My wife and I just recently got back from a trip to Toronto where I was reminded of all the little extras that can add hundreds of dollars to a flight.

You’ll go through them from the time you walk into the airport to when you get off your flight at your destination.  Some are mild annoyances while others can cost you a substantial sum.

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Here are eight hidden costs of travel:

Seat selection

Before you even walk into the airport, some airlines may charge around $10 to select your own seat as part of the ticket purchase process.

For those who are quite tall, this may be money well spent to get the few economy seats with extra leg room.

Upgrading your seat

Right when you check in, airline staff have the opportunity to up-sell you on a bigger seat.  This may be called something like club class, premium economy or something similar.

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The upgrade will be positioned as a bargain, though the cost will vary by the length of flight.  Let’s say for the sake of argument that an upgrade costs $199 or more.  This is a cost which is completely unnecessary.

If you opted to buy an economy ticket in the first place, upgrading sort of defeats the purpose of buying a cheap seat!

Airport lounge access

The airport lounge, a nice to have but not a necessity for leisure travellers.  Some airlines charge to use their lounge ($25 or $50, Air Canada), others may give you free access but charge you for food and drinks.

Free access sounds like a good idea however the airline is using this as a loss leader.  They figure that you’ll end up consuming enough food and drink to make up for the cost of the lounge.

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Given that the mark-up on alcohol is easily over 300%, this is a great way to increase profits.  Buy a few drinks in the airport lounge and you’ll be out of pocket $20 or more.

Additional baggage fees

It seems like every airline has different luggage weight allowances, so be sure to check what these are before packing up and leaving for the airport.  Having an overweight bag could cost over $70.

Rather than getting caught off guard and having to pay the fee for an overweight or second bag, use your scale at home or buy one specifically for weighing luggage.

Duty free round one

Now that you’ve checked in, you’ll inevitably have to walk through the duty free section.  All those bottles of alcohol, cartons of cigarettes, souvenirs, chocolates and candy call out to us.

Spend too much time here and you’ll easily end up spending $75 or more.  Your waistline may also suffer!

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Comfort kits

Once the plane has finally taken off to your chosen destination the flight attendants will come around with some mixture of ear phones, blankets, eye shades, socks, slippers, etc.  These kits cost between $3 and $10 per person.

In flight food & alcohol

While flights with higher end air carriers will usually include food and drinks, discount airlines may not.  Expect to pay $7 to $15 for a meal and a drink.

Alcohol of course will be extra.  Though I’m not a big drinker, I will definitely have a one on a flight where I want to get some sleep!

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Duty free round two

If you didn’t buy something in the airport, the airlines give you another chance on board the flight.  Expensive watches, alcohol and bizarre gadgets are all available in the glossy in-flight magazine.

I hardly ever see anyone buying these items but they must sell or the airlines wouldn’t carry them!

Flying is expensive enough, it gets worse with all of the products and services that are made available to us throughout the experience.  The best way to combat additional flight costs is to be prepared and don’t get lured in!

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Bring your own earphones, sweater and sandwich and be content with your choice of seat.  Avoid duty free and you’ll not only save money but you’ll also improve your health by staying away from alcohol, sugary snacks and cigarettes.

By keeping these hidden costs of travel in mind you can easily save hundreds of dollars every time you fly.  For those with families, remember that these costs really add up!

Andrew is a Canadian personal finance and investing blogger who recently moved to London, England.  He has a background in technology and a passion for travel.  His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians build wealth by sharing facts, stories and advice.


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