Let me share my travel tips of how to avoid theft, frauds and over-paying.
1.) Avoid baggage fees. Depending upon the airline you can pay $15 to $75 for the first checked bag, and more for overweight bags. When possible, pack lightly enough to carry-on one bag or fly airlines that still allow free checked bags (two bags for Southwest and one for JetBlue). Many airline frequent flier programs give members with a high status a free checked bag, so check your status.
Sure, it’s a little annoying to schlep your luggage all the way to your gate, but wouldn’t you rather spend that $25-$55 on something more interesting? (Photo: frankieleon)
2.) Hotel wifi can be very expensive— hotels charge from $10 to $30 per day for in room wifi. Set up a personal hot spot on your smart phone and use your cellular service to access wifi on other non-cellular devices.
Some hotel chains offer free in-room Internet access to members of their loyalty programs, so ask in advance and sign up to take advantage of the offers.
Photo Credit: Adam Pantozzi/Times Alliance
3.) Avoid paying double for rental car insurance. Check your current car insurance policy to see if it covers your rental car. Don’t forget to call your credit card company to check their coverage of rental car insurance too. Major credit card companies (including American Express, MasterCard, Discover and Visa) offer protection if you use your card to pay for the rental.
4.) Bring an empty water bottle with you through security at the airport. Then, fill it up at a water fountain or ask a barista at a coffee shop to fill it up for you to avoid the overpriced water sold at airports. Pick up some snacks at a local corner store instead of hitting the hotel room mini bar, which can lead to expensive surprises on your final bill.
5.) Review restaurant and hotel bills carefully. Many times mistakes occur by accident; politely ask responsible staff to revise. Even if it wasn’t a mistake, a polite request to fix the bill will go much further than an aggressive accusation.
6.) Avoid paying transaction fees for using your debit or credit card overseas. Check with your bank before you leave:some charge $5 per withdrawal, and an added 3% for all credit card purchases. Many credit cards and banks do not charge these fees. Avoid carrying a ton of cash around with you while abroad. Use your credit or debit card and go to ATMs for cash. Before you go call your bank and credit card companies to put a “travel alert” on your file detailing your travel plans, so they don’t think the foreign transactions are fraudulent and freeze your accounts.
7.) Lookout for tourist trap restaurants: if you’re visiting a restaurant or attraction that has an online presence, Google it or search it on Yelp! to see what the locals say about it and to see if there are coupons available for some extra savings. Often restaurants run deals on Yelp! where if you “Check in” at that restaurant and review it, you get a free dessert or 15% off the total bill, etc. Search online, not only to see if there are any coupons available or extra savings, but people will tell you if the chef changed a month ago and the food is lousy now.
8.) Bring your own food for a long flight. The in-flight meals are often expensive and disappointing, and everyone will drool over the take-out burrito you were foresightful enough to pick up en route to the airport.
Avoid airplane mush by bringing your own food for long flights. (Photo: Akinori Hamamura)
9.) Think ahead and pick up some nips (3 oz or less to comply with TSA requirements) at the local liquor store and bring them with you to avoid the $6 “cocktail” charge many domestic airlines charge for weak drinks.
10.) Ask lots of questions and read the fine-print before signing up for an organized tour. Questions to ask include… is tax included in the price? Tips/service, and what can I expect to pay in this regard? Any meals that are not included? Is alcohol included? Are all side trips/shore excursions included in the price, and if not, how much are they? Cancellation policies?
Getting ripped off is just part of traveling. Don’t let it ruin your day.
More from Gutsy Traveler:
Don’t focus on the minor irritations of travel; enjoy your adventures. (Photo: honey-bee)