Avoid making these 7 mistakes when you travel

GP: Couple looking at Moraine lake, Banff, Canada

You’re all packed and ready for your trip.

You know what you’re paying for airfare, hotel and other big ticket items. You even have money set aside for spending.

Yet, one wrong move in the planning process — or while you are away — can blow your budget.

“People tend to overspend on vacation because the excuse ‘I’m on vacation, I’m treating myself’ is easily validated or because they don’t budget correctly,” said Ashley Rossi, editor at online travel magazine SmarterTravel.

There are also things you may not have thought about that can easily drain your wallet if you haven’t planned ahead. And that’s not good news, especially for those who are already shelling out a lot of money for their vacation.

According to the Invest in You Spending Survey from CNBC + Acorns in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 34% of Americans said they’ll spend between $1,000 and $4,999 on summer vacations this year. Meanwhile, 26% said they’ll drop less than $1,000. The survey polled 2,888 Americans from June 17 to 20.

With that in mind, here are seven common spending mistakes people make when planning and going on vacation.

1. Booking a flight at the last minute

One of the first steps of vacation planning is booking a flight. Timing is key when it comes to getting the right price.

For most parts of the world, ticket prices tend to rise as the departure date draws near, explains Alexis Tiacoh, spokesperson at travel site Expedia.

“Waiting to book at the last minute can be an expensive gamble,” she said.

Her recommendation: Buy your ticket three weeks ahead of a trip. For the best deals, book over the weekend, which she calls the “sweet spot” for fare savings.

2. Not weighing accommodations options

GP: Mother and adult daughter relaxing on sunny beach hut patio
Hoxton/Paul Bradbury | Hoxton | Getty Images

Are you traveling alone, as a couple or as part of a larger group?

While booking a hotel room may work for one or two people, it may make sense to look elsewhere if you have more in your group.

The average daily rate of U.S. hotels was $128.94 as of February 2019, according to market data company Statista. In Europe, the average daily rate is 116.38 euros (approximately $131 U.S.) as of May 2019, data firm STRreported.

People tend to overspend on vacation because the excuse ‘I’m on vacation, I’m treating myself’ is easily validated or because they don’t budget correctly.
Ashley Rossi
EDITOR AT SMARTERTRAVEL

If booking multiple rooms, the cost could add up.

“A vacation rental for larger groups and families could make more financial sense,” Tiacoh said. “Vacation rentals can offer lower nightly rates, bringing the per-person cost of your trip down considerably.”

If you are booking a hotel, she suggests doing so on a Friday night to get the best deal.

3. Not alerting your bank

Before you even walk out the door to start your trip, don’t forget to alert your bank if you are traveling abroad.

“It only takes a few minutes online to complete, but can be a big hassle if you forget and transactions are denied as fraudulent upon landing,” said Shannon McMahon, also an editor at SmarterTravel.

And that can leave you with no money to spend — and a lot of time and money on the phone trying to straighten things out.

While your at it, also check out your bank’s foreign transaction fee, which is usually 1% to 3% for purchases. You can save on that if you get a credit or debit card that offers a no-fee perk.

There are also ATM fees, which usually includes a flat fee up to $5 and may also include foreign transaction, currency conversion, and/or out-of-network fees.

4. Checking your passport too late

Having a passport that is near its expiration could cost you big time in order to expedite its renewal.

Even if the date is valid during your time of travel, certain locations won’t accept it if it is about to expire.

“Many countries, including Belgium, Thailand, China, Ecuador, and more require three to six months of passport validity upon entry — so even if you have a valid passport you might be stopped at customs, and it could compromise your trip,” McMahon said.

The standard fee to renew an adult passport book is $110, and it takes six to eight weeks to arrive. For an extra $60, you can get it in two to three weeks, or in about 8 days if you deal directly with a passport agency. (Life or death emergencies are another story; agencies can process those quicker with proof of the emergency.)

Need it even faster? There’s also a new service from FedEx that can replace an expired or soon-to-expire passport in 24 hours — for the hefty price of $449, McMahon noted. On top of that, there are overnight shipping costs and the $170 expedited fee that goes to the government.

5. Not taking advantage of apps and rewards

If you book your trip on a travel app, you may find more savings and exclusive deals, Expedia’s Tiacoh said.

The same goes if you are a member of a rewards program through an online travel site.

GP: man traveling with suitcase
gilaxia | E+ | Getty Images

If you have a rewards credit card, you can use the points you’ve earned towards things such as flights and hotels. You may also get other savings, like free checked bags or a free night’s stay.

For example, many airlines credit cards offer a free first checked bag, which would could save you $30 per bag. Different carriers have different allowances, but even for just two passengers the savings is $120 round trip.

Also, hotel branded-cards usually give cardholders a free night’s stay each year they renew the card.

6. Not knowing transportation options

You could wind up spending more on transportation if you don’t do your research ahead of time.

“In big cities known for traffic, you’ll want to avoid cabs and rideshares that can add up quickly since public transit can be faster as well as cheaper,” McMahon said.

The subway fare in New York City, for example, is $2.75. Cabs have an initial charge of $2.50 plus 50 cents per one-fifth mile, when travelling above 12 miles an hour or per 60 seconds in slow traffic. There are also surcharges that can apply.

While public transit is typically the most affordable way to get around, it may not always be best if there are safer, faster and still-cheap options, McMahon pointed out.

“A lot of cities in Asia and the Middle East have other options like fast and affordable tuk tuks, rideshares or even cheap taxis — which might be a better value even if they’re slightly pricier than public transit,” she said.

7. Overspending on groceries

GP: "Market stall, Place Richelme, Aix-en-Provence"
Image Source | Image Source | Getty Images

You may think you are saving money by shopping and then cooking at your vacation rental, but that’s not always the case, according to McMahon.

In city areas, grocery stores may charge a lot for basic items. Meanwhile, destinations that see a lot of tourists usually have cheap eateries worth testing out, she said.

“Noodle shops and doner-kebab spots in destinations around the world serve up huge-yet-affordable meals that are also part of experiencing the local culture,” she noted.

However, if you insist on cooking yourself, get the ingredients at a farmer’s market instead of a grocery chain.

“Local vendors typically have much lower prices, and you’re more likely to experience the local food culture first-hand this way.”

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