From airline check-in charges and baggage fees, to the exorbitant cost of hotel Wi-Fi – it’s easy to be held to ransom over hidden costs on holiday. The extras all add up – so it’s worth being aware of some of the pitfalls, especially if you’re travelling with your family this summer. Major high street travel firms hit the headlines recently for targeting families with an extra supplement for including children in their booking, supposedly to counteract the fact that families with children typically spend less at the hotel bar and restaurant. It’s worth checking whether it is cheaper to book children in as adults – even if child rates are advertised as being lower than the adult price, look out for ‘occupancy supplements’ on the booking form.
Other hidden costs to avoid:
- Debit card charges – with fees of around an extra £1.50 every time you use your debit card to pay abroad, you can be left out of pocket if you use it for smaller daily purchases. Avoid using them if possible, or use your card to take out cash from an ATM – this usually carries a penalty too, but can reduce your overall cost.
- Undercutting on flights – if you buy airline tickets then find your flight available at a cheaper cost before you fly, contact your airline – as many have a ‘price promise’ and may be able to refund you the difference.
- Airport exchange rates – with a captive audience, airport bureau de change companies know they can charge you extra. If you’re running late, you can still take advantage of a better exchange rate if you pre-order for collection at the airport rather than buy over the counter. It’s also good to be aware that if you pay by credit card over the counter at a bureau de change in the UK, your bank may see it as an overseas purchase and charge you a withdrawal fee.
- Hotel and service taxes – one to be aware of, particularly if travelling to the US – where tax can apply to hotel room rates, car rentals, and admission tickets. Hotel rooms can be advertised at their pre-tax rate, with taxes only payable at check-in – these can be in the form of a percentage tax added, a flat rate per night, or both. In total, a hotel room in some states can have as much as 25-30% added in tax. Remember to take this in to account when booking your trip.
- Card payments for flights – paying for flights for a family of four with some budget airlines, could mean you’re around £48 out of pocket if they charge £6 booking fee each way. Check their terms and use pre-pay credit cards or electron cards to avoid charges – but be aware that transactions of over £100 on these types of card generally won’t be protected if the airline goes bust – so make sure your travel insurance includes Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance to take care of this eventuality. All Columbus Direct policies (except Globetrotter), include this extra insurance for free.
25 June 2013 - Dan Browne