Our recent articles about scams, rip-offs, and more scams resulted in an onslaught of voices from the road telling us about even more things to watch out for. While these items may not technically be fraud, they can certainly add unexpected expenses to your pocketbook. It makes me wonder: Is it even possible to travel without being fleeced by the industry?
Read on for five reader-reported gotchas, and be sure to share your own experiences in the comments section below.
Electronic tickets can make travel easier by eliminating the possibility of losing your paper tickets before your trip (which happened to yours truly before a semester abroad in Dublin). But it also gives airlines an excuse to charge another fee—one that can't always be avoided, as absolutelyellen found out. "Here's a new one for me," she says, "I booked a flight through a well-known travel site online and at the point of purchase I was only allowed to choose a paper ticket delivery. Electronic ticketing was not available for that particular booking. Surprise! A $39.95 charge for FedEx overnight was assessed, even thought the flight wasn't for four more weeks." According to one online travel agent, paper tickets may be required for several reasons, including infant passengers, multiple connections, or multiple carriers that don't have ticketing agreements. The only way to avoid this charge would be to select a different flight option, if possible.
European and American weight standards are very different, and that extends to luggage, as RetaT can attest. "My worst rip off was Brussels Air. My 'overweight' carry-on cost 120 euros (almost $170 at that time). Almost double the price of the ticket. Their limit is so low, it's basically an empty suitcase." Many travelers don't realize that on many European carriers, luggage allowances are handled by total weight, instead of the American system of a limited amount a pieces. Alitalia, for example, doesn't have a limit on the number of bags that can be checked for flights within Europe, but if you check more than 20 kilograms, you'll end up paying 15 Euros per kilo. Be sure to check our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees: Europe Edition chart before you book so that you don't get caught by surprise with an overweight bag.
Europe to U.S. Differences
Thankfully, most airlines still allow one free checked bag for long-haul international travel. However, pasty214 reports that travelers must be vigilant on their return trip to ensure they don't end up paying domestic checked bag fees. "When returning from Spain last year, we were allowed to check one bag with no fee because it was [an] international flight, until we got to Atlanta and had to reclaim our bag for customs and recheck, which at that point we were no longer international and had to pay Delta fees." The security requirement to claim and recheck bags is unlikely to change soon, so to avoid this extra charge try to connect at an international airport that flies directly to your home city.
Reader meg wrote in about city passes that provide free entrance to numerous tourist attractions around your destination. Unfortunately, she found that she didn't get her money's worth. "I bought a card for visiting museums, sites, etc. called 'New York Pass' advertised on the Internet prior to my trip to U.S.A. It could be purchased for one or two days, but as I was in New York for 10 days I bought a one-week pass. It promised me free admission to such sights as Museum of Modern Art, Statue of Liberty Cruise, etc. It also promised 'avoiding the queues' for these venues. It was associated with a three-day sightseeing bus pass. It cost over $250. The buses only had upstairs seats (I walk with a stick and am an older person, so that was out for me), I waited in different queues from my friends without the pass, and many of the promised 'free entry' venues were free to all, anyway! I obtained $70 worth."
Dollars vs. Euros
Another gotcha expense many travelers may find on a return from Europe is the difference between dollars and euros. Reader jgreen8112 wrote "I just got back from Italy on 'the New Alitalia' bought/merged by Delta. I was charged $50 for the second bag to go to Italy (which I expected), but coming back to Boston I was charged 50 euro for each bag! That's a 33 percent increase ... I thought it was $50 for the second bag for most European trips. I was told quite blatently 'In the U.S. you pay dollars, here in Italy you pay euros.'" This is one extra charge that can't necessarily be avoided. Most airlines do charge fees in the local currency, so be sure to check xe.com for current conversion rates before you travel to find out how much your return trip will really cost.
What other scams and rip-offs should other readers be aware of? Leave a message in the comments section below!