Skip to Main Content
The ExpoPulp
Trade Show Booth Rentals & Displays | ExpoMarketing / Blog / The 4 Most Annoying Hidden Trade Show Costs

The 4 Most Annoying Hidden Trade Show Costs

As beneficial as exhibiting can be for a company, it no doubt presents risk – without proper planning and exhibiting, losses can easily trump gains and leave exhibitors disheartened with expos as a whole. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. With appropriate financial planning, exhibiting at a trade show proves to significantly decrease stress, and increase company returns. A huge factor in this planning involves hidden trade show costs. Recognizing what’s in store for your wallet is the key to manipulating the spending and sticking to a budget.

Shipping costs are not set in stone. Let me repeat that. Shipping costs are NOT set in stone. It is impossible to predict the exact shipment weight in the infancy stages of booth construction. Additionally, certain charges, such as fuel surcharges and truck driver wait time, can quickly add up and are non-negotiable. Fuel surcharges are calculated on the date of shipment based on the cost of fuel. The truck driver wait time is the charge per hour of waiting in line at the show floor. There are dozens of other companies trying to get their shipments into their booth space, and the wait time is significant enough that it can add hundreds of dollars to the exhibitor’s fees. Keep this in mind and give your shipping budget a good amount of cushion because you will receive an adjusted final bill reflecting these charges.

Being aware of critical deadline dates is imperative to an exhibitor’s success. Not only are these deadlines important for planning, often, late fees are incurred by exhibitors who fail to meet deadlines. This means, you must make sure you are aware of your forms and service payment deadline dates because missing them can increase your total blll by 30% or more due to penalties.

Another reason knowing your deadlines is so incredibly important is because of the effect on labor price. Knowing the exact times labor is needed is essential, because labor charges are incurred not by the hours of work, but by the hours of being present. Therefore, if you request a labor company to arrive to the show floor at 8 AM, but your booth space isn’t available for move-in until 3 PM, you will incur labor fees not only for work after 3 PM, but also from 8 AM to 3 PM. That’s 7 hours of stand-by for the same price as 7 hours of labor. Be precise in your planning to keep labor fees sharp and accurate.

Two of the most common questions asked by exhibitors is, “What is drayage, and why is it so expensive?!” Drayage is, essentially, the material handling costs of your shipments.

It is the union fee assessed for moving your booth shipments from the truck to the booth space. It’s completely based on the weight of your shipment and how many pieces there are.  It’s a non-negotiable union fee, so don’t even try to get around it.  Yes, it is an expensive fee to leave from your budget- time after time, exhibitors are unaware of the mandatory drayage fees, sometimes thousands or moret. Contacting the show to learn more about drayage costs is important when formulating a budget. Again, with the fluctuation in shipping costs comes the fluctuation in drayage costs, but having a ball-park number is much better than having no number. Learning how to manage drayage costs is important to saving as much money as possible.

*NOTE: There is a minimum drayage fee per shipment piece, regardless of the shipment’s weight. Under this non-negotiable policy, hypothetically, you could ship a feather to the show site and be required to pay that minumum cost. Consolidating shipments reduces drayage prices significantly!


Hidden trade show costs often leave exhibitors frustrated and cheated. Exhibiting your company’s booth at a trade show is meant to be rewarding and profitable – NOT discouraging and stressful. Make the most of your next show with a realistic custom trade show display budget by identifying fickle hidden costs.


Trade Show Budget Worksheet

Skip to content