Budget Blunders (and how you can avoid them!)

Updated June 22, 2020.

Full disclosure: This post is not your typical “how to stay within your budget” post full of money saving advice! This is more about mindful spending. I don’t believe in budgets. Even when I was single and paying for everything on my own, my main concern was spending my money wisely, not necessarily saving a dollar on a flight. Here are some budget blunders YOU might be making without knowing it!

1. Hey, look! $150 round trip to Europe!

Think you found a great deal? You’re excited for your trip and you just can’t wait to get going… until you discover hidden fees, unexpected costs, and the realization that “close to town” means a 3-mile hike. Maybe an extra $5 for accommodations a couple of miles closer would have been worth your while. So how do you avoid budget blunders like this?

Well, start by looking a little bit closer. What’s the total travel time? If you’re looking at a flight from IAD (Washington-Dulles International) to CDG (Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris), the flight should only take about 8 hours. If your total flight time looks closer to 24 hours, that $150 may require multiple layovers and much longer flights than necessary! Sometimes a long layover is fun for exploring another city on the way, but that’s up to you. Just be sure you won’t be too grumpy and exhausted to enjoy Paris when you get there!

Total cost: $1223; Total duration: 7 hours and 55 minutes
IMG_5440 2
Total cost: $89 less; Total time: 30 hours and 38 minutes!
Still want a good deal? Check out How to Find Cheap Flights!

2. Hey, look! A “direct” flight to Ireland!

Well, let’s see. “Direct” should totally mean you’ll be going “directly” from your starting point to your destination, right? It should be synonymous with “non-stop.” WRONG! That “direct flight” from D.C. to Ireland requires a late-night stop in Philly. Don’t be surprised when you check in and get two boarding passes instead of one! “Direct” in the context of flights is still a mystery to me. If you want an airline ticket with no layovers, look for the word “nonstop.” Remember: cheap airline tickets are cheap for a reason. Find out what that reason is before you commit!

Don’t get lost in the clouds!
Not so sure about these travel terms?
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Travel Lingo!

3. Wait. What? I have to change airports?

This is another time where attention to detail is key! Washington, D.C.; Paris, France; Istanbul, Turkey; New York City; and many other major cities have more than one airport. Note: that doesn’t mean they’re close to each other! If you decide to take a chance and change airports on your layover, make sure your layover is long enough. You’ll have to pick up any checked luggage you may have AND go through check-in and security again. Is it worth saving $50 to maybe miss your flight due to traffic or other factors? It may be worth spending that extra $50 or even $100 to save time and stress.

IST and SAW are two different Istanbul airports!
Taxi: More expensive, but only 43 minutes with current traffic
Public Transportation: Less expensive, but time is over 3 hours!
More tips here: My Air Travel Page

4. $20 flights within Europe? Sign me up!

Not so fast! Better check out that airline’s rules and regulations. Budget airlines are great for quick (and more frequent) trips, but make sure you know their restrictions and fees before you even book. Checking luggage? That’ll cost you $60 for the first bag. Carrying on? Make sure everything fits in one piece of luggage that meets their size and weight restrictions, and oh yeah, it might cost you another $10. To carry it on.

Oh yeah, and that $20 for the flight just means you have a space on that flight. If you want to actually have a seat, that’s not included in the super-low price; that’ll be another $12, please, $40 if you don’t want to sit in the middle seat next to the bathroom. Be sure it really is cheaper to take the budget airline instead of a major airline!

Window seat: worth it.
Budget flight got cancelled? Make sure you’re compensated!

5. Hey look! This cheap accommodation is “close to everything!”

One question… What does “close” mean to the person who wrote that? What does “close” mean to you? I’m willing to walk a scenic, safe mile into town, but I wouldn’t call that “close.” Three miles is definitely not close, and that’s what I’ve been stuck with more than once! Look at a map to see just how far it is from the accommodation to the city center or whatever you’re there to see. Is it walkable? Is there reliable transportation to get there? Also don’t neglect to read the reviews! Is it worth saving $15 if you have to take a cab to and from town every day for $30 round-trip?

“Close” with a car is different from “close” on foot!
Read on: Your Ultimate Guide to Accommodations

6. Public transportation is always cheaper!

Well… not always. Depending on what time your flight lands and you get through customs, public transportation may not be available. Sometimes there are strikes. Sometimes there are public holidays. Have a backup plan! And be sure you do some searching to read up on what’s really the best option for getting around. In Bangkok, taking the “airport train” required two train changes and took an hour and a half, as opposed to the same price for door-to-door service with a cab! Traveling with a friend? It might be cheaper to split an Uber!

Public transportation is great, but it’s not always cheapest!
Read on: A Traveler’s Guide to Uber

Have you ever overpaid or perhaps found out a money-saving secret just in the nick of time? What experiences have you had?

Want more money saving tips and hacks? Take a look at my Saving and Money Page!

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