Unexpected costs of international travel

Avoid these fees when traveling the world on a budget

If you’re trying to travel the world on a budget, you’ve probably considered the cost of the big stuff, like a plane ticket and hotel. But when it comes to traveling abroad, there are a lot of unexpected expenses that can pop up at the most inconvenient times. Have you taken a look at your debit card’s ATM fees abroad? Will you be ready for resort and tourist fees on your hotel bill? Take a look at all the potential pitfalls to set a budget that will save you money on your next trip and help you confidently answer the question, “How much does a vacation cost?”

Know before you go


There are a lot of little costs you can take care of before you leave that will help you stick to your budget. First, you aren’t going anywhere without a passport, and if you don’t have one yet or if yours is set to expire, you’ll want to be prepared for this expense. You can check passport fees and learn how to apply on the U.S. Department of State’s website. It also has information about how to renew your passport.

Cell phones

What else can you take care of before you go? Your cell phone plan. Foreign cell phone and data fees can make your plans of traveling the world on a budget go downhill quickly. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says rules can be complex. But the agency offers some help tips for using your phone in other countries—along with some direct links to help you contact your cell phone provider directly.

Credit and debit cards

The other thing you want to take care of before your plane takes off is money. Whether you choose to use a credit card, debit card or cash, be on the lookout for a few fees that could blow your travel budget. First, many credit and debit cards charge foreign transaction fees.1 There could also be charges to use ATMs. That means every time you swipe your card in another country, you’re getting charged an average of an extra 1% to 4%, which can add up quickly. Look for a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees before you go to save some dough.

Check in, check out, check your bank account

You may be looking for cheap ways to travel the world, but nothing can ruin your budget like expenses that pop up once you’re on your way. Fees at the airport and at your hotel can make a big dent in your budget if you’re not prepared. As far as your flight goes, be prepared to pack your bags efficiently. Bag fees for international flights can be more than fees for domestic flights.2 And you’ll also want to avoid overpacking. An overweight or oversized bag can cost you even more.

It also helps to budget for other hidden fees. Things like entry or departure taxes may be added to your airfare.3 Also be on the lookout for a daily resort or hotel fee. This expense covers amenities at hotels and resorts, from high-speed internet to pool access and fitness classes, even if you don’t use those things during your stay.4 So be ready to research your lodging and account for this cost in your budget.

Save on food and other fares

Once you’ve made it to your destination and accounted for flight and hotel fees, it’s time to take your meals and activities into consideration. You may have planned for the cost of food, but have you thought about how much tipping will set you back? This unexpected expense varies by country, and while some countries include gratuity in the bill and some don’t require tips at all, it’s still something to keep in mind.5

The last unexpected item to include in your travel budget is the cost of museums, attractions and tours. Though you can find a lot of free museums around the world, attractions may have a 2-tiered pricing system: a lower price for residents and a higher price for others.

Now that you know how to travel the world cheaply, armed with the knowledge of what kind of unexpected expenses can pop up while you’re abroad, you can be prepared to travel the world on a budget, confident that you can avoid sticker shock on your international adventure.

Related Content