Cutting costs on travel can be a boon for our wallets, but there’s a dark side to some of those “discounts.” With that in mind, here are 12 so-called travel hacks that, if you’re not careful, can end up costing you more than you bargained for:
Flying budget airlines
Your air travel search will undoubtedly uncover lower-cost, no-frills lines like Spirit or Norwegian, but what you’re saving on the front end could cost you even more on the back end. Unlike slightly higher-priced traditional airlines, today’s “budget” carriers charge for everything, from carry-on bags, to food and water (yes, you have to buy your own water on Spirit).
Booking with a travel agent
“Travel companies are great, but in the long-run you spend more money because you will end up paying extra for items not included in your package,” says Alex Tran, author at the travel blog Love Eat Travel. “A better way to choose a tour package is to ensure it’s all-inclusive, including meals, rides, transfers, tours, etc. We did a tour package to Cancun at the Sands Resort and paid 17% more than if we were to book on our own.”
Waiting for prices to drop
Personal finance expert Dustyn Ferguson, founder of the money-saving blog Dime Will Tell notes that, “If you wait for prices to drop, but the price goes up, you’re stuck. But if you book as soon as possible and the price drops later, you can usually contact the company for a price match to their new offer.”
Falling prey to cost-comparing travel sites
Flight comparison sites like Expedia, Kayak, Skyscanner, and Momondo are essential tools for finding cheap flights. Increasingly, however, many of these websites are promoting deals with little-known travel agencies that may offer better commissions than the airlines. The flights are usually considerably cheaper than what the major airlines are charging — but according to James of Portugalist.com, there’s a problem: “There are often hidden terms and conditions that aren’t as good as what the airlines offer. For example, admin charges for name or date changes can cost hundreds of dollars. Many agencies will also cancel the tickets at the last minute for unknown reasons, forcing travelers to buy new tickets for considerably more than what they would have paid had they bought through the airline in the first place.”
Saving money by booking a bus or train
You can sometimes get from point A to point B much cheaper by bus or train instead of a flight. But time is money too; are you turning one of your hard-earned vacation days into a travel day?
Being flexible with flight times and duration
It’s no secret that you can save money by choosing to fly at an inconvenient time or booking a flight with a long layover. But Calvin Iverson, a travel expert at TravelPirates, says you may want to rethink that strategy: “If you’re spending 10 hours doing nothing at an airport during a layover or arriving in your destination at three in the morning, are you really having a good vacation?”
Being flexible with your flight dates
Most people know that one of the easiest ways to save vacation money is to change your departure or return date. But before adjusting any dates to save $100 off your flight, check your hotel’s rates for your updated dates; they can change dramatically from day to day.
Clearing browser cookies
One misconception is that you need to clear your search browser history before evaluating flights because airlines have algorithms that will automatically increase flight prices if you continue searching for flights to the same destination — but some airlines actually reduce fares in the hope of securing your booking.
Pre-booking a vacation package
According to money writer Patricia Russell, “The inherent problem with ‘vacation package deals’ is that you often not only end up with inconvenient travel times, poor rooms, and less-than-ideal rental cars, but you may end up overpaying for them too. It’s better to book directly with each provider as they usually will match a good deal anyway.”
Booking a hotel outside of the city
It’s true that hotels farther from the city center or airport are often less expensive than hotels closer to the action. “But before you book one of those hotels for the low price,” says Iverson. “Look into how you plan to get from the hotel to the city center — sometimes public transportation isn’t easy or inexpensive, and you end up paying more than you would have paid for a stay at a more conveniently located hotel.”
Rolling your clothes or using packing cubes
Travel bloggers everywhere recommend packing “hacks” like packing cubes or rolling clothes to fit more into your suitcase, but if you’re using these hacks as an excuse to overpack your bag, then your luggage could end up being heavy enough to warrant an additional fee for overweight luggage.
Signing up for travel credit cards
Travel credit cards offer free points, miles, and other rewards to get you to sign up. Yes, these signup bonuses can be very generous, but if you aren’t responsible with a credit card, then you can easily end up paying much more in interest than you receive in rewards.
Photo Credit: bark
Karen Kinnane says
I fly United all the time. They are not always the cheapest, but with gold status they throw in many extras like free luggage, economy seat with extra leg room, early boarding, lots of overhead bin space, choice of seat when booking. I find they are very interested in my being happy. Every time I deal with anyone from United I start out by telling them I like their airline and have always (This is the truth.) gotten wonderful assistance from them. United once bumped a passenger to get me home, and recently I volunteered to be bumped and even though the deal fell through at the last moment (I love to be bumped!) they gave me a generous financial credit towards my next booking as a good will gesture. The thought of giving my business to an unknown airline with a lot of potential problems isn’t appealing.
Wholesome Wallet says
Great article. Too much “cost savings” can actually end up costing you more.