10 Unexpected Travel Expenses You Must Know

Unexpected travel expenses can ruin your budget and leave you scrambling for cash. You might have to cancel a weekend getaway or postpone an important vacation because of an unexpected expense.

It’s no surprise to anyone who enjoys traveling that it can be costly. You pay for costs like flight, living accommodations, and sightseeing, and you also pay for food, attraction admissions, and shopping.

Paying for the fun parts of your vacation is not usually something to be upset about, however, when you experience unplanned expenses completely out of your control, it can be very frustrating.

While we always consider typical purchases like transportation and accommodations, there are many unexpected travel expenses to consider.

Below, I did a breakdown of some unexpected travel expenses you must know:

  1. Currency Exchange
  2. Baggage Fees
  3. Mobile Roaming Charges
  4. Foreign Transaction Fees
  5. Hotel And Lodging Fees
  6. Tax Expenses
  7. Health Expenses
  8. Transportation
  9. Cancellation Fee
  10. Credit Card Fee
Unexpected Travel Expenses

10 Hidden Travel Expenses & How To Avoid Them (Explained)

To help you plan a less stressful and more enjoyable trip. Here are some hidden travel expenses to budget for and how to avoid them:

1. Currency Exchange

When traveling abroad, exchanging currency once you’re at your destination may be convenient, but this is typically the most expensive choice and an unexpected travel expense.

For example, a currency exchange kiosk at an airport may operate at a higher exchange rate than if you exchanged currency at your local bank before traveling.

There may also be hidden fees. To save money, see if you can exchange your dollars for another currency at your bank before jumping on an international flight.

2. Baggage Fees

According to Yahoo News, in 2016, airlines in the US collected around $7.1 billion in baggage fees!

Airline baggage fees are one of the most annoying and inconvenient hidden fees for travelers. There are two types of baggage for airlines: checked baggage which goes to the aircraft hold area, and hand/carry-on baggage, which you can carry.

If you are traveling to the US, it is common to see air carriers charge outrageous fees for baggage. Carry-on baggage in a basic economy flight may cost you anywhere from free to $25!

The first two Checked bags may be free or cost up to $50 each. Subsequent bags may be charged anywhere between $50 to $150 each! Now imagine doing air travel both to and from a destination, especially if you are going with your family.

For a family of four with carry-on baggage each, a round trip may cost the family easily around $25*4*2 = $200!

Oh yeah, we forgot to mention that if your bags are above the prescribed weight limit by the airlines, you’ll be hit with an overweight baggage fee, which could cost you up to $50 per overweight bag. Baggage fees may end up bankrupting you!

Conventional wisdom dictates you travel light and pack the minimum required stuff abroad. But you need more than conventional wisdom to avoid the scourge of baggage fees. While booking your tickets, check if your airline allows free baggage and in what weight range.

If you have weighing scales at home, weigh your baggage and check whether they fall within the prescribed weight limits. Redistribute the weight from bags that weigh more to bags that weigh less.

If you are carrying sweaters or heavy clothing in your bag, consider wearing them while traveling and reducing the weight in your bag.

3. Mobile Roaming Charges

When traveling abroad, our smartphone is one of the most useful devices we will be carrying. It lets us take photos, keep in touch with family and friends back home, help in hailing cabs, book hotel stays, look up locations through maps and document our travel abroad on social media.

However, your mobile’s international roaming charges will cost you a fortune if you are not careful. After landing abroad, simply receiving your friends’ “Happy Journey” message could rack up huge international roaming charges. So what can you do to avoid high international mobile roaming charges while still being able to use your phone abroad?

Contact your mobile service provider and enquire if they have international packages on data and calling for your use abroad. Suppose you are using an unlocked phone (which can be used with any network provider or carrier) and going away for more than two weeks.

In that case, it makes sense to purchase a local SIM card from the country you are going to. Alternatively, if you are going abroad briefly, put your phone in airplane mode and use public WiFi wherever available. Use apps like Whatsapp and Skype to make calls while on WiFi.

Also, consider downloading guidebooks and necessary maps in advance and saving them offline to be viewed later.

4. Foreign Transaction Fees

If you’re traveling abroad, foreign or international transaction fees can add up quickly and be a big unexpected travel expense.

What is a foreign transaction fee? It’s a fee charged for every purchase made with a credit card when traveling abroad. The fee is usually between 2-4% of each purchase.

Fortunately, some credit card companies like Capital One and Discover do not charge a foreign transaction fee. To know whether your credit card company will charge this fee, check your credit card’s terms and conditions or call customer service before your adventure begins.

5. Hotel and Lodging Fees

Hotel and lodging fees can be sneaky and only appear once you reach the payment confirmation page. You may think your stay is only $100 per night, but after fees, taxes, and more are added, you’re paying much more.

To get a clearer view of exactly how much your room will be, act as if you want to book your stay to get to the billing page. This will show you the total amount (taxes and fees included).

Also, be aware of surprise expenses charged to your card during your stay. Think of in-room snacks and drinks that may not be free of charge.

Unexpected Travel Costs

6. Tax Expenses

Tax is another hidden expense you ought to look out for. Some countries impose high tourism taxes on hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related services. Also, Suppose you are booking your hotel stay abroad via third-party websites.

