Pro Tips — A Guide to Hidden Travel Expenses

by GO GlobeHopper

So… you’ve saved and saved and are super excited to say you finally have the amount you need to book your dream vacation. BUT WAIT! Are you SURE you have enough?  Have you budgeted for absolutely EVERYTHING, including the pesky fees and necessities that go above and beyond the price of a flight and hotel?

If you’re not a seasoned traveler, chances are that you don’t know about all the EXTRAS that will pop up and quickly blow your budget to smithereens.  So let’s examine some hidden travel expenses so you won’t be caught off-guard.


Travel Documents

Depending on your destination, if you don’t already have a passport you’ll need to get one.  Not only is this an extra expense for you and everyone traveling in your party, but it is also time-consuming.  With this in mind, be sure to get your passport underway well before you plan your trip.

Carrying special documentation for accompanying children is something that is rarely thought about, but it’s not uncommon for single parents to be questioned at customs if the child’s surname differs from the parent. If you’re separated or divorced and have a court-ordered arrangement, simply take the documentation with you, such as Custody Papers, a Statutory Declaration, or a Mobility Agreement that asserts your right to take your child away on vacation. However, if you don’t have such a thing, consider obtaining a Notarized Agreement or having your lawyer draft a Letter of Consent to Travel. This also applies to taking someone else’s child along on vacation, such as a niece or nephew, or perhaps a friend of your son or daughter. Such documentation can save a lot of time and hassle should any questions arise, but it’s an extra cost that most people fail to consider. 



No matter where you choose to go, it’s wise to find out if any vaccines are warranted.  You can ask your travel agent, your doctor, a travel clinic, or go online and visit the CDC (Center for Disease Control) or WHO (World Health Organization).  The requirement may be as simple as updating your Tetanus shot. Or, it can be as complicated as a series of vaccines that each require more than one dose and take several weeks.

Generally speaking, when visiting Canada, the US, the EU, and Australia, there are no specific vaccines required unless there is an outbreak of an infectious disease – such as the Covid-19 pandemic has caused.  When visiting Mexico and the Caribbean, vaccines for Hepatitis A & B are recommended.  Some doctors will go so far as to recommend shots for Typhoid and treatment for Cholera. A product such as Dukoral is highly suggested for the prevention of severe diarrhea due to the potential for E-coli contaminated drinking water.  For more exotic locales, such as South America and Africa, experts recommend ALL of the above PLUS vaccines or pills for Malaria and Yellow Fever, Diptheria, and Rabies.  

If you lack health insurance and are paying out of pocket for any of these vaccines and medications, they can be expensive.  Consequently, they add up quickly for solo travelers and even quicker for families.


Travel Insurance / Rental Insurance

It’s always wise to purchase insurance when traveling, especially as it can cover you for a wide variety of mishaps and unexpected expenses.  Various packages not only include health and dental emergencies, but also trip interruption or cancellation, lost baggage, and flight changes.  It can even ensure that you are brought home safely in the event of an evacuation due to extreme weather or political uprising.  Nevertheless, it is another expense to factor into your budget. If you ‘think’ you’re fully covered by your credit card or workplace benefits, it’s better to check before you go so you can add on if necessary.

As for rental insurance, this can pertain to numerous things, such as a rental car, and can affect a number of tourist activities, such as renting a boat, a scooter, a jet ski, or a Segway – some of which entail buying insurance on top of the price of the rental.  These fees, at the time, may seem unnecessary and easy to waive, but in the event that something goes wrong and you destroy the machinery, you’ll wish you had paid upfront for the insurance. The old saying “It’s better to be safe than sorry” certainly applies here.  However, what also applies are extra expenses that you likely forgot to consider when budgeting for the trip.


Baggage Fees

These are fees that vary from airline to airline as well as the location from which you are departing and arriving. 

Generally speaking, however, travelers can expect to pay an average of $30 per piece of checked luggage, payable by cash or credit card upon check-in at the airport.  Many people are caught off-guard by this, especially if they haven’t traveled in a while because one piece of checked luggage per person used to be included in the price of an airline ticket.  However, these days only some vacation packages include a piece of luggage.  More often than not, it’s an extra fee that needs to be addressed when budgeting for the vacation.  


Airline Food

The days of being served a meal on a short flight are long gone.  Now, having breakfast, lunch, or dinner while in the air only applies to International long-haul flights.  As such, if you desire to eat more than just the complimentary packet of cookies or crackers that are offered with coffee or a soft drink, you can expect to pay dearly. 

