Hidden Costs: 10 Travel Expenses You Haven’t Thought Of

published Jun 29, 2016
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When I’m planning a trip, the main financial factor I consider is the cost of the actual traveling, whether it’s by plane, train, bus or car. Airfare and lodging especially can be overwhelmingly expensive, so it’s tempting to consider these the true price of the travel, but there are so many other costs that can creep up on you. In addition to wages lost if you don’t get paid time off, here are ten expenses that can surprise you on even the thriftiest of vacations.

A Staycation For Your Furry Friends

Whether you bring your pets to a kennel or hire a trusted friend to feed, walk, and play with them for the duration of your trip, you’ll need to factor pet care into the cost of your getaway. I used to make $50/day dogsitting, and a quick check of three kennels in three cities reveals that you can expect to pay $41-$45 per night per dog.

Travel Snacks For Your Return Trip

I always have a nice portable meal and fun snacks packed for my outbound flight, but never have my act together when it comes time to return home. If possible, pick up something at a local grocery store or cafe before you head to the airport so you won’t be limited by expensive (and dietary restriction-unfriendly) airport or train station food.

Airport Food When Your Hummus (or whatever) Gets Confiscated

This happened to me a couple of years ago when the hummus I’d bought at a local grocery store was ruled a gel, and I’m still not over it. Even the best-laid plans can go awry, so allow a few dollars on the chance that your carry-on food gets spilled, confiscated or forgotten at security.

Magazines or Books for When You Read Way Faster Than Planned

I’ve packed what I was sure was plenty of reading material, only to find that I’d burned through all my books and magazines before my return flight or train ride. The silver lining of having to buy magazines at the airport is that they’re the same price they are everywhere, free from ridiculous airport markups.

In-Flight/On-Board WiFi

I never intend to pay the exorbitant wifi fees, but there have been times when I was compelled to, either because a work issue needed to be resolved promptly or travel delays meant that I’d be stuck in airports, train stations or on planes or trains all day rather than working at home as planned. And I might have bought wifi once because I’d neglected to buy reading material and was desperate for entertainment. Not thrifty of me!

Cab Fare When Your Flight/Train Arrives Late

I always, always plan on taking public transportation to and from the airport at both ends of my trip, but something usually upends my virtuous plans: my flight ends up getting in after the trains have stopped running, a time crunch means I’ll miss the next leg of my journey unless I take a cab, or I’m too exhausted by delays, layovers, and other nonsense to face the bus. Factor in some extra cash, just in case.

Gifts For Coworkers Who Are Covering For You

The only way I was able to have a long distance relationship for three years was thanks to my darling boss who covered my shifts/projects for me. If you have a similar work situation, you might want to return with tokens of your appreciation—gift cards to their favorite lunch or coffee places, a bottle of their favorite booze—to let them know you are really thankful for the extra time and effort they put in for you.

Gifts For Anyone Left Behind

When we went to New Orleans, we bought gifts for the family members who weren’t able to join us because of health issues, and when I went to Omaha with a friend, I brought back extra-special gifts for my partner, whose birthday I’d missed. If you’re missing an occasion or there’s someone who wanted to travel with you but couldn’t, consider bringing them a little something to let them know you were thinking of them.

Extra Bag Charge To Accommodate All Your Gifts

I always fly Southwest, which allows one free checked bag, but I know other airlines charge quite a bit for any checked luggage (just as Southwest does with more than one bag). If you’re bringing back items that won’t fit—or won’t be allowed—in your carry-on, budget approximately $25/bag for a checked bag fee.

Your First Meal Upon Arrival Home

When I was traveling a lot, I always kept frozen spring rolls and peas on hand so I could be assured of a nourishing meal—I’d generally eat an entire bag of peas—when I got back to my empty refrigerator. Either plan ahead with non-perishable items (pasta and sauce, canned soup, frozen meals) or prepare to pay for delivery or takeout when you return home—especially if particularly arduous travel renders you incapable of even basic cooking.

What hidden costs sneak up on you when you’re traveling?