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Life Hacks

How to Avoid Travel Fees This Holiday Season


If you’re traveling this holiday season, you’re no double looking to score a great deal on car rentals, hotel stays, and airfare. The season can offer some great deals, but hidden charges may abound that can drive those prices right back up. Luckily, there are a few savvy ways you can save hundreds and still get where you need to go without sacrificing your comfort. Keep reading for four tips on how to avoid travel fees. 

Skip Home Rental Fees

Booking a stay via vacation rental websites such as AirBnB or Vrbo means paying less for roomier accommodations than a hotel. But these sites also tend to charge a 10 percent “service fee.” The easy way to avoid it? Search the address of the property you’re interested in online, advises travel expert Anita Kaltenbaugh, author of Travel Secrets ($9.99, Amazon). “Many owners have their own sites advertising the same homes for rent. But they don’t need to charge that fee, so you can book it through them to save.”

Save $100 on Car Rentals

If you’re driving a rental car from point A to point B but don’t plan to make a return trip, you could get socked with a $100 or more “drop-off fee.” Explains Kaltenbaugh: “You may be taking your rental to another branch of the same company, but they have to return the car to its original starting point, which costs them time and gas.” The good news? “These companies often offer coupons that eliminate drop-off charges, so call ahead and ask what promotions they’re running.” Also smart: Avoid renting a car from the airport — they may charge a 13 percent “concession recovery fee” to cover the cost of operations at the terminal. Instead, opt for a bus or rideshare from the airport to an offsite rental location where they don’t charge this fee.

Avoid Direct Ticketing Fees

If you’re planning to purchase airline tickets over the phone, heads up: “Most airlines now charge a ‘direct ticketing fee’ for booking with a live agent,” says Kaltenbaugh. “It’s more expensive to pay staff than it is for a website to handle transactions, so the airline charges you more to cover the cost.” For instance, American and United Airlines add $25, and Allegiant charges $14.99 per person for each stop in your itinerary. Before you book, call an airline’s customer service number (that’s free) to find out if they’ll charge for booking through an agent. 

Watch Out for Extra Hotel Fees

Found a great price on a hotel room? Before you book it, call the specific hotel directly (avoiding the company’s toll-free line) and ask about all the fees you’ll be expected to pay, urges Kaltenbaugh. “There could be mandatory fees that aren’t disclosed in the advertised price.” For example, many hotels charge a “resort fee,” which covers amenities you might not use, such as a morning newspaper and gym access, raising your rate by an extra $20 or more per day. Others charge a fee for parking or valet service, which can tack on an extra $25 daily. And don’t touch the minibar if you don’t plan to buy, Kaltenbaugh cautions. “More and more hotels have installed electronic motion sensors in minibars that detect when you’ve picked up a beverage or snack. If you do, you’ll be charged for it — even if you put it right back!”

This story originally appeared in our print magazine. 

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