When going on vacation, no matter how long, it is wise to make a vacation budget. Many people just take their savings and make sure that everything that is booked upfront is below that saved sum. I personally think this is terrible practice because there are many things that can happen and you are potentially stealing from yourself by not calculating important steps into your travel budget which will ultimately put you in the red digits when you start dotting your vacation budget plans’ i’s. As I said this is terrible practice so here’s a list with forgotten expenses to definitely calculate into your vacation budget.
- 12 Overlooked Travel Expenses Costing You
If you feel that before you can worry about the list below you need help with creating a travel budget, take a look at my eBook where I show you exactly how I always have a budget to travel.
12 Overlooked Travel Expenses Costing You
1. Administration fees
Lots of airline companies and/or hotels charge you administration fees when booking your flights/stays. Some of them put this upfront before you continue the payment and fill in your details. Others will have you knee deep into filling in all your information and then when they give you the summary of what you are about to book, right before paying, they will have added the administration fees as well. So be on the lookout for those administration fees when you casually browse for trips. The price you see upfront might not be your final price. It usually isn’t but that is a conversation for another day.
Some of the hotel administration fees can be quite steep especially when you are staying just for one night or when you are being charged per person. A good solution for this is to look for different websites offering the same hotel room but without the extra administration fee (do make sure you don’t end up paying more for your stay in general!).
Something I don’t talk about at all on the blog because you won’t catch me on one anytime soon (read: ever!) is cruises. However in order to give you the most complete version of forgotten travel expenses I did do some research and have a thing or two to share about admin fees on cruises.
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First you have your regular administration fees, these are the ones that are standard practice. They’re the same as the one discussed above for hotels and airlines. Where things get different is some cruise ships automatically add a cleaning fee or housekeeper fee to your bill. The amount varies and the way it is done as well. For example I have heard that on one cruise line you pay €12.50 per day per person. Let’s say you booked a cruise for two weeks, you’re looking at an extra travel expense of €175,- per person. An amount like that has to be accounted for in your vacation budget.
Don’t mistake the auto added housekeeper fee for the tip either as it’s not. Tipping is something you decide to do, the fee I am talking about here, as far as I know, is not optional. In other words you have to pay for it, no way around it except other means of transportation.
I just want to add here that I am aware that working circumstances on cruise lines aren’t always the best they should and/or can be. I wholeheartedly believe people should be compensated appropriately for their work. Me mentioning the housekeeper fee is purely to make sure that it gets included in your vacation budget and you don’t end up with a surprise bill that you can’t pay for. This would be terrible for everyone involved.
2. Tourist tax
This is a confusion that actually happened to me once when booking my hotel through a hotel booking site. I paid my stay upfront so I was super surprised when I arrived and the receptionist asked me whether I would pay the tourist tax now or when checking out. This taught me to always check whether the payment for your hotel room includes the tourist tax or this is something you have to pay when actually at the hotel.
Some hotel booking sites will include the payment of the tourist tax in the total price of your stay but when putting the payment through deduct less from your account and leave the taxes to be paid at the hotel. Therefore be sure to check how much has actually been deducted from your account.
Hotels want it this way because it protects them from having extra people show up without having paid the tourist tax. I know it seems logical to think that when you show up with an extra person they will have to pay anyways, but when you have paid for the room and you are staying in it alone at some hotels you already paid for two persons as they don’t differ between two people staying in one room or just one person. Even though you might have paid for two person’s, if all went correctly the tourist tax was only added once as that is tied to the number of people visiting.
Also make sure that you don’t pay it twice as some hotels will charge it upon arrival as that is their custom. However they could have an agreement with the booking site that might be different such as in my case where I thought all was included.
3. Transportation from the airport to your Accommodation
Depending on where you are going the airport might be rather far or close by to a city. Obviously everyone looks for the fastest and easiest way to get to their accommodation with the decision often going to the no fuss no muss taxi option, but this is how you can lose a lot of cash unnecessarily. Before departing I always go on the website of the airport to see what they say is the easiest way to get from the airport to the city I am going to. Usually their directions will guide you to a central train station or centre square via their public transport. Most sites will have the exact bus or train number you can take to get to the center of the city with a link to the site of the company that offers the travel service.
(Pro tip: Most hotels have a ‘’how to reach us’’ section as well with detailed information using various forms of local transport. If you cross reference this with the information of how to get to the city from the airport you can sometimes luck out, depending on where you are staying, and be using a form of transport that passes your accommodation!)
It is also definitely worth looking on the webpage of the airport because in some larger cities they have exclusive transportation to and from the airport to their nearest city. For example in Copenhagen you have a metro directly to the airport, which is super convenient. I remember when going to Dubai they also had one, but it wasn’t given as a clear option at the airport itself so I was definitely happy to know that I had other options besides just a taxi.
