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How to avoid hidden fees when you're traveling

by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on May 9, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 24 at 3:55 PM

PHOENIX -- Summer travel can get expensive. Whether you're flying, renting a car, or staying in a hotel, hidden fees can add up quickly.

Jim Prueter of AAA Arizona shared some tips to avoid those fees and cut costs.

When it comes to flying, preferred seating is generally an extra fee. Depending on how far you're going, however, the extra leg room and added convenience might be worth it.

If you're going to check bags, you can save a little bit of cash -- $2 to $5 per bag -- if you do it online. Be sure to pack strategically. Every member of your family -- even your 2-year-old -- gets to bring a carry-on and a bag so take advantage of that, Prueter advised.

Part of packing strategically is packing well. Overweight bags will cost you between $50 and $100. IF you travel regularly, consider investing in a luggage scale to help you keep yours bags light. They're relatively inexpensive and can pay off in the long run.

"Airline fees have single handedly turned the airline industry from bankruptcy to profitability," Prueter said."It's fees, fees, fees, fees, fees. And you're going to see more fees."

Prueter said you should take advantage of discounts whenever possible, including those from clubs to which you belong and those offered on Facebook and Twitter.

"You can save a lot of money if  you watch those 'flash sales," he said.

Check with a travel agent. They often have the inside track on discounts.

When booking your ticket, stick with the automated or online services. Talking to a human being could cost you as much as $25.

On the planning front, don't take the last flight of the night. If it's canceled for whatever reason, you'll be stranded. In addition, flying at the end of the month can be touchy because the pilots and the crew might have already racked up their hours.

"The plane will be there, but you don't have anybody to fly it," Prueter said.

Airlines aren't the only ones tacking on all kinds of extra fees. Rental-car companies do it, too.

Extra drivers, for example, can cost between $10 and $15 per day. The same is true for drivers who are younger than 25.

The big thing, however, is gas.

If you don't take the prepaid option and you return the car with a tank that's not full, you could pay as much as $8 or $9 per gallon to fill it.

If you can, avoid renting a car at the airport because of the slew of additional fees.

"If you can get off site, do that," Prueter advised. "They have their free shuttles so you can get their yourself."

Most rental companies push you to purchase the extra insurance. Be sure you know what your liabilities are before signing anything. It's possible that you already have coverage through your own insurance or through your credit-card company. Asking the questions first can save you money later.

Hotels and resorts also tack on fees for everything from parking to gym and spa use to Internet and WiFi access. Those fees can run between $10 and $30 per day.

"Know what you're getting into when you do your budget," Prueter said.

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