I often don’t think about the “hidden cost” of travel. However, a recent trip to Russia made me second guess my budgeting strategy.
I am the queen of booking cheap flights. I scour the internet daily looking for flights for my next trip (this may not sound entertaining to you but I thoroughly enjoy it). I am also impulsive. When you add these two qualities together you get someone who will book a flight just because it’s an amazing deal. I quickly enter all of my personal information, type in my bank card (from memory), and hit the submit button. As much as I love being spontaneous and wanting to travel anywhere and everywhere this tactic really kicked my ass on my last trip.
Flashback two months ago
I go to the dog park with my travel buddy and we head back to her place to “just take a look” at flights. Where do we want to go? Is Anywhere an answer? Are we even going to book a flight today? No, like I said before we are “just looking”. I am chuckling writing this because we all know what is going to happen… I am going to book a flight today.
We find a banging deal to Finland and Russia, we look at each other and nod, five minutes later we’ve got tickets to the Baltics.
*Wondering what sites I use to look up flights? Check out my Top 6 Sites for Booking Cheap Travel.
What I thought would be a relatively inexpensive journey has turned into a money pit.
You need this, no ifs, ands, or buts. I usually wait until the last minute to buy travel insurance for no other reason other than I have a pre-trip checklist I run through about two weeks before departure and I come to the travel insurance line and think “Crap, I haven’t purchased this yet”.
However, for the trip mentioned above I purchased travel insurance with my airfare. I thought I was setting myself up for success later down the road. Wrong. I get an email about a month later from the insurance company saying they priced the coverage wrong and will be charging me extra money to cover the cost. Um, can they even do that? I roll my eyes and think “whatever, I need it anyway”. A few days later I look at my bank statement and see they’ve charged me way too much for coverage and I know I can get cheaper coverage elsewhere. So I cancel with them and go to my old reliable insurance World Nomads.
*This isn’t sponsored by World Nomads, I like the product and the price fits my budget so I figured I share it with you.
Did you know that some countries require you to apply for a visa in order to enter their country? I bet you did. I knew I needed to get a Russian visa when I booked my flight, what I didn’t know was it was that it was going to cost me the price of the airfare to get it. Silly silly me.
Some visas have to be applied for in advance, some you have to go to your nearest consulate to obtain, some you can just walk off the airplane and pay $1 before going through customs. I’ve seen them all. You’ve probably seen those articles circulating about the most difficult visas to obtain. Russia is always on the list. And I have to say they are right, the visa process is quiet lengthy. For example, On the Russian visa form for U.S. citizens you have to fill out a section detailing every country you’ve been to in the last ten years including the dates….whaaaaa? I lived in Europe for a year in college, I was drunk half of the time and traveling the other half. How am I going to remember the dates?!
Lesson learned – Check the visa policy and prices before booking flights.
Seats on flights
So you found cheap airfare, but does it include your actual seats? If you are flying a low-cost airline most likely it does not. Going back to this Finland/Russia financial disaster, when I booked my flight there wasn’t an option to select seats. There was a note on the budget site saying I needed to select my seats with the actual carrier after purchase. Red flag. A few days after I received my confirmation I go to the actual airline site to choose my seats and you know what they do? They charge me for each seat. I have four flights for this trip and my seats cost me an extra $100. Boo.
To avoid this hassle I’d recommend researching the airline to see if they charge for seats. For those budget airlines just keep in mind the price you originally pay will most likely not be the ending price when you add in your seats, bags, and in some cases printing off your boarding pass.
In addition to those fees mentioned above here are a few more “hidden costs” to be aware of:
Foreign transaction fees – check with your bank to see if they charge you to use your card abroad
Transportation to and from the airport – I never think about this when I book my lodging. Most airports are right outside the city, depending on where you need to go to that could be a hefty cab ride or shuttle.
Hotel fees – I don’t even know what to call these but sometimes the hotel will charge a fee when you check-in.
Just take all of my money already!
So there might be a “hidden” cost to travel, is that going to stop me from my impulsive flight booking problem? No. Next time I book a trip am I going to remember all the additional costs associated with going to Russia? Yes. Did I go to Russia and drink all of their vodka and not regret a single cent I bitched about at the beginning of this article? Yes.
Have you run into any secret fees when you’ve traveled? I’ve love to hear about them so I don’t feel like the only dumb ass who doesn’t stick to their travel budget.