Your vacation expenses abroad don’t end at plane and hotel bookings.
Your luggage, your cellphone, and even your debit or credit card can generate fees, and if you haven’t budgeted for them, those fees can eat away at your travel fund.
With some planning, you can avoid or minimize these costs and keep the umbrella drinks coming.
1. Checked-bag fees
Packing light isn’t always an option. Some airlines may allow you to check a bag free on international flights. But if yours doesn’t, or if you’re checking more than one piece of luggage, it can cost $25 or more per bag each way.
Airline credit cards and premium travel credit cards can help. These usually have an annual fee, but the perks they may offer — such as free checked bags and travel credits — can easily offset that cost, especially if you travel frequently or with companions.
2. Currency exchange fees
Changing dollars into foreign currency generally carries a fee. But doing so at the right location can save you money.
Currency exchange services inside and outside of airports, for example, may have more expensive rates. You might get a better deal at your bank branch before you leave, or even at an ATM abroad if your bank doesn’t charge international ATM fees.
3. International ATM fees
Banks or credit unions may charge a flat fee, usually $1 to $5, for every withdrawal made using an ATM network in another country. The owner of the ATM may also charge a fee.
Even if your bank doesn’t charge these fees, make sure it offers ATM access at your destination. Of course, you could get all the money you’ll need from a bank before you travel, but you’d still have to pay to exchange it for local currency, and you’d face the risks of carrying a wad of cash on you.
4. Foreign transaction fees
Some banks might also charge foreign transaction fees — separate from ATM fees — of 1% to 3% when you make purchases or use ATMs abroad. So if you’re withdrawing $250 at a foreign ATM, your bank might charge a $5 ATM fee, plus a 3% foreign transaction fee, bringing the total to $12.50.
Look for checking accounts and credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
5. Dynamic currency conversion fees
You can also save money by declining the option for dynamic currency conversion at ATMs or merchant point-of-sale systems.
The service converts your transaction into U.S. dollars so that you see the bill in your home currency, but you’ll be charged a fee. Instead, whenever possible, research the conversion with an app or online before you buy.
6. International roaming fees
In a different country, you may need a cellphone data plan to use GPS and stay in touch with loved ones without incurring international roaming fees. Ask your provider whether your phone will work at your destination, the cost of coverage and what your plan offers.
Compare that cost with other options. For example, your provider may be able to unlock your phone so you can purchase a SIM card at your destination.
“If I’m going to be in a destination for a while, at least a week in one country, I’ll buy a SIM card,” says Brianne Miers, travel blogger at A Traveling Life. “I can just pop that right in the phone, and that gives you a data plan and a local number.”
Otherwise, Miers prefers sticking to Wi-Fi when she’s traveling abroad. She stays in touch via apps like WhatsApp, which allows free voice and video calls on a Wi-Fi network.
7. Hotel fees
If you plan to rely on Wi-Fi abroad, make sure your hotel doesn’t charge for it.
When you book through a travel agent, you might get some perks like Wi-Fi thrown in, says Sarah Fazendin, travel agent at A Family Travel Blog.
Otherwise, ask the hotel beforehand about fees for internet access, parking, early check-in, late checkout and more. See whether the hotel waives fees for services you won’t use. Joining the hotel’s free loyalty program, if it offers one, might also let you enjoy some free perks.