Published March 14, 2012
Companies in the travel industry seem to be finding more ways to get you to open your wallet. At a time when travelers are looking to save, prices are actually rising. In fact, domestic airfare prices jumped more than 8 percent from last year.
But that increase tells only part of the story. Consumers also are feeling the pinch of rising costs from airlines, hotels and car rental companies over items as mundane as boarding passes and pillows.
Here are Bankrate's 10 most outrageous travel fees and how to avoid them.
1. Fees for Booking by Phone
If you try to book your flight over the telephone instead of over the Internet, you may be charged more. Nearly all major airlines charge booking fees of $25 to $35 for this service.
To avoid the surcharge, try to book online whenever possible. Often, the best deals are listed on the airlines' websites.
2. Print Your Boarding Pass
Spirit Airlines (SAVE) has started charging passengers $5 to print their boarding passes at the airport. These travel fees will be assessed starting Nov. 1, 2011. The charge is assessed for each flight, so that's an extra $10 round trip. If you want to avoid the fees, you'll have to print the pass at home and bring it with you.
3. Avoid Checking Your Luggage
Got extra luggage to check? You'll have to pay. American and Delta airlines (DAL) charge $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second one. The airlines do make exceptions. They typically won't charge the most elite members of their frequent traveler clubs or for passengers who are traveling to certain international destinations.
Otherwise, take a carry-on bag instead of checking your luggage to avoid these travel fees.
If you do need to check a bag, be sure to pack light. Major airlines charge fees of up to $90 per bag for overweight luggage that weighs 51 to 70 pounds, and the prices increase for heavier bags.
Also, check with your airline to see if it gives a discount for online baggage checking. For example, US Airways (LCC) charges $20 for the first checked bag that's ordered online, compared to $25 to check bags at the airport.
4. Seat Selection Fees
It's one thing to buy your ticket for a flight, but if you want to select your seat, you may have to pay an extra travel fee. Many airlines, such as AirTran and Spirit, charge you to select the seat you want. At AirTran, the cost ranges from $6 to $20 per ticket.
Even if your airline doesn't charge for seat assignments, you may have to pay if you want to sit in a row that has extra legroom. At Spirit, the fees for seats with more leg space start at $12 if reserved in advance.
5. Priority Boarding Charges
If you want to board your plane early in order to claim space in an overhead bin, some airlines will make you pay for the privilege. American Airlines (AMR) charges for a service called Express Seats. You have to pay more for your ticket, but you can be one of the first people to board for your flight, regardless of your frequent flier status.
You also get to sit in one of the first few rows in coach. Pricing varies by trip, but The Dallas Morning News reported the surcharge at $19 to $39 each way.
JetBlue Airways (JBLU) recently launched a related program called "Even More Space," which costs a minimum of $10 per seat. Customers have early access to boarding and overhead bins and can sit in rows with extra legroom.
If you don't pay this extra charge, you'll have to hope you can grab a seat with sufficient space after the airline loads everyone else.
6. A Pillow will Cost You
If you want to take a quick nap on your flight, you'll have to pay up if you want to use a pillow from some airlines.
US Airways charges $7 for what's called a Power-Nap Sack. The package is an upgrade from a standard issue pillow. It includes a blanket, inflatable neck pillow, eyeshades and an earplug. It also includes a coupon for a future purchase from SkyMall, an in-flight shopping catalog.
American Airlines has a similar blanket and pillow package for $8.
The new products are nice and convenient, but if you don't want to pay this travel fee, you'll have to figure out a way to nap without an airline-issued cushion.
7. Expect Credit Card Surcharges Abroad
If you plan to travel abroad, be aware your credit card company may levy surcharges on foreign purchases you make. These travel fees are typically about 3 percent of the purchase price.
To avoid some of these travel fees, consider prepaying your international hotel and car rental costs while you're still in the U.S. Also, consider using a credit card that doesn't charge extra for currency conversions and spending overseas. Some card issuers, including Capital One, offer this benefit.
8. Rental Car Insurance
Collision-damage waiver, or CDW, insurance is a moneymaker for car rental companies. These optional policies insure you if you get in a wreck or otherwise experience a claims loss while renting a car. The charge for such rental car insurance can add $15 to $25 to the daily cost of a car rental.
The catch is that you may already have protection through your credit card company or auto insurer.
Before leaving on a trip, check with your insurance agent and card issuer to see what kind of coverage you have for car rentals. If your credit card already offers sufficient protection, you could decline the optional coverage. Just be sure to use that credit card when you make your rental reservation.
8. Watch Out for Airport Fees
This isn't an airline charge, but it is charged by rental car companies located within airports. These businesses have to pay fees to the airport to operate in their facilities, and they pass the charges on to you in the form of a concession recovery fee.
This charge can increase the cost of the car rental by up to 20 percent. To avoid paying extra, consider renting a car at a nonairport location. Just make sure the company offers a lower rate at the other location and doesn't inflate the price to match what's charged at the airport facility.
10. Hook up to Hotel Wi-Fi for a Fee
Many major hotel chains, including Marriott (MAR) and Sheraton (HOT), charge for high-speed Internet access in your hotel room. Fees start at about $10 to $15 per day. To avoid these charges, ask if free Wi-Fi is available in common areas, such as the lobby. Also, ask the front desk or concierge if there are restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi nearby.
If you have a smartphone with a data plan, you can skip the hotel Internet altogether and just use your phone to surf the Web.
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