It’s never been cheap to travel, but it seems like nowadays we’re getting socked with resort fees and other little incidentals that we’ve never had to worry about before. If you book a hotel room for $200 a night, is it really fair to have to budget for $300, just because you don’t know what kind of fees they’re going to hit you with?
Travel providers are champions of the practice of “drip pricing” – that is, disclosing only a portion of a price up front, and then revealing add-ons during the purchasing process. Airlines have long been the champions of drip pricing, but hotels and even car rental companies are getting in on the act.
As the travel manager for my company, I’ve done a little research about how to save money on business travel. I can tell you, most of the ideas I see in articles are unrealistic at best. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best you can do is be aware of these charges so you can plan accordingly, because there’s really nothing more that can be done. Here are some common charges to plan for:
Baggage check fees – Unless you want to ship your luggage to your destination, you’re going to pay a fee to check your luggage with most airlines, probably to the tune of $25 each way. Some airlines are still threatening to charge for carry-on bags as well, so watch out for that possibly coming down the pike!
Airline Taxes – I just flew overseas recently, and I was surprised to see that my $1200 airline ticket included $600 in federal taxes. I thought, “It’s no wonder that airlines don’t make any money, they’re handing over most of my fare to the government!” Booking sites like Travelocity and Expedia, as well as the business travel providers that you work with, are now required to disclose these fees, so they should no longer come as a surprise when booking. Soon, they may have to disclose their baggage check fees and other incidental costs as well. There’s a bill in Congress to that affect just waiting to be voted on.
Hotel Resort Fees and Other Charges – These fees are cropping up all over the place, even when the hotel you’re using doesn’t really qualify as a resort! A recent article in Forbes even spoke about mandatory bellman tipping fees. Watch when you book a hotel to make sure that you’re aware of all the fees you’ll be charged. And don’t be afraid to challenge a fee you don’t think is right. (Bellman fees? Seriously!)
Car rental fees – Car rental companies are getting into the act, too. They’ll charge fees for extra drivers (I make sure that we have a designated driver when we rent a car for a group), and they’ll charge additional fees if you’re picking up the car at the airport. Of course, you can pick up the car at a city location to avoid airport fees, but then you’re likely to be subject to…
Taxi surcharges – Oh, yes, taxis are in on the act, too! They’ll slap on charges for extra passengers, and sometimes even add on a little bit if you have luggage to deal with. And if it’s not enough that your meter is ticking along while you’re sitting in rush hour traffic, some ground transportation services will add insult to injury by tacking on a little extra charge if you’re using them during rush hour.
So what’s a poor traveler to do? Well, not much can be done when you’re sitting in the office and your manager is doing the traveling. Sure, you can call the hotel after the fact and ask them to credit your boss’ bill for that stupid bellman tipping fee, but it’s more effective if your manager notices it on his bill and does the arguing at the hotel when he’s checking out.
Airline tickets are always cheaper during non-peak travel hours, so if you can talk your manager into flying at 6AM or midnight, that’s also a plus. But who wants to do that? It’s best just to be aware of the fees, to plan accordingly so that you’re aware of how much your manager’s trip will REALLY cost!
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