Avoiding Those Fee Bombs

Feb 21, 2013 by

Avoiding Those Fee Bombs

by Destiny DeJesus

Spring break and summer vacation are just around the corner, but the last thing you’re thinking of while planning a vacation are extra fees. It’s good to know how much green you should bring when you set off on that dream vacation.

Surprise fees can pull the sunshine out of your vacay, with ancillary fees tacked onto airline, car rental and hotels bringing rainy clouds. Most travelers are familiar with the baggage fees that have become a reality of checking and flying, but nowadays there are additional fees for requesting a window or isle seat for those of us seeking a little bit more legroom or a view, a pillow or blanket, food and drink and more.

Ancillary fees reached an estimated $36.1 billion in 2012 for airlines alone, according to the 2012 Amadeus Worldwide Estimate of Ancillary Revenue.

Ancillary fees have been the golden egg in the travel industry to get through tough times these past five years, but surprisingly they haven’t been all bad news for your business travels and vacations.

Ticket prices have slightly gone down due to these additional fees, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA)’s “Ancillary Fee Handbook” published in April 2012. In the handbook the Department of Transportation clearly states that passenger ticket prices have decreased slightly due to the fact that ancillary fees have been on the rise.

Ancillary fees have also sparked a little competition benefiting travelers with numerous reward opportunities.

“When the economy does poorly, cash bookings go down, and that creates more opportunity for reward travelers,” says Jay Sorensen, the president of IdeaWorks. Jay, an experienced management professional who focuses in product, partnership and marketing development, book “IdeaWorks Guide to Ancillary Revenue,” is widely used by aviation professionals in the U.S.

IdeaWorks Company is one of the top travel consulting organizations in the country. The organization specializes in ancillary revenue improvement, brand development, customer research, competitive analysis, frequent flier reward programs, and workshops for executives, according to its website.

Don’t get bombed

Regardless of the flying rewards travelers may receive, there are a large number of travelers suffering from hidden fees. Many times people are discouraged from traveling after they experience the frequency of being dinged by the airline, car rental and hotel rules and regulations.

Savvy travelers seek ways to avoid the extra fees attempting to blow up their pleasant travels by planning smart before they take off. These smart globetrotters know the airports, car rental and hotels rules and regulations helping them navigate fee bombs waiting to be dropped on them. Being smart about your travel can help you avoid spending extra bucks and travel in comfort, as Dusti Dunham learned.

Dusti, a 27-year-old from Odessa, Tex., says she rather travel in her car to avoid the hidden costs of travel. It’s easier to spend the night in her car and the only worries she has are paying for gas, she says.

“I’ll be free to go where ever I like and stay as long as I want,” says Dusti.

Dusti’s last road trip was when she drove off in the middle of the night to Dallas, Texas in 2009. Not knowing how to get there and having no money, Dusti took a chance and ended up getting her car towed – not exactly avoiding the unexpected expenses of hitting the road. Luckily, she received help by a local, who was kind enough to check her into a hotel room and bought her dinner for the night.

Back on the road and still camping out in her car, Dusti is currently looking for a travel buddy so that her safety won’t be on the line, she tells Girls That Roam. Company also always makes a trip better, at least for some.

“There are 133 cities on my list and I ordered visitors guides for each state so I won’t miss anything cool,” Dusti says.

Not all of us are OK with crashing the night in our cars, but hey, it could be cheaper, sans tow trucks.

For those who don’t want to call their car home sweet home while on vacation, the ultimate experts dodging tagged on fees are business travelers. Here are some tips from the GBTA on how to avoid those fees before you book that lovely vacay:

1.    Homework isn’t only for school. First and foremost, do your research so you can choose your airline, car rental and hotel wisely.

Flying the not-so-friendly skies

Yea, your ticket across the country may seem to be cheap, but not knowing the rules and regulations that govern your travel could carry a hefty price tag if they are broken making that trip even pricier.

There are numerous sites that have cheap flying deals. Add yourself to the email list and you can find out the latest deals. Travelzoo.com is a great site that sends out weekly information on cheap vacations delivered right into your email inbox. Fly.com and Tippr.com also offer not-so-pricey round trips.

Here’s the GBTA’s list of the top nine airlines that have the highest fees and ancillary services:

1.    Air Tran
2.    Alaska
3.    American
4.    Continental
5.    Delta
6.    JetBlue
7.    Southwest
8.    United
9.    US Airways

Know the rules or stay away if you can.

Road trip rental

Whether you’re flying to sunny weather for spring break, planning to rent a car or taking a road trip with your best friends look at car rental services thoroughly before you put money down.

1.    Have an idea of what type of car you want
2.    Check out the dollar sign totals, including taxes

Here’s the GBTA’s list for the top car rentals that want to reach deep into your purse by offering excessive fees:

1.    Enterprise/Alamo/National
2.    Hertz
3.    Avis/Budget
4.    Dollar/Thrifty

Rent at your bottom line’s risk.

Staying in style

Everyone wants to stay at a 5-star hotel, but when money is tight settling for less isn’t so bad. Besides, who spends their vacation in their hotel room anyway?

1.    Rather than looking to stay at the well-known Hilton or Ramada, how about finding an all-inclusive hotel? All-inclusive hotels offer the luxury of not having to worry about extra fees for food, drinks or even activities.

There are tons of all-inclusive hotels around the world, check them out! Some great all-inclusive hotels are:

1.    Grand Paradise Bavaro in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
2.    Wakaya Club in Fiji
3.    Curtain Bluff in Antigua
4.    Couples Negril in Jamaica
5.    Club Med in Florida

Be pampered instead of having sleepless nights.

Changes a coming

The Department of Transportation is making a move on the long awaited “Airline Passenger Protections #3” rulemaking, which will deal with ancillary fees among other travel issues. It’s anticipated that an announcement for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) requesting a review of ancillary fees issues will be announced in May 2013, according updates by the American Society of Travel Agents. At the beginning of this year a NPR was submitted by the DOT to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

And no, it’s not only American travelers who are unhappy about the travel industry’s nickel and diming. European countries as well as others are suffering from ancillary fees too. As a matter of fact, Britons are angry about the hike in travel taxes that will hit Gatwick and Heathrow airports April 1. Britons have been quite vocal to the point of putting the impending  Passenger Duty policy in an uncertain position. If it goes into effect, many British travelers plan on giving their business to smaller regional airports to avoid paying the tax, according to media reports.

If you want to save yourself a headache, your best bet is to plan ahead and seek help from a travel agent to plan your dream vacation. Don’t let that picture of a pretty little island distract you from the reality about to hit your pocketbook. Knowing how much everything will come out to is key. Every vacation should take some thought, especially if you want to avoid spending big bucks. But planning your next adventure doesn’t need to turn into a second job. Remember, it is a vacation, enjoy the journey and relax.

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