The 4 Most Expensive Travel Mistakes You Can Make

Travel Mistakes
Travel Mistakes

With airfare and hotel prices on the rise, the costs of eating out and getting around, and those souvenirs you can't resist, the cost of a trip can easily spiral out of control. And while you may not want to think about it while you're on vacation, every dollar you spend on your trip counts. You may not always be able to avoid the cab driver who takes you out of your way, but if you avoid these four pricey travel mistakes, that extra fare won't hurt nearly as much.

1. Forgetting Who Your Friends Are

Military discounts. Student rates. Professional and hobbyist associations. Special rates come in all shapes and sizes, and you never know which one will get you the farthest.

Not a driver at home? It doesn't matter. An automobile club membership can come in quite handy for travelers, too. With a membership you can tap into their partnerships with hotels or car rental agencies across the country. That ID card from that class you're taking at the local community college? It will get you half-price admission at most museums and exhibits in Europe.

And don't overlook loyalty programs, either: They offer everything from free coffee to upgraded hotel rooms, and many a perk in between. Membership is these programs is often free, and can be obtained on the spot.

2. Not Buying in Bulk

If you're spending more than a few days in a city, or visiting several parks or national areas, investing in an area pass will pay off in spades. In most cities around the world, a transit pass offers discounts over piecemeal pay-to-ride fares. Sometimes they even come with museum and exhibits passes, and offer discounts at local businesses. For example, the America the Beautiful pass gives the holder (and all the friends he or she can fit in the car) unlimited access to more than 2,000 federally held public lands in the United States. Many state parks also offer a similar pass, whether for admission, trailhead parking, or both. If your vacation has a theme, odds are there's a pass to fit it.

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3. Eating Your Budget

Part of the experience of traveling is enjoying the local cuisine. But those three meals a day can add up if you're eating all of them in restaurants. To keep your meal expenses low, ensure breakfast is included in your accommodations, buy your snacks from a grocery store or farmers' stand instead of a convenience store or kiosk near a major attraction, and order several appetizers for dinner. Not sure that will fill you up? Have a hearty lunch out; the portions are often the same, but the prices are lower.

4. Being Overly Accommodating

To the finicky traveler, all hotels are not created equal. If you're traveling with kids, or have particular business needs, be very specific when you're booking your reservation. A low rate is great, but if you're paying extra for the things that make your trip possible, you might find splurging a little more up front will save you in the long run. While more hotels are catering to families, certain necessities are still considered luxuries at some locations. For example, some hotels still charge for WiFi, by the day or even by the hour, and many either don't offer business services such as printing and faxing or charge for the privilege.

Know what you can afford

Bad expenses happen to good people, but having a general idea of what you can afford for your overall trip will help keep those costs in line. Slice a chunk off your budget for unexpected expenses, and whatever's left at the end of your trip will seem like found money -- enough for that extravagant meal, or T-shirts to remind all your friends they didn't come with you.

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Motley Fool contributing writer Molly McCluskey just lost $600 on a non-refundable airfare, and has taken the long route with more than one cab driver. Follow her finance and travel updates on Twitter and Facebook.