10 Incredibly Common Ways Tourists Waste Money

Before you spend cash on a vacation, consider a few ways to cut costs and leave more money in your wallet.
Last updated Nov. 20, 2022 | By Jenny Cohen | Edited By Chris Kissell
woman backpacker shopping in a Tourist Market in Mexico City

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It can be fun to plan a vacation and think about all the different things you will spend money on, from local restaurants to cool hotels.

You may be excited about going to museums or eating at local restaurants. You also might want to set aside money for a cool hotel near all the sights.

But before you crack open that wallet, consider the many ways you can cut costs and keep more cash in your savings account. Avoid the following common ways tourists waste money.

Earn rewards and travel more while spending less with these top travel credit cards.

Hoarding cheap souvenirs

xixinxing/Adobe young couple looking at souvenirs

You see them everywhere in tourist locations: Mass-produced plastic versions of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, cheap tiki statues in Hawaii, and overpriced koala toys in Australia.

Instead of wasting cash on cheap trinkets, consider spending a little more money on something that you’ll actually use, or at least want to keep. It may be a better reminder of your visit than cheap things that end up in the trash after only a little while.

Indulging in cocktails

lunamarina/Adobe couple with cocktails in pool restaurant

Cocktails are a great way to relax while on a cruise, trip to the beach, or other vacation. But those drinks are going to come with a big price markup.

Try to limit the number of fancy cocktails you consume while on vacation. Or, check with your resort or cruise line to see if they offer a drink plan that can help you cut costs.

Buying beach toys

Anucha S./Adobe toys shop on the beach in eastern Thailand

A beach vacation is a perfect time to unwind, and the hotel or resort you’ve booked may have a great gift shop full of things that can make your trip more enjoyable.

But it might be a good idea to skip the big inflatable beach toys. Those inflatable rafts and huge floaties may work on the beach, but it’s going to be hard to pack them to take home.

Earn rewards and travel more while spending less with these top travel credit cards.

Eating at chain restaurants

Adriana/Adobe screen showing menu at the entrance of a local McDonalds restaurant

You may love having dinner at Olive Garden when you’re home or grabbing a Big Mac near your office. But why patronize chain restaurants during your vacation when you can enjoy them anytime?

Instead, try out a local restaurant for a unique dining experience. Ask hotel staff to recommend a great place.

Getting hit with transaction fees

fizkes/Adobe credit card user woman having problems with online payment app

You might incur fees if you try to exchange cash when visiting a country with a different currency. 

Instead of paying for those fees, check with your local bank before you leave home to see if it can get you some of that currency before you leave. The rates might be better.

And before you travel, shop around to find a credit card that charges minimal or no transaction fees on international purchases.

Overpacking and paying baggage fees

Татьяна Волкова/Adobe woman with luggage sitting in waiting room at the international airport

It can be challenging to decide what to pack for a two-week trip. Packing too much might result in extra fees for overweight bags.

Instead, weigh your bags before you go to make sure you’re within limits. You also might want to consider taking fewer clothes and spending a little money to launder them while on your trip rather than paying fees for additional baggage.

Booking trendy hotels

diegograndi/Adobe fountains in front of Wynn Hotel and Casino at sunset

Sure, it can be cool to stay at a trendy hotel right in the heart of everything you want to see. But it can also be expensive.

Consider shopping around and looking for better deals on hotels, even if they are a bit out of the way.

Pro tip: Take advantage of hotel rewards. Loyalty to one hotel chain can lead to earning additional points for every place you stay.

Paying full price for expensive museums

Brad Pict/Adobe Gallery of Time in the Louvre-Lens Museum

Some cities like New York and Chicago are well-known for their museums. But admission to places like the Field Museum in Chicago or the Museum of Modern Art in New York can cost a good amount of cash.

Instead of spending all that money on admission fees, see if the city you're visiting offers a special tourist pass for multiple museums that can help you save on admission and keep more cash in your pocket.

For example, the New York Pass gets you admission to a bunch of local museums.

Forgetting about roaming charges

Feodora/Adobe  smart phone throwing away cash dollar bills

You may be excited to share photos of your trip on your favorite social media sites. Or perhaps you want to share videos with friends and family.

That's great fun. But beware that roaming charges can add up quickly if you’re not in a place that’s covered by your phone carrier.

Call before you travel to find out if your carrier covers the area you plan to visit. If not, ask about purchasing a SIM card so you can get local coverage and lower charges.

Overlooking the cost of parking

Volodymyr/Adobe person in the car removing ticket from parking vending machine

It may seem like you can save money by driving to your destination instead of flying or taking another form of transportation. However, before you decide, make a line for transportation in your budget to account for gas and parking costs.

A hotel or public parking lot might charge more than you expect for parking, especially in a tourist area.

Bottom line

Prostock-studio/Adobe tourists couple using digital tablet and booking travel tickets

With a little planning, you can avoid making travel mistakes that waste money. Consider creating a budget before you leave for your trip so you know how much you can spend each day without breaking the bank.

Also, remember to pack your wallet with the best travel credit cards to maximize the number of rewards you can pick up on vacation.

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  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.