In that case, the cost of your stay may be quoted without including the tax amount. These taxes will add up every day you stay abroad and become a substantial overhead on your expenses.

If applicable on your stay abroad, tax cannot be avoided. However, you can avoid being given a bad surprise by way of tax charges at the end of your hotel stay abroad.

Read the fine print of the terms and conditions when booking your hotel stay through third-party websites to ensure that taxes are included.

As soon as you arrive at your hotel, speak with the front desk regarding any tax charges on using the hotel services such as laundry and wifi, etc. When you know the applicable taxes, you’d be in a better position to avoid and manage them.

7. Health Expenses

When you travel abroad, there is a higher chance of falling sick or experiencing health-related discomforts than at home. We will cross paths with many people, some of whom may be having a cold themselves.

Also, when traveling, your body may need help acclimatizing to the climate abroad. Suppose a medical emergency or injury requires you to fly back home immediately. In that case, the last-minute flight tickets will cost you a fortune.

Whatever the case, if you fall sick when traveling abroad, be prepared for a lot of expenditure on treatment and hospital fees abroad. Medical care abroad can be expensive, especially in developed countries like the US. Here is how you can avoid high medical bills abroad if hospitalized.

The best way to avoid unpleasant ill-health surprises is by taking all the necessary vaccinations before going to a country abroad. Some countries have made vaccinations mandatory for entering their soil by requiring proof of immunization as one of the documents required for entry.

Furthermore, consider opting for travel insurance covering emergency medical expenses abroad. Each insurance plan is different, so buy one that suits you best. Some plans even reimburse missed flights and activities you paid for but couldn’t participate in because of your health problems.

8. Transportation Costs

Imagine you’ve landed abroad, collected your baggage, and are about to exit the airport. There is a high chance you’d be tired from air travel and want to go to your hotel fast. So you might choose a taxi available just outside the airport to shuttle you there.

However, taxicabs abroad cost a lot. Being in a foreign land and not knowing the way, you may increasingly rely on taxis. Your daily transportation costs abroad can quickly empty your bank account if you constantly opt for taxis.

So what can you do to manage transportation costs abroad?

Do advanced research before heading abroad and learn about the different transportation methods available in that country.

Look up the distance from the airport to your hotel and the different ways of reaching your destination from the airport. Usually, using that city’s public transportation might be the cheapest way to do it.

Alternatively, Uber and Lyft are marginally cheaper than taxicabs and provide the same comfort level. Also, look up trains, subways, buses, and other modes of public transport that can significantly reduce your travel expenditure.

Plan your budget considering the daily transportation costs and keep some extra cash to cover these expenses.

9. Cancellation Fee

You hope and pray this one never happens to you. Still, it’s not all that uncommon:

  • A family member gets sick.
  • An unexpected hurricane hits a resort.
  • Some other unforeseen circumstance strikes out of the blue and cancels your trip at the last minute.

If this is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, you may have invested much money well in advance. How do you protect your investment?

As with preventing other unexpected costs, the first step is to do your research. Airlines, cruise lines, and hotels all have their cancellation policies. Can you call and reschedule? If so, how much advance notice must you give to ensure you don’t lose money?

Will there be an additional charge for changing a reservation? You should know the answers to these questions before taking out the credit card to make any payment.

You may find that certain situations, such as a last-minute cancellation due to an illness, are not covered by one of these services’ refund policies. In this case, consider purchasing travel insurance.

Travel insurance is exactly what it sounds like: an insurance policy that guarantees a refund of part or all of your vacation investment if you cancel the trip. These policies are available from several insurers and often charge a small fee for the peace of mind they offer.

They also come with stipulations, however: Be sure to read the fine print before buying a policy so that you understand exactly what reasons for cancellation are covered.

10. Credit Card Fees

Like airlines with different baggage policies, foreign banks have other procedures in different countries.

Credit card fees are unavoidable sometimes, but I tell every traveler to get a travel card. Having travel cards allows you to load multiple foreign currencies on one card. It makes spending abroad and on foreign websites easier. 

You’ll probably pay ATM or withdrawal fees if you don’t have a travel card. If you’re traveling internationally, some cards may even charge you a small percentage of every purchase you make.

More Travel Tips:

Top Travel Mistakes To AvoidTips To Travel On a Low Budget
Tips For Traveling AloneTips For A Long Bus Ride
Tips For A Road TripTips For First-Time Travelers
Travel Tips For IntrovertsSelf-Care Tips While Traveling

Bottom Line

In short, when planning a trip, the thought of unexpected expenses can make you panic. Whether it’s a flight delay or an unexpected medical emergency, these are all things that could happen to any traveler. However, there are ways to avoid these situations and save money while traveling.

While there are several means that you can predict and plan to save money on your next vacation, sometimes the unexpected occurs and leaves you with the bill.

Additionally, suppose you’re interested in taking a vacation without the stress of unexpected expenses, it may be beneficial for you to invest in travel insurance, by doing that, you can release the stress of the ‘what ifs’ and enjoy your vacation peacefully.

Thanks for taking the time to read all the way to the end. I hope this article was helpful.

Stay Awesome (:


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Optimos Travel is a travel blog to help you travel the world, and explore different lifestyles, traditions, foods, and everything in between.