Don't Let Sneaky Expenses Derail Your Vacation Budget
Start With the Right Suitcase -- and Pack It Smart
In 2012, airlines around the world collected nearly $27.1 billion in fees for amenities like checked baggage and extra legroom, and that's not a trend that will reverse anytime soon. With fees of anywhere from $20 to $200 for checked bags, savvy travelers who can pack a carry-on as though it were a full-sized suitcase will discover it's a cost-saving skill.
It begins with the right suitcase. United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines set their carry-on limits at 14 inches by 9 inches by 22 inches. Travelers can make the most of those inches by investing in luggage organizers to compress clothes without wrinkling. Ebags packing cubes are a handy tool, as is the Eagle Creek Mobile Locker. Pack extra cubes to keep dirty laundry separate, or for receipts, souvenirs, and guidebooks picked up along the way. (Weight limits will still apply.)
Avoid Costly Cab Rides
Few things can lure travelers into the backseats of expensive taxis more effectively than an interminable wait at a bus stop under a hot sun. However, in many cities, it's easy to shuttle between downtown and the airport via subways or buses. Knowing when those trains and buses run -- and leaving a bit of time for delays on the way to the airport -- can take those costly cabbies out of your budget.
Because schedules can change, it's best not to rely solely on information found on the Internet. Hotel concierges can often provide up-to-date timetables and tell you the best way to travel to and from the airport. Travelers staying at alternative accommodations can ask at the local tourism bureau, or pop into the nearest hostel, where budget travel is the norm rather than the exception.
Don't Travel Hungry
Experts advise against grocery shopping when hungry, and the same concept applies to eating out while traveling. Few things can sink a budget like dining expenses, especially when a long layover, missed connection, or stalled train cause hunger to outpace your allotted funds.
Take the edge off unexpected delays by packing more than just snacks. Meal-replacement powders like Vega or Ensure can be packed easily into a suitcase or carry-on. A reusable water bottle and a trip to a water fountain can provide a budget-friendly fix. Just remember to empty the bottle before going through security lines.
Skip (Most of) the Souvenirs
Swiss chocolates. Mona Lisa playing cards. An Eiffel Tower key chain. Not too long ago, certain memories had to be packed in a suitcase and carried back home, and gifts for everyone from loved ones to co-workers can quickly become costly.
Now, it's easier than ever to find those once-unique treats at a store back home or online. Don't let trinkets bust a budget. Save vacation shopping for truly unique, locally made items.
Still need some gifts that are more thoughtful than expensive? Check eBay, where recipients of similar gifts from other travelers have put them up for sale, or Etsy, where craftspeople offer location-themed items at a variety of prices. Full-priced guides from museums may be worth the investment; street trinkets that will fall apart in six months often aren't.