any day. If we remember, we bring our Camelbak water bottles with us. If not, we buy a bottle of Dasani on the first day and refill it for the rest of our trip. When we stayed in London, they provided us with two bottles of filtered water in our room each day that we used for refills for the entire trip.
- Stay away from eating in the tourist areas, if you can. Even if you’re right in the center of tourist mania, just walk one or two blocks away and you’ll be likely to find some better food at lower prices. We’ve found some great places around major cities by only taking a 10-minute walk.
Planning in advance can make a big difference when paying for tourist activities.
- If you’re going to be in a city like New York or London, it might make sense to pay for a tourist pass. This will get you into many of the major tourist sites at a significantly reduced price.
- Even if you’re not going to visit many locations, buying tickets in advance for a single museum or tour can save you some money.
- Beware of tourist scams. Even the locals can fall for these schemes, know what you need to pay for and what you can get for free.
- Some places are actually free. Museums like the British Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian in New York are free. So are most of the museums in Washington D.C. like the National Archives and the National Museum of African American History and Culture
- If you don’t plan in advance, you can occasionally get things cheap for the last minute if you’re not picky. For theater shows and sporting events, you can pick up tickets right up to admission time at discounted prices. Just make sure you’re dealing with a reputable vendor and not some shady figure just outside the location.
- Beware of questionable hotel concierges. We’ve had some great hotel concierges. We’ve also seen those who were no more than ticket brokers only worried about how much of a commission they could make on a sale. In this instance, the better the hotel, the better the concierge is likely to be. If you’re staying in a Holiday Inn, don’t expect the guy in the lobby selling show tickets to offer you a better price than you can find yourself.
If the only things you think about when planning a trip are your travel expenses, hotel and maybe a rental car, you’re leaving out many of the possible costs you’ll incur. The so-called incidental charges might end up costing more than your other plans. Knowing what these charges are, avoiding them if you can and minimizing them if you can’t may help avoid buyer’s remorse after your trip. You want to be able to remember the good things about your travels and not dreading paying off the bills before you’re ready to leave home again.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary