This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Read the full disclosure here.
Don’t let unplanned expenses derail your trip! Avoid these 10 travel budget mistakes and hold on to your hard earned cash!
Your trip is planned and you’ve figured out how much it is going to cost. Then unexpected situations you didn’t plan for come up. Don’t let these common travel budget mistakes ruin your vacation!
I am a very budgeted person. When it comes to trip planning, even more so. All of these travel budget mistakes are fees and expenses I have personally experienced or come across in my travel planning.
Be in the know! Avoiding these 10 travel budget mistakes can save you hundreds of dollars!
This post is all about travel budget mistakes.
10 Travel Budget Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Vacation
#1. Travel Budget Mistake: Hidden or Unplanned Fees
There’s nothing worse on your travel budget than being hit with fees and unplanned expenses you weren’t counting on it!
Bank fees can be sneaky little amounts that really add up over time. You may be charged a fee anywhere from $2-10 per transaction just to withdraw cash from an ATM. If there are bank or local limits on how much money you may withdraw at one time, those pesky charges can become significant quickly.
This is especially true if you are wanting to withdraw a decent amount of currency for your trip. It may take multiple transactions to get that cash, costing you the ATM fee every time.
In addition to ATM fees, your bank may also charge you a foreign exchange fee on each transaction. These fees are generally between 1-3%. Check with your bank and credit card company before traveling to know if you will be charged a foreign transaction fee. Nerd Wallet has a solid breakdown of credit cards that are advantageous for travel and have no foreign transaction fees.
Our favorite credit card for travel is the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. You earn 5x the points on travel when purchasing travel through the Chase travel portal, 2x the points on travel purchased elsewhere and 3x the points for dining out! If you manage credit cards well, you should be using a credit card that rewards your future goals, like more travel!
And of course, one of the biggest travel budget mistakes you can make is not letting your bank know that you will be traveling. This is a quick way to have your accounts frozen and render your cards useless. You may want to know ahead of time what do if this happens with your bank. Nowadays, most banks will tell you that you don’t have to give a travel notice. Do it anyway.
Definitely be sure to take a second credit card affiliated with a different bank so you always have a means of paying if one card does not work. It happens more often than you may think.
You’ve figured out your travel budget for accommodations, found the perfect place in your price range, and suddenly the room bill is more than you anticipated. Resort fees are often disclosed in the fine print and are added on a nightly basis. The minimum is typically $25, but can be much higher depending on the destination.
I hate resort fees! They are not optional, and usually claim to cover amenities you’d expect to already be included like the pool or gym. We have paid resort fees for supposed pool use, only to find that the pool was closed for our entire stay.
Seeing the Sights
Even if you have calculated the costs of seeing all of the sights, you may still be surprised to find extra expenses tacked on. For example, on top of your ticket to climb the Eiffel Tower, you have to pay an additional fee for “summit access”. Some places in Mexico will charge you extra for bringing a camera or a drone into certain locations. Visiting Tivoli Gardens? Some tickets, and even ride passes, only cover part of the experience.
Another travel budget mistake is not knowing if there are free days to see the sights. Many countries offer a free admission day, free to children on certain days, free time slots, discounted time slots, etc. Why shell out the cash for tickets if you can see or do it for free?
#2. Travel Budget Mistake: Not Researching Transportation Options
With so many ways to get around a country available, it’s best to research your transportation options ahead of time so you can make informed decisions.
Bus, Train, Taxi or Ride Share
The cheapest transportation option in one part of a country, may not be the same in a different part. How many people are in your travel party also makes a difference. Busses are typically the most cost effect way to get around. But figuring out how to use the local bus system, where to buy the tickets and where the bus stops are can be inconvenient.
Trains are underutilized in the U.S. for cost effective, quick transportation. Many other countries offer convenient transport by train. But you will want to be aware of the fast train versus the local train. The class you choose to travel in may greatly impact your experience (and wallet) as well.
Taxis sometimes have fixed pricing. You will want to know what a taxi should cost and if tipping is expected before arriving at your destination. We’ve had taxi drivers try to tell us different prices because we’re tourists, but being in the know can help you negotiate down.
Overall, you want to weigh the transportation options for your group based on price, convenience and time.
Car Rental Expenses
Renting a car can be a great option for getting around your destination. It allows you to explore areas public transportation won’t take you. Plus, you can be on your own schedule. But car rentals often come with unplanned expenses.
You will likely be required to purchase extra car insurance for your car rental. Some credit cards offer this as a perk as long as you use the card to pay for the rental. Adding another driver is an additional cost, too. Then you have regular car expenses to pay for such as gas, parking, road tolls and mileage. Consider every detail when renting a car to be sure it’s worth the final bill.
#3. Travel Budget Mistake: Accommodations
Just like transportation, there are many options when it comes to choosing your accommodations. Aside from multiple hotels, you also have bed and breakfast, home exchange, Airbnb, hostels and more.
When making your final decision on where to stay for your travels, be sure to consider the extra expenses that may come with your property choice. One common example is whether or not breakfast is included with your stay. Often times, a hotel will offer breakfast at an additional cost. This is almost always going to be far more expensive than venturing out for breakfast on your own.
Other travel budget mistakes is not taking the location of your hotel or Airbnb into consideration. Staying right in the tourist hub is always more expensive and you will probably pay a premium for parking. But staying too far out may end up costing you a lot in extra transportation costs.
Also worth considering with your accommodation choice is whether or not tipping is expected. Will you have to pay a cleaning fee? Do you need a kitchen to help save money on your food budget, or is a hotel fridge good enough?
Not Researching Hotels or Reading Airbnb Reviews
Use the knowledge of those who have gone before you, especially locals, frequent visitors or a travel blogger you trust. With enough research, you can find hidden gems and great recommendations on where to stay. Well written reviews will share all of the pros and cons, making it easy to determine if the location and price is right for you.
#4. Travel Budget Mistake: Your Food Budget
Definitely have a food budget dialed in before you travel. With so many tempting treats, foods and beverages, knowing ahead of time what to expect is important!
Create a Travel Food Budget
Take the time before you travel to research local eats, prices and generally what to expect food wise. This will help you create a food budget for your trip. It can also help determine if you need to hit up grocery stores verses restaurants. Familiarize yourself with local dishes, options and realistic costs. Don’t forget to budget for travel days as well, not just destination days.
To make our travel food budget, I research what type of food options we will have and where we will likely be eating (or type of restaurant). I figure out the estimated cost of each meal and create an average daily budget. If I’m not using cash, I keep a daily total on my phone while traveling of what we spend on food each day. Then I write down the over/under budget amount for that day. This helps me know when we need to reign it in and when we can splurge a little.
Some planning ahead of time can help ease the travel food budget. On one of my girls’ trips, we spent a weekend in the city and broke up our food expenses between us. One person brought breakfast items to eat in our hotel room, another snacks, another girl brought desserts and treats and the other one brought drinks. We ate one nicer meal out a day and local street food for the other meal. It was fun and affordable!
Eat Your Biggest Meal at Lunch
We do this all the time when traveling as a family. Lunch specials are cheaper than their dinnertime counterparts. This little travel hack can save you a lot of money over the course of a vacation. A large brunch is the same idea, if it can hold you over.
Another trick is to consider sharing meals. Leftovers aren’t the easiest to store when traveling, so don’t waste money on food you won’t eat. You can always order extra if you need to.
Know Where to Buy Groceries
All cities have their cheaper grocery stores and more expensive ones. Find out ahead of time where to get inexpensive groceries. We always stock some basic food items in our hotel room, even when we don’t plan on eating any meals in our room.
If part of your food budget is that you are cooking some of your meals, then knowing where to buy those groceries can be a significant savings!
Food in Tourist Areas
Not only will food in tourist areas likely be overpriced, but there’s a good chance you are paying more for less tasty food. Another budget travel mistake is to ask for a menu in English before seeing (and keeping) one in the local language. In popular tourist areas, such as Paris, the English menu my have higher prices.
To avoid lackluster and overpriced food, your best bet is to eat where the locals eat.
#5. Travel Budget Mistake: Know the Local Tipping Culture
To tip or not? Isn’t this always a question when traveling? Not properly working tips into your travel budget is a huge mistake because they can add up quickly depending on where you’re traveling. In the U.S. and Canada, 15-20% tips at restaurants is customary. As is tipping housekeeping, your ride share driver, tour operator and so on.
Find out who you are expected to tip and how much prior to traveling. Also be aware if tips are sometimes included on your bill automatically. You should know the word for gratuity in the local language. Research your destination for common scans when it comes to tipping so you tip appropriately, but aren’t taken advantage of as a tourist.
#6. Travel Budget Mistake: Understand the Local Currency
From what correct change should look like to the current exchange rates, be sure you understand the local currency before you travel!
Pay in Local Currency
You will almost always get the best price and exchange rate when paying in the local currency. This is how the locals pay after all. Even in countries that accept the dollar, it is usually better for the business person if you use local currency. For an idea of what the exchange rate should be, downloading a currency converter app can help.
Avoid carrying large bills as some places won’t be able to break them. This makes counting your change must easier, too. Be sure you know what correct change should look like, especially in countries where coins carry significant value. Or if the neighboring countries have similar looking currency.
Barter or Negotiate?
In many cultures, bartering or negotiating the price for goods is the norm. Don’t be afraid to do it when visiting these countries. However, you want to be fair and respectful while doing so. A few dollars to you may not mean as much as it does to them.
#7. Travel Budget Mistake: Cell Phone
No one wants to come home to a cell phone bill of hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Be sure to check with your phone carrier prior to leaving the country to know what to expect. Many phone companies have a link on their website about international travel.
We have Verizon, which provides us with our usual coverage in Mexico. But for a trip to Europe, we have to pay for an additional agreement, which ranges per phone from $10 per day of use to $100 a month. Be sure to find out what exactly is covered in these extra agreements when it comes to using data, sending texts and phone calls. Watch out for extra charges just to read a text that someone has sent you.
Another option is to pick up a local SIM card in your destination country. If you are planning to stay for an extended period of time, this may be your best bet. Research online what to expect for phone expenses at your particular destination ahead of time to avoid this huge travel budget mistake.
Lastly, if you have a 2 step verification process set up for any of your accounts, receiving a text with this information may cost you money. It may be worth downloading and setting up an authorization app instead.
#8. Travel Budget Mistake: Not Following Luggage Size & Weight Restrictions
Ok, so I maybe filled a suitcase with books while on a business trip. Clearly, this was way over the weight limit, and I found myself frantically figuring out how to ship boxes of books back home well past business hours on a holiday weekend.
Luggage weight restrictions are a real thing. And this can differ from one airline to another. Same for size restrictions with your carry on. You may find that your luggage set up is perfectly fine for part of your trip, but is oversized when you switch airlines or take a smaller flight between countries. Or maybe you have to order a larger (thus more expensive) ride share to hold all of your travel party’s luggage.
These mistakes involve extra fees, and costly ones at that.
Upgraded Seat Worth It?
Let’s face it. Cheap seats aren’t always worth the actual price you’ll pay. There are airlines that will nickel and dime you for every single thing besides the actual seat.
Sometimes, paying for an upgraded seat on your flight is worth it. Though the benefits and classes vary with airlines, you may end up saving money or spending only slightly more to upgrade. If you know you are checking luggage, and it costs the industry average of $60 per bag each way, that’s an additional $120 to your ticket price.
On one of our trips, I was able to get business class seats for only a couple hundred dollars more per seat for my husband and I. Knowing we were both checking bags, getting served an extra meal, free beer and wine and lounge access made this decision a no brainer. It’s always worth crunching all of the numbers!
#9. Travel Budget Mistake: Cancellation Fees
What’s worse on your travel budget than paying for nothing? That’s exactly what you’re doing when you have to cancel reservations, tickets, flights, etc outside of the cancellation window. Our friends recently lost hundreds of dollars on a hotel room because they cancelled their trip the day before. Think hard before booking the tempting nonrefundable rates.
I have a terminally ill father, so we never book any travel that can’t be cancelled or changed without fees. Sometimes this costs us a little bit extra. Certain travel credit cards also offers trip cancellation/interruption insurance. We’ve also just paid straight out of pocket for this insurance.
#10. Travel Budget Mistake: Not Having Travel Insurance
I used to never care about travel insurance, but if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t travel without it anymore! There are so many different scenarios that can happen which makes travel insurance worth its cost.
If your credit card does not cover you for lost luggage or trip cancellations, be sure to purchase travel insurance. This is important for health insurance coverage as well. You don’t want to find out in an emergency situation that your healthcare won’t cover treatment while traveling, especially if traveling abroad. This is a better safe than sorry situation that is worth part of your travel budget!
Traveling should be as stress free as possible. Hopefully, avoiding these travel budget mistakes can save you money and help you travel better!
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
This post is all travel budget mistakes.