Summertime. And the livin’ is . . . expensive. Whether it’s working moms and dads with kids to entertain, outdoor adventurers, travelers of all ages, and even those just craving an occasional excursion for a double scoop of ice cream from a local emporium, everybody can all tell that the price of having fun is continually rising.
Overnight and day camps aren’t cheap. “Roughing it” gear is a major investment. Airlines and hotels are finding very creative ways to hit your wallet, and the prices of the ingredients needed to get vanilla and chocolate in a cone have skyrocketed.
Perhaps, though, it’s the add-on travel fees that have made the most impact on families or individuals who are trying to get away from their everyday world. Time was when you could walk up to an airline counter, select a flight, choose your seat, check your luggage, get a boarding pass, and walk to your gate. And you could count on being fed once on board the plane. There were also only two cabin options – Coach and First Class.
Now, of course, with checked bag fees, change fees, upgrade fees, online booking fees (yes, that’s apparently a new thing), and others, you can end up paying more in extra fees than the original cost of the ticket.
Hotels aren’t any better. One frequent traveler reported recently that his regular room rate had a few add-ons. They included “a $10 bellman gratuity fee, a daily $3 main gratuity fee, and a $22 credit-card processing fee.”
A lot of people used to use travel agents to sort out the best flights and hotel packages for them. Those professionals knew a lot of good tricks of the trade and could help you get the most bang for your buck. I know there are still a lot of good people in that trade today, but I have to wonder what it’s like when they try to help customers sort through all the current extra fees.
TRAVEL AGENT: How can I help you?
CUSTOMER: We’d like to go across country for vacation this summer.
T.A.: Great. How many are traveling?
CUST: Two adults and two kids. And we’re on a bit of a budget. We saw flights online for a couple hundred dollars each. Can we get those?
T.A.: Sure. But just a few questions. Do you all want to be on the same plane?
CUST: Well, yeah.
T.A.: Just checking. Sometimes there are only a certain number of lowest-fare seats available and once they’re gone, that’s it.
CUST: I see. Still, all of us on one plane would be preferable.
T.A.: And do you all want to stay at the same hotel?
CUST: Uh, yeah.
T.A.: Again, just checking. Same deal with them.
T.A.: Let’s see. It looks as if we can book a midnight departure flight, but we have to do it within the next five minutes to get the special fare. And you can’t change it once it’s booked.
CUST: Midnight departure?
T.A.: Yes, and it gets in at noon the next day with only three stops and two changes of planes.
CUST: Aren’t there any non-stops?
T.A.: Those are the deluxe flights. There’s an add-on fee. Now, will you be taking luggage?
CUST: Of course. We’ll be gone ten days.
T.A.: The budget fare allows you to carry on one toiletry bag per person.
CUST: What about our clothes?
T.A.: There’s an extra fee for each suitcase. And with two changes of planes, you’ll be lucky if your clothes end up in your location.
T.A.: But don’t worry. The airline will send them to your hotel when they arrive . . . for a fee.
CUST: Is there any meal service onboard?
T.A.: You can buy crackers from the flight attendants. No peanuts.
CUST: How do I get our boarding passes?
T.A.: Use your phone or print them out. There’s a fee for that too.
CUST: We DO all get seats don’t we?
T.A: For take-offs and landings, yes. But the seats won’t be together.
CUST: What about during the flight?
T.A.: Well, that’s a little bit of a gray area. How do you feel about pushing the beverage cart up and down the aisle?
CUST: You know, this doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.
T.A.: Fun? Oh, sir, fun travel stopped happening about 30 years ago.
CUST: Maybe we’ll just drive.
T.A.: Okay. Just so you know, the average price of gas is $3.30 a gallon, the average hotel room is $168, and the average family of four spends $132 every day on food while on vacation.
CUST: Hmmm. So, you say we have to book this flight right now because we only have five minutes?
T.A.: Yep. Ooops, too late. The price just went up.
©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer