10 Ways You’re Wasting Money on Vacation—and How to Avoid Them

The website GoCompare.com recently surveyed travelers to find the biggest spending mistakes people make. Here are the blunders, and ways to make sure you enjoy your vacation without throwing your money away.

Eating in popular tourist hotspots

Monkey-Business-Images/ShutterstockAll that sightseeing is hungry work, but savvy travelers avoid the most popular cafes and restaurants around the main tourist hotspots. Research is key! Check out these 10 ways to eat healthy on vacation. And spend some time before your trip finding out where the locals eat and drink, and gathering information on where to dine without blowing your budget. For example, Londonist has a great list of cheap eateries near London's major museums.

Foreign transaction fees

Dragon-Images/ShutterstockBefore jetting off, check your debit and credit card provider's charges for withdrawing cash and paying for purchases abroad, as foreign usage fees can significantly increase your costs. A study by The Pew Charitable Trusts, as reported on CNBC, reveals that 91 percent of bank cards and 57 percent of credit union cards have fees for transactions made abroad, which typically range from 2 to 3 percent of each purchase. Before you travel, get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Do the same for a debit card that doesn't charge extra fees for ATM withdrawals abroad.

Poor exchange rates

spectrumblue/ShutterstockCurrency exchange rates vary widely, depending on where and when you exchange your money. Exchange money at the airport and you'll get nailed with high commission rates. (Speaking of airports, here are 15 things you should never buy at an airport.) Plan ahead to give yourself plenty of time to get the best deal. GoCompare Money suggests familiarizing yourself with the exchange rate of the country you're traveling to, which will help you stay in control of your spending, help you snap up any bargain purchases, and avoid spending too much time trying to figure out if you're paying through the nose for something.

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Cell phone roaming charges

kudla/ShutterstockUK residents celebrated in June, when intra-European Union roaming charges were abolished. This means no matter where they travel within the EU, they pay the same charges for calls and texts as they do at home. (Although "fair rate" rules and rates apply to data use, so it's always best to check.) The rest of us still need to touch base with our cell phone operator's roaming charge policy—or the lovely memories of your vacation may be forever tainted by the hefty bill arriving in the mail. Check out these nine ways to save money on data when traveling internationally.

Over charging by local taxi drivers

Cameris/ShutterstockWhen you're in an unfamiliar place and don't know how to get where you want to go, the easiest option is to flag down a cab. Travel writer Rick Steves advises being extra careful at airports and train stations, where dishonest taxi drivers may lurk to take advantage of tired, disoriented travelers. (Check out these tips for surviving jet lag.) Again, planning ahead will save you money. In many cities, you can arrange for an airport shuttle bus to pick you up at the airport and take you straight to your hotel. Another, much cheaper, option, is taking public transportation into town. If you do want to take a taxi from the airport, it's better to head for the official taxi stand and join the queue rather than flag one down. Steves also recommends finding out the going rate for your journey in advance, and agreeing a price or rough estimate with the taxi driver up front. A guidebook for your destination should have that information, or you can check World Taximeter for estimated fares in larger cities.

Carry-on bottles of liquid over 100ml

Africa-Studio/ShutterstockTransport Security Administration (TSA) rules for airline carry-on baggage dictate that individual containers for liquids and pastes must hold no more than 3.4 ounces/100 ml. Additionally, bottles must be held in a single transparent, re-sealable quart-size plastic bag, and only one plastic bag of liquids is allowed per person. So pack that jumbo bottle of your favorite perfume in your checked bag or leave it at home if you don't want it to be confiscated by security.

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Excess baggage charges

Art_Photo/ShutterstockFamiliarize yourself with the best tips for packing light for your flight. Then take a look at your carrier's luggage allowance rules, recommends GoCompare Money—or you may face some hefty excess baggage charges. Check your airline's permitted allowance for both checked baggage and carry-ons before you fly. And if you're planning a shopping spree while you're on vacation, make sure your estimated return luggage weight takes this into account.

Using a loan or credit card to pay for a vacation

Yulia-Grigoryeva/ShutterstockIf you don't have cash in the bank to pay for your holiday, you might use a loan or credit card. This is a great way to spread the cost of repayment, but it's important to check the terms and conditions carefullly. If the loan or credit card has a high interest rate, you could end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more than the cost of your vacation. Use a price comparison site like Nerdwallet to find a zero percent credit card. (Do you know what your credit card company knows about you?)

Paying for medical treatment abroad

michaeljung/ShutterstockAlways buy travel insurance for a foreign holiday, to protect you against financial losses uncurred by range of unexpected events, such as illness, injury, theft and loss of baggage and personal belongings, as well as travel delays and holiday cancellation. Prices and cover levels vary, so use a comparison website to shop around for the best deals. Start your trip the right way by staying healthy on your flight.

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Rental car rip offs

Ditty_about_summer/ShutterstockYes, you may be driving in unfamiliar territory, but that's still no reason to pay for the car rental insurance at exorbitant rates, according to GoCompare Money. Avoid their damage waiver fees as well, regardless of how convincing the counter agent may be. Instead, check with your credit card issuer: Often the company will cover your damages. Also, your own car insurance may offer an alternative.
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