Thursday, 13 September 2012

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The 5 Dumbest Things I've Spent Money On While Traveling

Early disclaimer: I'm not exactly known as Mr. Money Management around my house. Lori makes sure she has money hidden away for emergencies, my kids have perfected the eye roll when Dad comes to borrow money off them, and any kind of power or cable outage in our home isn't greeted with complaints about our supplier, but rather a chorus of people shouting "Dad! You forgot to pay the bill again!"

I was sure I paid them....

That being said, I do have a knack for stretching our minimal budget into a lot of travel. I spend a lot of time hunting for the best airfares and hotel rates, I manage our points tirelessly, and I'm on just about every travel e-mail list that the internet has ever formed, including those that arrive in languages I can't read (but I just know there's a great deal in there somewhere). I may have spent too much on eating out last month, but you can bet that our travel dollars have been wisely spent.

Most of the time. Call them lessons learned, but I have made a few slip-ups in my travel booking career. Most of them were early on in our travels, but they're still the things I look back at and think, "Boy, that was a stupid thing to spend money on".

Confirming a Seat on an Empty Plane

I managed to sleep-in and miss my flight home from Las Vegas one day, thus making me pay a change fee to catch a later flight. That's bad enough, but when I called to switch flights the lady asked me if I wanted to fly stand-by or pay extra to confirm a seat on the flight. Figuring I was already in trouble at home, I confirmed myself on to the next flight, only to arrive and discover that there were only 27 seats sold on the 162 seat plane. I guess a quick look at the website might have clued me in to the fact that I didn't really need to pay extra to make it on that flight, but at least I was confirmed into a very comfy row.

Buying Car Rental Insurance

I think it's a great thing to make sure you're covered in case of emergency, but for a little while there I was taking it to extremes. I used to have my standard auto insurance, which applies to rental cars, my travel insurance on which I had extra rental car insurance included, my credit card which I pay extra for to make sure that rental cars are covered, and I'd usually take the optional insurance from the renting company. That's a lot of coverage, and I'm pretty sure that if I'd accidentally backed my car through the Museum of Modern Art, I would have had enough insurance to cover the damages.  

Not sure how I could "accidentally" back up the stairs...

Staying at an All-Inclusive Resort on our Honeymoon

It actually sounds like a really great idea doesn't it, but you know who gets value out of all-inclusive resorts? People who drink. I don't necessarily mean falling down drunk, but even people who just enjoy a glass of wine with their meal can come close to getting their money's worth when everything is paid up front. Neither Lori nor I are drinkers though, and while I might welcome the challenge of eating my way to leveling the balance sheet these days, stuffing yourself silly probably isn't the way to impress your new wife during your first week of life together. Give her at least a few months before she realizes what she's gotten herself into.

Prepaying for an Internet Package

I'm not a fan of places that charge for internet access, but in Las Vegas it's kind of the norm, so we'd frequently find ourselves paying up to $15 a day to stay online. On one trip, I found a rate that would let you prepay for your internet at 33% off, so I booked it. No real problems so far, but what I should have done was write myself a note about what I'd done, so when it came time to leave for the trip and we decided to save some money by not bringing our computers, I would have remembered. As an additional note: Whatever they charge for internet in Vegas, it's a bargain compared to what it will cost you to spend that time in the casino.

Downgrading from First Class

When we were first traveling, we found it easier to sit together as a family in the plane. This meant that Lori and I would frequently turn down upgrades to First Class in order to sit together in coach. On one flight however, I got an automatic upgrade to First Class without getting the chance to turn it down, leaving my original seat as the only empty seat on a heavily oversold flight. I tried to call into the airline, but their lines were jammed, and since there were only a few minutes before early check-in opened, meaning anybody could switch into my original seat, I decided to go online and pay the fee to change my seat from 2A to 8D. I meant to bring it up with the airline at the airport, but it was pretty much chaos there (Christmas travel) so we just let it go, making me possibly the only person to ever pay to get out of First Class.

Yeah, I paid to get peanuts instead of this...

Written by Steve Pratt