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Thursday, September 16, 2010

3 easy-to-avoid vacation expense bloopers that can save you hundreds.

Or How My "Free" European Travel Vacation Really Cost $2,500

When I started saving money for my 8-day European dream vacation, my biggest focus was on earning enough Delta Frequent Flyer Skymiles to get a free round trip ticket. 75,000 miles gets you a free round trip to the European continent.  That’s the most expensive part of the tab, right? (Hint: yes, it usually is the biggest single ticket item in a trip to Europe, but other items add up quickly)

Hotel rooms are high too, but I have a relative in one country who was willing to put me up for a few nights before I headed out for my real dream destination: Florence and Venice Italy! So how expensive could the whole trip be? I got back from my vacation yesterday and added up $2,500 in vacation expenses. Gulp.

After careful review, I realized that some of the biggest expenses were due to my ignorance about travel in Europe and could have been avoided:

1) I didn’t realize how expensive Eurail passes could be. If you are going to more than one location, understand that even with Eurail passes, transportation costs in Europe can be high. And there aren’t always direct trains connecting your city to the next. My ticket from Luxembourg to Florence was $240 and took twelve hours with four train connections (Luxembourg to Basel Switzerland, Basel to Nancy, France, then Nancy France to Milan and Milan to Florence).   I booked a flight back from Florence to Luxembourg because it only took 4 hours and cost about the same amount. After all I’d heard about Eurail passes being so cheap, I felt pretty jipped.

2) Try to make your plans first re: what cities you want to visit, then book your flight “open-jaw” if you can. If I had flown into Brussels, then flown out of Florence (instead of flying into and out of Brussels round trip), I would have saved the $240 it cost me to get back to Brussels to catch my plane home. Once I booked the plane ticket, I couldn’t change it back without hefty penalities.

3) When I had to cut my trip short because my budget was running out, I was stuck with a $100 change fee from Delta. It was still cheaper for me to shorten the trip, so I took the hit. But I thought travel insurance would cover it. WRONG. I didn’t realize that the basic travel insurance I purchased when booking my flight would only cover me if I had a medical illness and had to return early or change my plans. It also required documented evidence from a physician that I had been ill and what dates. Realize that travel insurance won’t cover your plane fare if you simply change your mind.

I'll be posting more tips on what I got right -- and how you can do the same -- in my next blog re: Real Money In Europe!

Booking Eurail passes
Delta Frequent Flyer Miles Reward Travel Info

Do you have travel money tips or rip-offs to share?