Another option is coach services. They work pretty much the same as public transportation by bus, the only difference is they will usually only go from the airport to the city centre or at most stop at a few hot spots. For example when going to Milan, Italy you can arrive at Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate and Bergamo Airport. The closest one to Milan is Milan Linate, from there you’d think you can just take a taxi to Milan but actually it is way cheaper to look into the coach services. I remember paying €10 for a return from Malpensa Airport to Milan with a coach service. This bus also stops at Milan Linate before going to Milan Malpensa.
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4. Exchange rates
If you are going somewhere where the going currency is different from yours it is best to start checking the exchange rates along with your initial browsing. You have to know that no matter how often you check it can always change, however checking early can give you an idea of how far your money will potentially stretch in the country you are going to.
I have heard this tip many times of simply changing your money into dollars as it is accepted in many places. I personally refrain from doing that because when buying something locally they will apply their own in store exchange rates and you don’t always know how valid they are or whether your change is the same equivalent in dollars. Unless of course you are a walking calculator but even then why exhaust yourself like that on vacation?
Besides incorporating the exchange rate into your vacation budget you also need to incorporate the handling price of the place you are buying the foreign valuta. It’s usually not a lot but you still have to pay for it. You might even have to pay it twice depending on whether you want to exchange your money back to your own currency.
If you don’t like to take cash with you but just like to withdraw the money while at your location, be sure to check with your bank what their exchange rate policy is as it can end up costing you quite a lot if you withdraw often depending on their policy. It could also be that the ATM where you are withdrawing money charges you and then your own bank as well, so make sure to double check. The same goes for your credit cards, even though I wouldn’t recommend ever withdrawing money from your credit card as they charge you for it anyways no matter the valuta.
5. Hotel Credit Card Holds
A hotel hold is like a deposit you pay in case you break something in the hotel room. It’s not money you are paying the hotel but the hotel has a contract with a financial institution to place a hold on your card for a set amount. So the money will not be transferred from your card, it is not a payment yet you still cannot use that money for your on vacation spending.
Now this is something you should calculate in your vacation budget because depending on where you are staying the hold can be anywhere between 50 $/€ to 150 $/€ as far as I have seen. As you can see this can run steep. Depending on your credit card limit this will or won’t be a problem.
I personally would not recommend putting the hold on your debit card because of the amount of money it might be and depending on when during the month you are going on vacation you might have an automated payment set up and this might not go through because of the hold. This is because even though the money is technically still in your account it is not accessible.
When everything is okay with the room the hold will normally be released within 24 hours to a week at maximum (always ask at check-in how long it takes as this varies per hotel). So rest assured you get the money ‘’back’’ in full when there is no damage to the room. If the hold is not released within that time, definitely call the hotel and let them know and also let your bank or credit card company know that the hold has not yet been released. Another reason to let them put the hold on your credit card is that in case of a dispute you have more protection with a credit card than you do with a debit card.
A friend of mine was told by someone in the banking industry that the reason why there might be a delay is that the financial company has used the money to invest, so having to release it immediately would cause a dent in the investment. Just a little FYI.
This is not necessarily something you have to plan for in your vacation budget but some hotels will deduct the mini bar consumption from the hold as it’s easier than charging you directly at check out.
When you go to the airport by car or you hire a car at location you need a place to leave it while doing your on foot browsing. Let’s dive into the first one mentioned. Leaving your car at the car park at an airport can be quite expensive, especially if you just get a ticket when you arrive. That’s why you have to plan for it in your vacation budget. The longer you leave your car at the car park the higher the pay of course.
What you can and should do is look online what their rates are and see if you can book in advance as sometimes you can get a discount when booking online or well in advance. When looking online you can usually also find other car parks that might not be 100% adjacent to the airport but have better rates and a, usually, free shuttle to the airport.
Another option that you can potentially look into when adding up your travel budget is hotels near the airport. Some hotels offer free vacation parking if you stay there for the night. This is especially useful if you have an AM flight and don’t live really close to the airport.
When renting a car at location I like to google the city website plus parking as this usually leads me to find the parking fees for street parking, car parks and/or park and ride offers. I also immediately check whether the payment is done by card or only cash as that can create an extra travel expense as well. The expense is either having to buy something you don’t need in order to get change for the meter or paying by card and being charged an exchange rate by your bank.
Parking fees might seem like such a small thing in your overall vacation budget but if you don’t account for it properly and are planning on driving a lot, it can definitely start adding up sneakily.
7. Gasoline for your car
Now that we are on the topic of cars, if you rent a car you need to make sure that it actually drives and the way to do that is with gasoline or with electricity depending on what type of car you hire.
The information for the price of a full tank is best found at the dealer as they know their cars of course. All you need to do is to make sure to leave a very sizable margin for this part of your vacation budget. Why very sizable? Because depending on how much the car drives per liter/gallon you might be more or less out of pocket to keep it driving than you expected. This is even without taking in account how much you are effectively driving.
Also don’t think these two car items only apply when you are exclusively going on vacation by car. They both start applying as soon as you hire a car even if it is just for one day.
8. Forgotten crucial vacation items
Of all the things on this list this one is the worst one to happen if you’re asking me just because it is more than just an overlooked item of your vacation budget.
