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Updated: 3 Mar 2020

Top five holiday rip-offs revealed

Big mistakes that will blow your travel budget (and how to avoid them)

A trip abroad is rarely cheap, but a lack of planning can swallow up even more of your hard-earned cash.

We reveal some of the travel rip-offs our investigations have uncovered, such as why buying car hire insurance from your car hire firm is 12 times more expensive and what you need to know about airport parking.

Never pay over the odds with our expert advice on everything from travel scams to misleading sales tricks. Sign up to Which? Travel.

1. Flight extras

So you think you've locked in a great air fare. But tick the box for car hire and travel insurance, and that price will soar by the time you reach the checkout.

It may be convenient to add extra services with the click of a button, but it's likely to cost you.

Some 50% of you complained that airline add-ons are overpriced and our research proves you have a point.

In one case, easyJet's car hire option in Malaga was £73 more than a deal we found independently, with a broker we rate more highly.

And some of the airline's insurance policies weren't just pricier, they failed to provide what we believe is an adequate level of cover.

Save your pennies by scrolling past the extras and shopping around for your own deals.

2. Airport parking

Never just drive to the airport without doing your research first.

Not only may you struggle to find a parking space, but you'll be charged considerably more.

Our research found you could pay a whopping 367% extra at Luton Airport if you just turn up compared with booking ahead.

Some car parks allow you to pre-book as little as two hours in advance. Price comparison sites such as holidayextras.co.uk or airport-parking-shop.co.uk are a good place to start hunting for deals.

For more money-saving tips, see six ways to save on airport parking.

3. Travel money at the airport

Most of us know that changing money at the airport is a rip-off, but probably don't realise how much of a rip-off.

The difference between buying u20ac500 here compared with at the best high street providers can be as much as £70 or more.

John Lewis and the Post Office typically top our regular comparisons of the high street locations with the best rates, although it's almost always cheaper to order your money in advance.

Get the best deal every time with our guide to buying travel money online.

4. Car hire insurance

Don't be talked into panic-buying excess insurance (or super-collision-damage waiver) at the kiosk.

Which? Travel research found car hire companies, such as Avis, Europcar and Enterprise, charging an average of £110 for a week's insurance in Spain.

But the average price from the best online excess insurance companies for the same period was just £21.

Not only were third-party providers much cheaper, but the cover offered was far better. Which? insurance experts gave the top eight online insurance providers a policy score ranging from 70% to 87%.

If you go it alone, your hire company will insist on a deposit and you'll have to pay the excess if you have an accident - but you can claim this back from your insurer later.

Compare the best and worst car hire insurance providers

5. Cruise excursions

Even if you've bagged a bargain all-inclusive voyage, your bank balance could still take an unexpected battering.

Cruise lines will try to flog you their own shore excursions - and you can expect a substantial mark-up. Instead, do a bit of research beforehand to arrange your own.

Cruisingexcursions.com specialises in shore excursions and promises to get you back on board in time, or to the next port if there's an unavoidable delay.

We found a day trip to Pompeii, Sorrento and Positano from £60 per person on its website - almost half the price of a Pompeii and Sorrento tour with Celebrity Cruises (from £110pp).

If you've bonded with fellow passengers, you can make further savings by booking as a small group.

Find out which cruise companies scored highest for value for money in the results of our best and worst cruise lines.