These travel costs won’t break the bank, but they can take a bite out of your budget

You’ve saved up for your “trip of a lifetime” abroad. You’ve already booked your flights to Europe (averaging about $1,100 round trip from New York’s JFK) and paid for your hotel (an average of about $150 a night for midrange accommodations) in advance. You’ve got passport in hand ($165) and built an itinerary for an unforgettable vacation. So all your travel costs are covered, right?

Wrong.

Even though you’ve taken care of what are usually considered the major travel expenses before leaving home, there are a number of hidden travel costs — no, we don’t mean food and souvenirs — you need to consider when financially planning for your trip. On their own, none of these expenses is a deal-breaker. But together, they can take a decent-sized bite out of your vacation budget.

Here are some of the unexpected fees, charges and added costs we encountered before, during and after a recent trip to Italy.

Currency exchange: The U.S. dollar is worth about €0.95 right now, so if you want to take along some pocket money — say, €1,000 — the cost is roughly $1,060 American, not including any bank or mailing fees. We found that just about all of the small cafés, tourist attractions, stores and shops we went to took our credit and debit cards (though see below for the hidden cost of using them).

Debit & credit card fees: Many debit and credit card companies charge a 2% to 3% foreign transaction fee on every purchase or ATM cash withdrawal (ours charged 3%). You may be able to lower the fee to just 1% by making your purchase in the local currency. Better yet, use a travel card that charges no international fees. 

International phone plan: Staying connected while abroad will cost you. Full access to our AT&T cellphones while traveling internationally cost us an additional $10 a day per phone line after we signed up for AT&T’s International Day Pass. Other phone companies offer similar options (Verizon’s TravelPass is also $10 a day; T-Mobile’s International Data Pass runs from $5 for one day to $50 for a month). Purchasing a SIM card abroad may be a cheaper, though possibly less reliable option.

Tourist tax: Depending on the municipality, all overnight guests at hotels, hostels, campsites, guesthouses and Airbnbs pay from €2 ($2.11) to €4.50 ($4.74) per person, per night for up to 10 nights in Italy. In other European Union countries, that cost could be much higher. Amsterdam, for instance, recently increased its tourist tax from €15.25 ($16) to €21.80 ($23) per person per night beginning in 2024. In addition, Venice will become the first city in the world in 2024 to charge a “day-tripper” entrance fee of €5 ($5.27) to tourists who are visiting for the day but not staying overnight. Other European cities may soon follow suit.

Travel insurance: We opted to risk going without it, but others may decide to pay for travel insurance that may cover financial losses that happen before or during travel: lost luggage and missed flights, last-minute cancellation, delay or trip interruption, or injury or illness while traveling. Costs are based on various factors — such as the type of coverage you’re seeking, your age and destination — but you can expect to pay between 3% and 10% of the total cost of your trip.

International driver’s permit: The permit, required of any licensed U.S. driver who wishes to rent a car in the EU, is easy to get at your local Triple A office. It costs $30. 

Gas prices: You’ll pay more for gasoline in Europe (about $7 to $8 a gallon) than almost anywhere else in the world. If you’re planning to rent a car — ideal for travelers who like to take the slow road, stop in rural places and see the countryside pass them by — then expect to spend about twice as much on gas as you do in the U.S. 

Airport parking: We paid roughly $300, or about $25 a day, at an out-of-the-way long-term lot near JFK from which we had to take a bus, then JFK’s Air Train to our terminal. And that was low compared to other, closer lots, which charge up to $70 a day. 

Pet care: We were fortunate enough to find a kind friend to watch our little dog. The $300 we paid her was a fraction of what it would’ve cost to board him with a kennel or hire an in-home dog-sitter. For in-home care, we were quoted $30 per 30-minute walk/feeding visit and $80 per overnight. Boarding at a kennel would’ve been roughly $40 to $50 a day (more, depending on whether we wanted things like soft bedding, walks, playtime, twice-daily feeding, grooming and other amenities).

There are plenty of other added costs of traveling abroad, but these are a few that surprised us as we planned our trip and after we landed in Italy. Few of the costs were exorbitant, but we learned it pays to plan ahead.


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