Travel savings 'hacks' that may end up costing you

Travel savings 'hacks' that may end up costing you

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Two years ago, my boyfriend and I bought plane tickets for our first big trip together. We were going to Berlin for six days — his first time in Europe, my first in Germany. And thanks to booking with a budget airline, it was only costing us $350 a person. We were so excited.

That is, we were so excited…until we actually read the fine print. It was one of those bare-bones budget airlines where everything “extra” ends up costing you. So, while the flights themselves were only going to cost us $350 round-trip each, that didn’t include other travel necessities. We ended up paying an extra $100 each just to carry on a bag — the only thing included with our tickets was one personal item each. We wanted to sit together on our flights, which meant we each had to pay another $40 total to pick our seats. The planes also didn’t have any complimentary meal service, and since we didn’t plan ahead and pack some snacks, we ended up splurging on overpriced, mediocre sandwiches. Plus, it was an Iceland-based airline, and all of their trips included a stopover in Reykjavik. This meant we had to get all the way through customs and onto our next flight leg in the span of our 40-minute layover, which was way too close for comfort for me.

All in all, we had a wonderful trip — and we also decided that saving a few bucks with a budget airline just wasn’t worth it for us. After tallying, we could have spent about the same amount to fly on a “nicer” airline and have no layover, some food included, a free carry-on bag, and, if I’m being honest, a much more comfortable seating situation. (Budget airlines tend to scrimp on whatever isn’t necessary which, going off my personal experience, includes cushioning.)

I’m hardly the first person to see through the budget-friendly claim these airlines are making, and I also know there are plenty of other travel savings scams out there. I decided to reach out to some experts in the travel and personal finance worlds to find out which budget travel traps to avoid, or at least be wary of — here’s what they had to say:

1. Travel rewards credit cards

“Travel hacking” has become a huge trend in the world of travel bloggers. Essentially, it includes a variety of ways to score things like flights and hotel stays for free or cheap through using credit card points. Oftentimes, travel rewards credit cards will include a tempting sign-up points bonus, giving people incentive to apply for a card to fund their upcoming vacation.

But these cards can end up costing you more than they save if you’re not careful.

“Credit card companies offer travel reward cards where you can earn free airline miles because they count on the fact that the consumer will overspend and end up paying more in interest than they are saving,” says finance expert Amanda Abella. “This can end up canceling out your ‘free’ flight or costing you more than the flight would have cost.”

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