Holiday Travel Advices: How to Evade Unexpected Travel Costs

Avoid the trap: It’s best not to book your holiday late at night after spending hours surfing to find the best deal – all that time you spent may end up being for nothing if you make an error. There has never been a better time to be slugged with unexpected travel fees.

Travellers are being bombarded with holiday deals that simply are too good to be true.

Services that used to be included in the standard price are becoming costly add-ons, such as holidaymakers being charged to take luggage with them on their holidays.

The last thing you need after saving up for your dream trip is to be stung with unexpected charges.

So before you hand over your credit card details, we reveal some of the most common and costly hidden travel fees and how to avoid them.

YOUR SAY: What’s the most unexpected travel fee you’ve been hit with and what did you do?

Changing your holiday bookings

Altering your holiday package can be a costly nightmare as the company adds their own fees, plus any airline costs or hire car fees that may be involved.

Virgin Blue Holidays charges $40 per person to change the holiday package and a $30 administration fee, as well as extra fees for altering the Virgin Blue flights, hotel and hire car.

Avoid the trap: Firstly, it may take longer to research but try and book your flights, accommodation and car hire separately when possible.

But if you have booked a package and need to change it, it’s best to find the cheapest date to travel. The new airfare could be cheaper then the original one you booked and the savings will be deducted from the total price.

When changing my booking with Virgin Blue Holidays I only had to pay $15 extra as my new flight ended up being much cheaper than the original flight and almost offset the extra administration fees.

Although more expensive, a flexible ticket could be the way to go if there’s a chance you may need to change your booking. And with hotels, many won’t give you your money back within a certain timeframe if you need to cancel or change the dates of your stay, so it pays to read the fine print.

“When booking a hotel room, be sure to choose a hotel that allows cancellations. If you think your travel dates may change, book a ‘flexible’ flight that will allow changes and cancellations up until the day before travel,” Mia Carter, spokesperson for lastminute.com.au, said.

Making a spelling mistake in your booking details

The smallest spelling mistake at the time of booking can lead to a costly headache.

Airlines will charge you for correcting typos, a common error made by unsuspecting travellers.

Avoid the trap: It’s best not to book your holiday late at night after spending hours surfing to find the best deal – all that time you spent may end up being for nothing if you make an error.

“The most important thing is to double check the spelling of your name and make sure you’ve booked the correct dates. It’s surprising how many travellers have had to pay airline fees just because they’ve got a typo in their name,” Ms Carter said.

Returning your hire car to a different location

Hiring a car can be a costly experience with so many extra fees, but relocation fees sting the most.

For example, on my most recent holiday all the major rental car companies wanted to charge a one-way fee of at least $100 to return the car to Coolangatta Airport in Queensland, instead of Hervey Bay Airport, where I planned to pick it up.

Avoid the trap: The best way to avoid costly rental car one-way fees is to search for third-party websites that beat the rates of the major hire car companies.

Driveaway.com.au said they would waive the one-way fee if I booked with them. What’s more, the booking went through the main hire car company anyway.

Taking this extra step left me with an extra $100 in my pocket to spend on my holiday.

Rental car insurance

Purchasing your hire car insurance through the rental company may not be the cheapest or best way to go. The fees travellers face when reducing their insurance excess can add up. For example, insuring through Europcar included a loss damage waiver reduction of $18.36 and windscreen and headlight cover of $8 a day.

This didn’t even cover me if I was involved in an accident – it just reduced the excess I’d have to pay from thousands down to hundreds. You have to shell out a lot more for total cover.

Avoid this trap: Some car or travel insurance policies will cover damage to your hire car. Check the insurance policy on your own car first.

Paying over-the-odds for flights

Booking fees and travel agent fees are just some of the extra costs slapped on to your flight fee.

Avoid this trap: Peak season is more expensive and cheap flights are rarely available on Mondays and Fridays, when business people fill planes.

Cheap seats are easier to find on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings for domestic travel.

You should also consider alternative airports and subscribe to airline email bulletins and watch for newspaper and tv ads for seat sales.

Websites such as Expedia, Travel.com.au, Webjet and ZUJI will give you competitive prices, but try contacting the airline directly for a better offer.

Excess luggage

Many travellers have learned an expensive lesson when it comes time for their luggage to be weighed.

For checked luggage Qantas charges between $10-$50 for every kilogram over the 23kg limit. Virgin Blue charges $10 per kilogram for bags exceeding 23kg.

Avoid the trap: Make sure you always check your airlines weight limits before you leave home. If in doubt, leave it out.

Don’t forget to weigh your carry-on bag too. Both Qantas and Virgin Blue have a limit of 7kg on domestic and international flights.

Also, check the scales have been set to “0” before putting your luggage on the scale.

Currency exchange surcharges

Airport kiosks often have the worst exchange rates and the highest transaction fees.

Avoid the trap: Buy cash before you go or use your debit card to get cash from local ATM machines and your credit card for shopping on your next holiday.

Some banks will charge for international transaction fees, so check before you go and try and limit the amount of times you withdraw.

Shop around the banks at home for a credit or ATM debit card without currency conversion or overseas ATM fees. It may be worth opening a new account that you can close as soon as you return.

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