The 10 Ultimate Worst Money Wasters on Travel

We’ve all done it–don’t feel bad! But there’s no reason to make the same–expensive–mistakes over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, though! There are plenty of travel expenses that are worth every penny, and that is 100% up to YOU, the traveler. But take an honest look at this list, and decide if you can cut some of these out on your next trip. Start with just one!

Dining Out for Every Meal

I love to dine out when I travel. My husband does not. So we compromise. We dine out when it’s special, we get take-out when it’s not, and we go to the local grocery store when we don’t necessarily want to go to a restaurant. Here are some ways you can save on dining out during your next trip!

Get Take Out (“for take away”)

Many restaurants charge extra fees for dining in, include service charges, and count on Americans not knowing that tipping is not the local custom. So picking up food for take away (and dining with a view if we got an upgrade with our accommodation!) is a far less expensive way to go.

When you have this view from your room, sushi for take-away is a perfect plan!

Skip Going Out for Dinner

Breakfast is generally the least expensive meal of the day, and if it’s a hearty one, it could last you well into the afternoon! Lunch is typically more affordable than dinner, so dining between 11:00am and 4:00pm could get you the exact same food at a much more affordable price. Instead of going out to dinner, head to the grocery or, as in my last point, get it to go!

That said, if dinner is an event that’s part of the fun for you, make it count! We totally splurged on a fancy meal at Maui’s Mama’s Fish House for our anniversary, and we don’t regret it! Just be wise. Every meal doesn’t have to be event, but the events should be worthwhile!

From appetizer to dessert, the meal at Mama’s Fish House was well worth the cost–just the once!

Go to the Grocery

This will be your least expensive option, but also a real cultural experience! Many grocery stores around the world have prepared foods for sale, and my personal experience is that it can be every bit as tasty as food you’ll pay more for in a restaurant. Another favorite of Steve’s and mine is to buy a few things to snack on or make a meal of. Get ingredients for salad. Buy a loaf of fresh bread and a sampling of local cheeses. Add some Nutella, and you have both a meal and dessert! Get a little bit creative, and eat like the locals do!

A delightful meal overlooking a beautiful New Zealand Bay, all from the local grocery!
Read next: Travel Experiences Worth the Splurge

Not Buying Popular Site Tickets in Advance

Many museums offer discounted tickets online. Sometimes it’s only a couple of dollars, but if you’re buying five tickets for your family, that adds up! An added bonus? Buying tickets in advance means you can skip the line, saving you minutes, but sometimes even hours!

Skip the line and save some cash when you book your tickets to Edinburgh Castle online!
More here: How to Plan a Trip

Paying for Checked Bags

It’s true that sometimes you have to check a bag. And some people simpy prefer it. But checked bags will run you $25 or more just to start. A second checked bag will cost you even more (often more than double), and honestly, do you really need all that stuff?

Consider traveling with carry-on luggage instead. You’ll have to trade your full-size liquid toiletries for travel-size, and you may need to use a smaller bag, but if it can save you upwards of $50 each way, that’s a savings you won’t want to turn down!

Why check when you could carry?
Find out how: How to Pack the Perfect Carry-on

Paying International, or “Foreign Transaction,” Fees

You need a credit card with no international fees. This is not up for debate or interpretation. If you don’t know whether or not your card has international fees, call the credit card company to find out before your next trip abroad! It will literally save you money every time you use your card, and thousand of dollars over time.

International fees are less and less common these days, but it certainly pays to make sure! I use the CapitalOne Venture One Card, which has no international fees, no annual fee, earns reward miles (or “points”) with every dollar I spend on anything, and I can redeem those points to pay for travel expenses. If you’re interested, you can get a sign up bonus here, and I’ll earn extra points for referring you!

Don’t pay an extra fee for that authentic gelato!
Essential info: The Beginnger’s Guide to Earning Credit Card Points

Paying Interest on Travel

The first rule of any credit card game is: Pay It Off! Pay your credit card bill every month, or more often if you like. If you can’t pay for what you want to buy with your credit card, don’t buy it! This way, you never pay extra interest. Instead of going into debt to travel, save until you can afford your trip instead. And in the meantime, maybe you can score a deal on flights, hotels, and more! Sometimes patience is a true virtue!

Pay it off and have no regrets!
Must read: The Ultimate Guide to Travel and Your Money

Not Using Points

You earned them. Use them! Don’t forget where they are, don’t forget how to access them… Make a plan to make the most of them! You don’t need to make a massive spreadsheet or keep track of every little caveat, but have a goal in mind, and don’t let those hard-earned points go to waste.

One of my best-ever points experiences was staying at the only 5-star hotel in downtown DC! For FREE!
Keep reading: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Redeeming Points for Hotels

Making Every One Do Every Thing

This is a sure-fire way for everyone to have a terrible trip. It’s also a huge money waster! If everyone doesn’t want to go to the play, don’t pay for that expensive ticket. The people who want to go, can go. The people who want to go to dinner can do that! Don’t make everyone pay for that over-priced (though popular) museum. Don’t make everyone pay for ziplining if some of them are terrified of heights. You get the idea.

If you’re all adults, you can do your own thing for an afternoon or two. Then you’ll have things to talk about when you all get back together!

Sometimes solo is the way to go for a few hours!
Helpful info: The Ultimate Guide to How to Plan Travel with a Group

Renting a Car Every Day

There are some locations where having a car is absolutely essential. In many cities, however, you don’t need a car every day. If you’re staying in Waikiki, for instance, you can do what Steve and I have done and only get a rental car when you need one. There are plenty of rental car companies within walking distance of the Waikiki area. And there are plenty of other things to do within walking distance as well!

The same can be done in many cities around the world. Don’t get a car for every day if you don’t need one! Consider your options first.

Road trips are better what you don’t overpay for your car!
Read on: The Ultimate List of Road Trip Tips

Paying for Parking

Similarly, if you’re not renting a car every day, you won’t have to pay for parking! Even self-parking at many hotels will run you $30-$50 per night, so why waste that cash? Always check to see what the parking cost is for hotels you’re considering so you’re not unpleasantly surprised when you arrive. Never assume it will be free! Sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay what it costs; but if you don’t have to, why would you?

The open road!
More here: Budget Blunders (and how to prevent them)

Buying Souvenirs You’ll Never Use

This one is wasteful for so many reasons. Wasted money, wasted space in your bag, wasted space in your home, wasted time debating on what to get. If you think you’ll never use it, wear it, or display it, don’t spend your money on it!

I know it’s not that simple, though. You want something to remember your trip! Instead of traditional clothes, a uniquely specific cooking or serving implement, or a hat you know you’ll never wear in real life, bring home coffee, a piece of jewelry, a mug! Have fun, get something fun, but don’t forget to think about real life a little bit, too!

Think about what you can actually use at home!
Check out my episode about travel on the Good Office Podcast!
The Business of Traveling for Good

Confession time! Which one of these are you guilty of? Or is yours not yet on this list? Comment below and be part of the conversation!

Want more? Check out all my money-saving posts and best travel budgeting tips on my Saving and Money Page!

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