10 Costly Mistakes to Avoid on Your Summer Vacation

June 05, 2014

U.S. News & World Report

With any luck, you have a getaway planned this summer. Assuming you do, here are some suggestions to make your trip smoother and protect your investment. Make no mistake – a vacation is something of an investment. According to a recent online survey of 1,500 adults by American Express, Americans will spend an average of $1,246 per person on summer vacation.

Something will go wrong, of course, but the trick to a successful summer vacation is making sure nothing goes wildly amiss. With that in mind, here’s how to avoid 10 travel missteps that will cost you.

Overpacking. Expect to pay up for all those extras you’re packing. “Checked bag fees will cost you big – each way,” says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo.

He isn’t kidding. Some airlines charge up to $100 per checked bag and even more if your luggage crosses a certain weight threshold. Check with your airline to see how much your luggage can weigh. You’ll do yourself a favor if you pack light.

“It’s a drag to drag it all,” Saglie says.

Not packing enough. If you’re traveling with kids, especially by plane, pack accordingly. “Parents often do not plan ahead and pack enough distractions – toys, games, paper and pencil, snacks, DVDs. Air travel is not just the hours you spend at 38,000 feet, but those you spend waiting to board, waiting to take off and waiting to disembark,” Saglie says.

Not alerting your bank and credit card companies that you’re going on vacation. It’s especially important to notify them if you’re traveling to a foreign country. “It takes less than 10 minutes and falls under the ‘better safe than sorry’ category,” says JaeMi Pennington, a public relations specialist in Boston, who learned this the hard way. “It can be pretty embarrassing when you’re in line at Wal-Mart in Savannah, Georgia, trying to buy golf balls and your card gets declined because Bank of America thinks it was stolen.”

Not calling your mobile phone provider if you’re leaving the country. You could leave your smartphone at home, but assuming you’re bringing it, let your provider know, advises David Corsun, director and associate professor of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver. Otherwise, you will likely spend more not just for phone calls but text messages and even looking up information on the Internet.

“Arrange for a time-limited data-text plan on your phone when traveling abroad, but do not leave all of your smartphone settings on ‘business as usual,'” he says. “You can chew your international time up pretty quickly, and it can cost way more than planned if you do.”

Julie Lucas, who works in marketing at the University of Denver, says she can vouch for Corsun’s advice. “I made the mistake of going to Mexico in 2011, not getting an international time-limited data-text plan and ended up with a single monthly bill of $700. Normally, it’s $94,” she says.

Lucas was able to get her phone company to cut the bill in half, and now she never leaves the U.S. without first checking with her provider to see what the rules are for the country she is visiting and what her options are.

Not taking resort fees and taxes into account. If you’re taking a long trip, forgetting about these can throw off your budget. “Your [hotel] room may be $99, but with taxes and fees, you may end up paying $139 or $149,” says Andrew Young, Travelzoo’s editorial director.

Forgetting your charger. Who hasn’t had to go to a big-box store and buy a new one? Young suggests bringing not only the charger for your phone and other gadgets, but a power strip. “You can charge multiple devices off one outlet at your hotel,” he says.

Taking your vacation when everyone else does. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. But as Young says, “You’re going to pay more, deal with bigger crowds, more traffic.” If you can wait until the end of August, you’ll find steeper discounts. But take your vacation around the Fourth of July, and expect to pay a lot more.