Crucial forgotten items during your trips will not only cost you money but more importantly they will cost you your precious time. Time you can use to enjoy your travels. Next to potentially losing copious amounts of time it’s also, depending on what you forgot, a major inconvenience.
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An example: I remember during a Paris trip with the family we had to go looking for contact lens solution. I don’t wear lenses personally but I learned quickly that finding the right ones that you can use is not only of crucial importance but the differences between solutions are bigger than I could have ever anticipated. Needless to say it took a full evening to find ones that would work, while the original plan was browsing a museum.
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Let me circle back to what this post is about overlooked travel expenses to add to your vacation budget. I mentioned the obvious cost of replacing the crucial forgotten items but didn’t elaborate further as to why this cost can actually turn out higher than you might think. It all has to do with convenience and time.
More often than not replacing a forgotten vacation item will have to be quick and convenient. This means that it is easier to ‘’settle’’ for the first thing you find that fits the job description. Considering things like quality and durability are often not done as much as you’d rather, rightfully so, be enjoying your vacation time for example wandering around a museum. There’s also the reason ‘’I have it at home so I only need something to use during these days’’. The reason makes sense but it does mean that you might be putting yourself in the way of not getting something of quality.
Another reason why you absolutely need to create space for forgotten vacation items in your vacation budget is because when you are in more touristy parts of a city it’s usually a little bit more expensive in general. It’s widely known that people want to enjoy themselves and have a good time without having to worry much so whatever the price is they will usually pay to make that happen. As I said, more often than not replacing forgotten vacation items is a hasty event that leaves you vulnerable to the above widely known ‘’fact’’.
Honestly the best way I know how to try to avoid this from happening is by using a packing list. The one I use is completely free available right here, it even comes with a guide for you to make optimal use of it.
To out myself and help you have less impromptu travel expenses picking at your so carefully thought out travel budget here are things I’ve picked up randomly during my travels.
- Make-up remover wipes
9. Leave a tip
This one has some cultural references in it so it depends on where you are going whether tips should be part of your vacation budget, yes or no. It also depends on your own personal preferences whether you do it or not.
Either way if you are the type of person to leave a tip, you have to take into account the percentage amount maintained by some countries. Depending on how often you go out for a meal you have to add the tips to your restaurant vacation budget.
No matter how much or how little the percentage is, it is still something that gets paid with your vacation money so it needs accounting for. I realize that you might not know how much you’ll be paying to dine but having a set budget for tips is still recommended. It’s recommended because it is an expense that in two or three meals can cover the price of a snack on the road or entrance ticket for an excursion for example. What I said about the parking meters is true here as well. The individual payments might be small, but cumulatively they add up and therefore are sneaky and overlooked travel expenses that need to be a part of your vacation budget right from the start.
10. Stay connected to the Wifi
We’re so used to always being connected to everything and every one that when we go abroad we expect to continue that trend. However even though in most accommodations, wifi is free it definitely is not the case in all of them. There are hotels, even super nice and fancy ones, where you have to pay to use the wifi. Yes, even in this day and age.
The pricing in them varies quite a bit as well, some charge per day with an infinite amount of appliances, others charge per appliance and per day/hour.
Seeing that the price varies quite a bit it is best to be on the lookout for these fees. As to not have to pay unexpectedly because of a sudden need for connection for whatever reason.
11. Snacking is a must
Adding a snacking fund to your vacation budget might seem weird because who doesn’t plan on eating during their travels?! Hopefully no one! However even though you might have your three meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner, covered with long lists of restaurants and on the go places you want to check out, I highly recommend creating a fund in your travel budget for on the go snacks.
Purely because you never know what can happen during your travels and you might need a little something to hold you over till the next big sit down moment of breakfast, lunch or dinner. Believe me, the day can run away with you fast as the saying goes
Time flies when you’re having fun.Albert Einstein
Having the time fly by on an empty stomach is not good for you. That’s why it is best to be prepared so if you see something you can quickly pick up and eat on the go you actually have the funds to do so without having to go potentially hungry during your next meal because of financing problems.
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How I Afford To Travel (Your How To Guide)
12. Visum Applications
This travel expense is something you have to take a look at, at the very beginning stages of planning a vacation. Depending on where you are from and where you are going you need a visa and sometimes you need to pay for it.
These visum application fees can run rather steep so not taking this fee into account could sometimes mean having to postpone or even cancel the vacation as it can eat at your vacation budget with rather large bites.
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Not wanting to scare you but it is best to have the amount of the visa application fees twice just in case something goes wrong when you first apply. The paperwork for a visum can sometimes be rather tricky so having a travel budget safety net only enables you to go at it again if anything results in going haywire. Really, one missing document and you could be looking at swiping your card to pay for reapplication!
And you made it to the end of the list! Now if you take these twelve forgotten vacation expenses into account when setting up your travel budget you will be able to travel with a lot more peace of mind in regards to getting any surprise vacation payments.
A relaxing vacation is way easier done without having to crunch numbers in the back of your mind constantly for overlooked travel expenses.
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