Little fees, taxes, charges and surcharges pop up along the way on vacation — and can take a big bite out of the budget. (For the fees covered last week, go to: www.startribune.com/a2377.) Here are some more fees to watch out for:
The redundant — and overpriced — car insurance: Rental car companies are increasingly shameless about fobbing off expensive insurance policies on unwitting travelers. If you have good car insurance on your personal vehicle and a good credit card (American Express is strongest) don't cave. You really, really don't need this.
How to avoid: Educate yourself long before you leave home. Know the ins and outs of your insurance policies. For the ultimate peace of mind, American Express sells a great Premium Car Rental Protection product that costs just $24.95 per rental period — about what you'd pay for collision insurance in many destinations these days. The best part about the policy: You don't have to file a claim and there is no deductible. Just be aware that if you don't have personal auto insurance, credit cards do not cover liability to people and other people's property.
Overpriced hotel parking: Overnight parking fees are the newest profit center at far too many hotels; there's nothing more insulting than being told by your hotel (sometimes located out in the middle of a field, or the woods, where there's plenty of space for everyone) that the charge for your car to spend the night could get both you and your car a stay in a nice motel down the road.
How to avoid: Read the fine print before you book — particularly in cramped destinations like San Francisco, where overnight parking fees have nearly scraped the $70 mark. Either don't rent a car or stay in the suburbs.
The credit card transaction fee: As if Rome weren't expensive enough. Then you get home and find out that your credit card provider tacked on 3 percent (or more) for every time you whipped out your Visa, netting them a tidy little profit off your little Italian vacation. How does that feel? Even if you use your card in your home country, if the vendor (airline, hotel, etc.) is located abroad, you'll probably get hit.
How to avoid: Anyone who travels regularly should be looking for two things in a credit card. First, your card should be giving you rewards that make travel easier and cheaper, whether with free hotel nights or free plane tickets or points that can be applied to either. Also, that card should not carry a foreign transaction fee. Capital One's popular Venture Rewards card is one option worth considering.
Not that change fee, the other change fee: Did you see the news that airlines such as United and American are now charging $200 to change a domestic flight and even more for international trips? Crazy, right? Well, if you're looking to change an upcoming itinerary and you booked through a third-party website, brace yourself, because the site may also want to charge a rather hefty change fee as well. The cost could even be greater than the cost of the original ticket.
How to avoid: Fly Southwest whenever you can. It never charges you to change a flight, and you have to book directly, so that solves the problem of any third-party charges. Or, if there's a good chance you'll make changes, consider buying one of American Airlines' Choice Essential fares. For a bit more, there's no change fee, you get a checked bag round-trip and "Group 1" priority boarding.