Consumer IQ

7 Costly Mistakes Travelers Make and How to Avoid Them

travel suitcase

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” Susan Heller

It’s ridiculous.

You work hard, track expenses, monitor budgets and count the days until you’ve earned enough.

And when you do…You blow all your hard-earned money on a two-week vacation, making countless and costly mistakes along the way.

Unfortunately, those were probably mistakes that could have been easily be avoided. Fortunately, the buck does NOT stop here.

Below are seven costly mistakes travelers make and how you can avoid them…

Being unfamiliar with money internationally.

If you’re traveling to a country that uses a foreign currency, you need to be prepared.

Avoid changing large amounts of money at airports or hotels. They charge high transaction rates because of their convenient location. Instead, change money at a local bank to get a better rate.

Use an international credit card for the majority of your purchases as credit card companies can secure better rates than individuals.

Avoid using Travelers Cheques. Most banks charge a fee to issue and process travelers checks so you’ll be paying for the checks upfront and to cash in the foreign country.

Use ATM cards and kiosks that don’t charge an international fee or surcharge fee.

Call the credit card and ATM card companies to verify they do not charge international fees. While you’re at it, inform them of your travel plans to avoid having the cards put on hold.

Travel tip: email yourself your credit and ATM card account numbers and emergency telephone numbers in case your card is put on hold, lost or stolen. If you use Travelers Cheques, email yourself those numbers as well.

Traveling during peak season.

People choose to travel during peak seasons for ideal weather, holidays or school breaks.

However, if you travel during the shoulder season – a couple weeks before or after peak season – you can save big on flights and hotels without compromising on quality.

Being inflexible with travel dates.

Have you ever made travel plans before checking the price of flights? Big mistake! Before you submit your vacation request, be sure you research the lowest priced flight.

Airline sites such as Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, and Cheapflightsfinder.com offer a “Flexible Date” search to help you find the lowest fare.

Airfarewatchdog.com sends travel fares to your inbox for city-to-city alerts or anything that’s cheap from your local airport.

Also, weigh the cost of flying non-stop versus multiple stops. For single travelers, saving a hundred bucks might be worth an additional layover.

However, for parents traveling with children a direct flight might be worth the extra money. One excellent site that measures savings versus agony is HipMunk.com.

Paying full price for hotels.

Some hotels such as Choice Hotels and Hotel Indigo offer up to twenty percent off your hotel if you book an advance purchase rate, which means you pay for the hotel in advance, not at check in.

Bookings need to be made in advance and are non-cancellable, non-changeable and non-refundable.

You can score great hotel deals at Hotwire.com which helps hotels book their unsold rooms. The only catch is you won’t know the exact hotel until a couple days before your trip.

An alternative is to name your own hotel price at Priceline.com.

Forgetting about ground transportation.

If you don’t plan your ground transportation, the cost of your trip can add up fast!

By planning your transportation options in advance, you’ll save big bucks. Here’s how:

  • Check if your hotel offers a free airport shuttle.
  • Take the subway (or metro) instead of a taxi.
  • Ride share with people on Craigslist (under the Community section) or Facebook. It’s kosher to pay the driver a little gas money.
  • Avoid airport rental cars which usually charge an “airport fee.” Other rental car companies can pick you up from the airport for free.
  • Skip a city bus tour by taking the local bus instead.

Not negotiating.

My momma always said, “It never hurts to ask” and the same goes for negotiating.

If you’re at one of the many world markets – from the 9,000 booths at the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok to a local farmer’s market – most prices are negotiable.

Negotiating might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but after a few tries you’ll feel like a pro.

Just remember to be nice when haggling and try to secure a win-win outcome for both parties.

Taking paid group tours.

Most city tours and group tours are overpriced. Instead, head over to the visitor center and ask about local walking tours and maps.

Couchsurfing.org is a great way to meet locals who are happy to play tour guide to visitors.

So instead of taking “twice the money” like Susan Heller suggested, now you can take half the money and put the other half towards your next trip.

Do you have other money saving tips for travel? Please leave a comment below…

Darcie Connell is the founder of Trekity.com – a daily newsletter for women who love travel – and TravelBloggerAcademy.com.  She’s written for Huffington Post, Life Hacker, Life Hack, Hostel Bookers, Go Abroad, Transitions Abroad, The Next Web, EcoSalon, and Flight Centre.  Follow her on Google+.