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 and possibly a rental car?
If you’re not a seasoned traveler, chances are that you don’t know about 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 and unprepared.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS: If you don’t already have a passport you’ll need to get one before you can make your travel arrangements. Not only is this an extra expense for you and everyone traveling in your party, 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, particularly 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 but are lucky enough to have a cordial arrangement with your ex-partner in which you both agree that the child (or children) can travel with just one parent, 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, a cousin or perhaps a friend of your son or daughter. Such documentation can save a lot of time and hassle should any questions arise. Nevertheless, it is a cost that most people fail to consider when planning to travel.
VACCINES: No matter where you choose to go, it’s imperative that you find out if any vaccines are warranted before you leave the country. 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 getting a booster for the vaccines you received as a child, including Mumps, Measles, and Rubella. Or, it can be as complicated as a series of vaccines that each require more than one dose and take several weeks to get them all done.
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. When visiting Mexico and the Caribbean, vaccines for Hepatitis A & B are recommended, along with shots for Typhoid and Influenza, and treatment for Cholera. 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. And, there may be even more to consider depending on an outbreak situation in your chosen destination.
If you lack health insurance and are paying out of pocket for these vaccines and medications, you can expect to pay anywhere between $30 and $200 (CAN) per injection or dose. Consequently, they add up quickly for solo travelers and even quicker for families.
Securing a selloff price for a week in Cuba or the Dominican Republic may sound like a cheap vacation, but the hidden costs of recommended vaccines can almost rival the price of the trip. Not to mention that you will have to pay your doctor or a travel clinic for the specialized consult. Nevertheless, it’s best to protect yourself and your loved ones from any potential health threats that will spoil your vacation or will prove costly when you return home.
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.
As for rental insurance, this can pertain to numerous things, such as a rental car (for which insurance is an extra charge and comes in the form of Personal, Collision, and Supplemental) and it can affect any number of tourist activities. For example, renting a boat, a scooter, a jet ski, or a Segway often entails 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 up front 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 airline to airline as well as the location from which you are departing and arriving.
Generally speaking, however, travelers can expect to pay approximately $25 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.
MEALS ON THE PLANE: Alas, 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. And be prepared to fork over $10-$12 for something as simple as ham and cheese on a croissant. 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: Though travel agents and online travel sites often forget to mention this important piece of information, the fact is that many hotels these days 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, and should continue to be, standard with the price of the room. Depending on your destination, resort fees can range from $10 to $100 a day. However, $100 is indeed an extreme case (as seen at Provident Luxury Suites Fisher Island). For the most part, guests can expect to pay between $15 and $30 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 we believe 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 $70 to several hundred to your bill over the course of one week, especially if you are are connecting more than one device. 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 price of your stay.
ROAMING FEES: 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.
As such, it’s best to contact your carrier before you leave on your trip in order to put a travel package on your phone.
Yet, despite how cheap your chosen travel plan might be, it remains to be an extra expense you might not have thought about when budgeting for your vacation.
ELECTRONICS: If you’re travelling 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.
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 video of your experiences.
Have you got a reliable phone charger or a back-up 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.
TRANSPORTATION: What about transportation to and from your hometown airport? Have you thought about the costs involved for an airport limo or shuttle?
Even if you opt for a cheaper alternative, such as using a Park & Fly facility that will store your vehicle for the length of your trip, it STILL involves fees that you need to consider when saving for your vacation.
And what about transportation to and from your hotel after you’ve arrived at your destination? Unless your hotel or resort includes a shuttle service to and from the airport, this is also something that needs to be planned and budgeted for.
TRAVEL SIZE TOILETRIES AND EXTRAS: These items might not add up to much (depending on your needs), but if you’ve never traveled before you first need to consider purchasing luggage which comes in a wide variety of price points and poses an extra expense. Then you’ll need a sturdy luggage tag that will assist in identifying your baggage. A luggage scale might also be handy so you don’t exceed the airline’s maximum weight when packing your suitcase.
Maps, handy travel apps for your smartphone, a lightweight rain jacket, a reliable sunscreen, and a good pair of sunglasses might also be valid considerations. And if you’re planning to fly to your destination, you’ll need ‘Travel Size’ toiletries given that regular size bottles have not been allowed on flights since 9/11. If you don’t want to pay the price for several miniature bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, then invest in some small and reliable plastic bottles that you can fill and refill directly from your regular size products at home. And don’t forget to purchase a clear plastic zippered bag to pack them into, as this will help airport personnel to identify the products without the hassle of unpacking them as you move through the security area.
Even if you purchase the majority of these items at a Dollar Store, they still constitute an extra expense that goes over and above the price of your trip.
BOARDING PETS: Have you made plans for Fido and Fluffy for while you’re away? If you haven’t, you need to think about a pet sitter or a boarding service, both of which can be pricey. This becomes even more expensive if your chosen boarding kennel has vaccination requirements (as most reputable kennels do) especially if your pet’s shots are not 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 arrange to deliver your pet. Between shots and boarding, it can prove expensive.
Unfortunately, you might also have to deal with a visit to the vet upon your return home, as some pets will acquire an illness due to exposure to the other animals, and some will stress out and therefore become ill as a result of being away from their owner.
HOUSESITTER: Depending on how long you plan to be away, you might contemplate hiring a housesitter to water any indoor or outdoor plants, take in the mail, cut the grass or perform any general upkeep to your home.
Commonly, family, friends or neighbors can be called upon for such things. But if your list of tasks is lengthy and burdensome, or you require something special to be done and don’t want to impose on your loved ones, 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.
BILLS: 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.