Traveling is expensive and becoming increasingly so almost daily. Even the most experienced travelers are hard pressed to find the best deals on airline tickets, car rentals, and other costs associated with vacation or business travel. One way to help lower your overall costs and save money is to eliminate purchases or fees that have little or no real value. Here a few examples of services and products you might be better off not investing in.
Rental Car Insurance: Purchasing insurance at the rental desk when you rent a vehicle isn’t just expensive, it’s often unnecessary. Before you leave, check with your auto insurance carrier to see what kind of coverage they offer on rental cars. You may already be covered. If not, chances are you’ll barely notice the change in your premium payment and you can just say no when the rental agency starts the insurance pitch.
P aid Internet Access: The days of the Internet café are gone. Unless you’re visiting a third-world country, you can expect to find free Internet access at your hotel. Airports, shopping malls, coffee shops and even fast food restaurants offer free wi-fi. If you have cell phone service, your smart phone will probably connect to the web, and recent models will act as a hot spot to allow you to connect your laptop. Make sure you have international coverage on your mobile account and be aware of data charges.
National Access Cell Phone Plans: Even without considering Internet access as above, if you travel out of the country often, you should invest in a calling plan with global access. The higher rate will more than pay for itself in savings on international roaming fees and long distance charges.
Any Credit Card Purchase in a Foreign Country: Keep your credit card in your wallet when you leave the country. Any purchase you make with your card is going to be subject to a foreign transaction fee unless the credit card specifically states otherwise. It isn’t always high, but it isn’t worth paying, either. It costs the bank no more to run the transaction. Use the ATM instead.
Any “Pay Now, Travel Later” Plan: We’ve all seen the offers that promise huge discounts on all sorts of travel packages if you pay for them immediately and use them as needed. Some are touted as “travel clubs” and others may be certificates or coupons. No matter what the guise, most of these offer very little real savings, all have limitations in the fine print and some are out-and-out scams.
Timeshares: Timeshares can quickly become more of a burden than an asset when traveling. The fact is, not many people want to spend their vacation time in the same place year after year. That means that you’re either going to be constantly listing the unit for exchange or trying to sell it. Exchanges can be great, but can take a lot of time and effort up to a year in advance to put together. Selling a timeshare is all too often a long, painful process that ends with a huge loss or in a timeshare trap.
Recreational Vehicles: Travel trailers, fifth-wheel packages and motor homes can cost the equivalent of many years of your salary. Some units depreciate at an alarming rate. They require a substantial amount of space for storage and regular maintenance is important. That means that in order to see a return on your investment, you need to save money by using them as your home away from home on a regular basis. If you can’t afford to put your vacation rig on the road anymore, you probably should consider whether owning it is practical.
“Quick” Travel Insurance: Buying insurance like the kind offered you after you book a flight online is rarely a good idea. The insurance company is counting on the customer making an impulse buy. Most of these policies pay under only very specific circumstances. Travel insurance can be a good investment, if you shop for the right coverage at the right price.
“Travel Agent ID” Cards: This item is a full-blown scam that’s taken in a lot of frequent travelers. Anyone selling you a card that’s supposed to give you the same discount rates on travel as an agent is committing fraud. These “packages” may cost $1,000.00 or more, and will often claim to provide dividends for signing up your friends. In the end, these IDs won’t be honored by any travel providers.
Baggage Fees: Okay, so there are times when this one is unavoidable. Nevertheless, you aren’t getting your money’s worth when you pay air fare and have to pay for your luggage separately. Unfortunately, only one airline doesn’t charge for bags and there will be times when you can’t book your flight on that airline. While this article doesn’t intend to endorse any airline, unless there’s a substantial difference in rates, Southwest is probably the best place to put your money if they fly to where you’re going.
Learning to invest your travel dollars wisely might mean more travel opportunities. If one or two of the items listed above strike a chord, perhaps some adjustments are in order.
Jeffrey Strain is a digital nomad who writes about personal finances.