Hidden fees can break your travel budget

Hidden fees can break your travel budget
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Try maintaining a travel budget when hidden fees and added charges dog you from the moment you book a trip until you get back home.

Researching airfare, transit, accommodation, food and entertainment costs can pay off, but it means knowing what you’re paying for.

Ontario travel firms must show all costs in their advertising, whether it’s package trips or separate airline and accommodation bookings.

The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has been seeking public input, by email and via in-person sessions, to improve consumer protection and to update the Travel Industry Act, so anyone interested in taking part has until April 14 to make a submission.

Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act requires travel firms doing business in the province to show customers the full itemized cost of the trip, provide health, weather, construction and travel advisory information, and terms, conditions and rules about changing or cancelling a trip.

Tickets, vouchers, itineraries and other documents have to contain verified details, and customers must be informed of all the documents and vaccinations required by the country they are travelling to and the time it takes to make all the necessary arrangements.

Travel firms must also be upfront about travel counselling service fees and receipts must show their business name, contact numbers, a Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) registration number and available travel and health insurance coverage options.

“TICO has been and continues to monitor major dailies (newspapers), community and ethnic papers, as well as websites of its registrants, to ensure compliance of the new all-in pricing requirement,” said Dorian Werda, TICO’s vice-president of operations.

She said since the new rules went into effect this year, violations are rare and, in such cases, businesses have been “very responsive and co-operative” when contacted by TICO.

A travel firm’s registration can be revoked if the firm fails to comply with the rules and it could face a suspension from doing business in Ontario. Consumers can file a complaint online or via 1-888-451-TICO.

We asked Clint Hayashi with Expedia’s communications team: “Will the average person’s vacation always go over budget due to hidden and/or additional costs that are not advertised?”

“As an intermediary, we don’t charge fees for cancellations or rebooking, but the airline or hotel may charge these fees – and these differ by supplier,” Hayashi said.

Expedia’s customer support website has a list of common questions about changing or cancelling bookings for flights, accommodation and car rentals, as well as other travel-related issues.

Here’s where to ask what you’re paying for when planning a trip:

Reservations/booking: They may not charge a booking fee online, but some airlines and travel firms charge $10 or more for booking over the phone.

Cancellation costs: Don’t expect a full refund for cancelling things such as a flight, hotel or resort in an emergency. You may get nothing back, or pay a steep cancellation fee. This is where trip-cancellation insurance pays off.

Taxi/limo: Cab drivers have been known to jack up fares for a lot of baggage and more than two passengers.

Airport baggage check: Extra or overweight checked bags will cost you. Some airlines allow one piece, some charge for all. Carry-on rules also vary.

Airplane fees: Fuel, security and airport surcharges are usually rolled into the ticket price and some online travel firms list them. Whether you see them or not, you’re paying.

Buying stuff at the airport: From toothpaste to bottled water, everything is going to cost you way more at an airport shop than at your local grocery store.

In flight: Expect sky-high prices for pop or peanuts on a budget flight. Same goes for Wi-Fi, a pillow or use of headphones, unless they’re specified as “included.”

Arriving/departing: A destination’s entry and departure taxes are usually included in the plane-ticket price, but not always, and some countries charge $25 or more in their currency or U.S. dollars, before they let you in or out.

Shuttle to hotel/resort: Is it extra, or included? It’s included only when the package price states “all transfers included,” otherwise you pay the man with the van.

Hotel amenities: Wi-Fi, safes, bikes, parking, mini bars, resort fees, extra towels, newspapers, luggage storage, use of ATMs, currency exchange, fitness equipment, snorkelling gear and energy surcharges can be a source of unexpected costs at check-out time. Not everything is included in “all inclusive.” Local beer, wine or spirits are cheap, but we pay a premium for the better stuff.

Car rental: If your credit card or personal auto insurance policy covers car rentals, you’ll save big. Renters charge higher insurance rates for young drivers and more for additional drivers. You’ll pay as much as $300 if you lose a car key, $50 to $1,000 dropping off a car at a location other than where it had been rented, and big refuelling charges if the tank’s not full when you bring the car back.

Smartphone/data: Roaming charges can cost a fortune, so consider an international plan if your phone is locked, or a SIM card for an unlocked phone.

Tips, tolls and other tabs: Consider tipping, road tolls, ferry fees and other such charges when travelling. The use of washrooms in restaurants and shopping malls may be free in North America but you could have to pay to use them elsewhere.

Email Henry Stancu at [email protected] This article was written by Henry Stancu from The Toronto Star and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

Edited on 17 August 2017

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