6 Expenses You Shouldn’t Overlook When Traveling on a Budget

traveling on a budget

Mark Twain once wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Clearly, our world could use more explorers right now. But traveling can be expensive. Even back in Twain’s day, I bet plenty of unexpected costs popped up.

That fact shouldn’t prevent you from seeing the world, though. If you’re traveling on a budget, preparing for these sneaky expenses can make all the difference.

Don’t forget these 6 expenses when traveling on a budget

Before you depart on any adventure, don’t forget to include these costs in your travel budget.

1. Baggage fees

For years, it’s cost around $25 to check a bag on an airplane. And now, if you book a basic economy fare or fly on a discount airline, it might even cost you to put a bag in the overhead bin.

So, before you decide what you’re going to bring, read your confirmation email carefully. If you’re going to check a bag, consider paying for it ahead of time; some budget airlines charge you more if you pay at the gate.

Or consider these ways to avoid baggage fees:

  • Fly Southwest: This magical airline doesn’t charge for baggage or for making changes to a flight.
  • Go international: When you fly abroad, it’s usually free to check bags.
  • Use an airline credit card: Many airline credit cards offer free checked baggage as a perk for their users. Or you can use a travel rewards credit card that reimburses a limited amount of travel expenses.

2. ATM and credit card fees

When you use an ATM that’s not affiliated with your bank, you’ll often get hit with two fees: one from your bank and one from whoever owns the ATM. They add up to an average of $4.69 per transaction, according to Bankrate.

In my wallet, I carry the Charles Schwab debit card and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. (Even Chrissy Teigen’s a fan!) Neither card charges foreign transaction fees, and the former refunds fees charged by other ATMs.

3. Insurance

I don’t usually purchase comprehensive travel insurance, but it’s a good idea if you think medical issues could interfere with your ability to go on a trip.

In addition to covering trip cancellation for select issues, travel insurance usually covers lost or stolen baggage and medical emergencies. Expect to pay between 5 and 12 percent of the total trip cost, according to Rick Steves.

If you don’t think you’ll need all that coverage, you can purchase travel health insurance instead. I almost always do when I travel abroad — and I’m always surprised by how cheap it is. You can easily compare plans on Squaremouth.

4. Hotel fees

When it comes to hotels, it sometimes can feel like the fees never stop coming. If you’re traveling on a budget, it can feel particularly painful.

Here are some expenses you might encounter during your stay:

  • Parking: $25 to $35 per day
  • Wifi: $10 to $20 per day
  • Resort fees and taxes: Taxes vary depending on the location, but the average resort fee is an absurd $21 per day, according to The Washington Post.
  • Tips: If you use the services of the concierge or valet, you should expect to tip them. Most experts also recommend tipping housekeeping a few dollars each day.

5. Data or roaming charges

When you’re shuttling between work and home, you probably don’t use much data. But when you’re traveling, with intermittent access to wifi, you should prepare to use a lot more.

Hopefully, you have either a plan with unlimited data or a plan that charges you per gig. But if you’re not sure, double-check. If you’ll pay overage fees, you probably should purchase extra data ahead of time.

And if you’re heading abroad and want to avoid unexpected charges, I advise putting your phone on airplane mode. Doing so will allow you to use wifi for research and messaging without accidentally connecting to a local network.

If wifi won’t cut it and you want access to calling and data, check your plan. With a carrier like T-Mobile or Project Fi (which I have), you’ll get free texting and data in most countries; with more traditional carriers, you’ll likely have to purchase an international roaming plan.

6. Miscellaneous costs of international travel

This last section applies only to international travel, so if you’re staying domestic, you can skip it.

But if you’re heading abroad, here are a few costs you might not expect:

  • Visas: Certain countries require you to obtain a visa before you visit. Sometimes, you need to apply ahead of time; other times, you can get one when you land. The cost varies widely, from $35 for Indonesia to $160 for Brazil.
  • Vaccinations: For the most part, vaccinations aren’t required to visit another country, but they’re often recommended. You can see which ones you need by searching the Travelers’ Health page from the Centers for Disease Control. They can be quite expensive — sometimes as much as several hundred dollars.
  • Departure tax: Some countries also charge you a fee when you leave the airport. In Costa Rica, for example, it’s $29 per person. Google it before you go.

In my opinion, there’s nothing better to spend your money on than travel. But since it’s not a cheap activity, it’s essential that you expect the unexpected.

Include the above costs in your travel budget and add an extra 15 percent to the total — just in case.

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