Most Annoying Travel Fees
New fees continue to make travelers see red—and not just from airlines. Here’s what you can do to avoid them.
Whether it’s a $20 daily charge for a resort gym you didn’t use, or the new $200 penalty for altering your flight reservation, travel fees have an irritating way of surprising us on vacation.
It should be easier than ever to shop based on price given the explosion of online booking sites—at least in theory. That cheap rate on the screen rarely includes all fees. Without the help of a knowledgeable travel agent or a resource like NerdWallet that compares fees for a given route, it’s challenging to calculate your total cost.
Hotels, cruises, and especially airlines like this model because fees have allowed them to stay profitable while slashing their base prices to appear competitive. But it leaves travelers frustrated by charges for things like an in-flight soda that, until recently, we expected to be free. And the creative packaging continues.
George Hobica, the founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, believes that there is room for still more travel fees. For a preview of what the near future may bring, look to low-cost carrier Ryanair, which has a surcharge for booking with a credit card versus a debit card—a move that low-cost U.S. carrier Allegiant has already copied. South Pacific carrier Samoa Air has taken the bolder step of becoming the first airline to charge a fare based on the passenger’s weight, a sort of obesity fee.
But before losing your temper, it’s worth considering the job that fees have done in bringing the ailing airline industry back from the brink of collapse and keeping travel accessible. Those good old days when a seat in coach came with a Salisbury steak and room for kneecaps? Airline industry consultant Jay Sorensen thinks we should take off those rose-colored glasses.
“Airfares were a whole lot more expensive then. We remark how people dressed up to fly—well, that’s because they were wealthy, or it happened so seldom that it was a special treat to fly,” says Sorensen. “When people look at the golden age of air travel, they forget there was a huge barrier.”
The other upside to consider is that you can still avoid some of the worst penalties if you plan strategically. Read on for tips in dealing with the latest annoying travel fees.