Cocktails and a limited assortment of sandwiches and snacks are available from the service cart, but only if you have a credit card to pay for them since cash is not accepted.  If you haven’t budgeted for airline food, you might want to take along a few granola bars in your carry-on bag. 


Resort Fees

Travel agents and online travel sites often forget to mention this important piece of information, but many hotels charge a resort fee that’s payable upon arrival.  These fees go above and beyond the daily room rate or the price you’ve already paid for your vacation package.  They are charged separately upon check-in, they vary from hotel to hotel, and what they encompass varies as well. 

Frequently, they include a mixture of hotel amenities such as self-parking, wi-fi access, use of the gym, use of the pool and towels, bottled water and/or coffee in your room, etc – in other words, things that used to be standard with the price of the room.  Depending on your destination, resort fees can carry a broad range with an average of $15 to $30 (US) a day, which will instantly add another $100-$200 to your week’s vacation. 


Wi-Fi Fees

If your chosen destination does not charge a resort fee, chances are they will charge separately for wi-fi access. In most places, wi-fi access in the lobby remains free but some places limit that access to 15 minutes per day.  In-room access is another story entirely.

Though several budget and midscale hotels now automatically include wi-fi in their daily rate (as they should), there are still some luxury hotels and plenty of destination resorts that typically charge between $9.95 – $25.95 per day/per device for in-room connectivity.  Consequently, this can add quite a bit to your bill.  Luckily, some resorts offer discounted package deals from a third-party provider, suitable for multi-day or for multi-person/multi-device families seeking wi-fi.  But the packages are still pricey and ultimately add to the cost of your stay.



If you’re traveling to the EU, you’d be wise to think about taking along a power adaptor considering European appliances use 220 volts which is double that of North America.

If you travel with a cell phone or smartphone, as most people do these days, you can expect to receive a much larger monthly bill than you are used to, due to roaming fees that will be added for each and every day that you are away.  It’s best to contact your carrier before your trip in order to put a travel package on your phone. 

An extra Memory Card for your camera, video camera, or perhaps even for certain smartphones might also be a good idea if you plan to take a lot of photos or videos of your experiences. 

Have you got a reliable phone charger or a backup that you can pack and take along?  If not, you’ll have to buy one. And, what about headphones or earbuds that will allow you to listen to your favorite music while en route, with the added bonus of drowning out any crying babies or snoring sleepers that might be seated nearby.  Also, give some thought to a portable charger that can provide your phone, iPod, or tablet with some extra power during your travels.  All of these items and more are an asset when traveling but they are also an added expense if you don’t already have them on hand. 



What about transportation to and from your hometown airport?  Have you thought about the costs involved in an airport limo or shuttle?  A cheaper alternative is a Park & Fly type of facility that will store your vehicle for the length of your trip, but it still involves fees you need to consider in your travel budget.

And what about transportation to and from your hotel after you’ve arrived at your destination?  Unless your hotel or resort includes a free shuttle service to and from the airport, cruise port, or train station, this is also something that will require planning and budgeting. There are plenty of transport services and car rental facilities in every major destination, and they all require fees that go beyond the initial price of your vacation package.


Pet Sitter / House Sitter

Have you made plans for Fido and Fluffy while you’re away?  If you don’t have friends or family that can look after your fur babies, you need to think about a pet sitter or a boarding service, both of which can be pricey.  This becomes even more expensive since most reputable kennels have vaccination requirements, and boarded pets need to be up to date. Dogs should be immunized against rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus (DHLPP), and bordetella. Cats should be vaccinated against rabies, panleukopenia or distemper, feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and pneumonitis (FVRCPP), all of which will have to be tended to before you can deliver your pet.  Between shots and boarding, it can prove expensive. 

In the same vein as pets, it might be necessary to consider a house sitter as well, to water any indoor or outdoor plants, take in the mail, cut the grass or perform any general upkeep to your home.  Usually, family, friends, or neighbors can be called upon for such things.  But if your list of tasks is lengthy and burdensome, you should give some thought to the added expense of hiring a service.  It will help to give you peace of mind while you’re away. 



Do any bills, such as your mortgage or rent, or perhaps your utilities, phone bill, or credit card bill come due while you plan to be away?  If so, you need to evaluate paying them before you go so you don’t incur any late charges or discontinuation of services. 

That being said, if you are having to pay them much earlier than you usually would (such as before you would normally get paid), they will become something else you need to budget for when making your travel plans. 


All considered, the TOTAL price of a vacation more often than not far exceeds the listed cost of the vacation package.  So if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford the extras, you might want to save for an extra month or two before booking your getaway.

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