There’s nothing quite like pre-vacation excitement. Packing a suitcase with the suit you’ll swim in, the shoes you’ll wear when wandering through museums, the dress you’ll wear on that special dinner…It’s just a preview of all the fun that’s ahead of you. But knowing the potential budget-busting baggage fees attached to that suitcase? What a buzz kill!
Shaving the cost of baggage fees is one of the easiest ways to significantly cut the overall cost of air travel.While it might feel like those fees are inevitable, the truth is there are plenty of ways to avoid them!
1. Pick the Right Airline
If you plan to travel with a significant amount of baggage, choosing the right airline is vital. When it comes to avoiding airline baggage fees, it’s important to know your airline’s policy. Check out Trip Advisor's handy flight search tool to compare airline baggage policies. Baggage fees are listed next to the price of each flight. Airlines such as Jet Blue allow passengers to check one bag for free, Southwest allows two, while Spirit Airlines charges a fee for any and all carry-on bags.
2. Check Baggage Online
Most airlines have a surcharge for the bags checked at the counter. By giving them a heads up of your bags prior to booking, many airlines waive this fee. Opt to check your baggage online and address any fees then, and avoid as much as $10 a bag in surcharges!
3. Sign up for an Airline Credit Card
Even if you prefer to use cash over credit, keeping an airline brand credit card on hand can be a money saver. Travelers carrying an airline credit card can often avoid checked baggage fees. For example, travelers who have Delta Skymiles cards are permitted to check their first bags for free, (for up to nine people in each reservation) on every flight. Delta typically charges $25 for the first checked bag on domestic flights. If you frequently fly with one carrier, opening up a credit card with that airline might be a smart choice. Just be sure to read the fine print. If your credit card has a yearly fee, make sure it is less than what you can save in a year's time on checked baggage fees.
4. Know Your Weight
I know scales are scary! But when packing that bag to the brim, it is important to know if bag weight is going to be an issue. If your bag is overweight, you could find yourself facing extra expenses. For example, on domestic flights American Airlines charges $100 per bag weighing 51 to 70 pounds and $200 per bag weighing 70 to 100 pounds. And that’s on top of the base price for checked bags, which starts at $25! So how do you play it safe? Make sure you know how much your suitcase weighs before you get to the airport. Keeping it under 50 pounds is the most economical way to pack.
5. Let the Kids Pack (and Carry) a Bag
While I am not suggesting you break child labor laws, I am suggesting you let the little ones carry their own bags. Many parents don’t want to burden their kids with the responsibility of having to drag a heavy suitcase through the airport. However, if you can give your child a small age-appropriate piece of luggage to bring on the plane, you’ll have more room in your checked bags. As long as they are a paid ticket holder, they are entitled to the same carry-on privileges as adults. There are many tot-friendly suitcases that can help you as well as them get this job done. "The Trunki" is a great child-friendly luggage piece that also doubles as a ride-on toy, and they can be found on Amazon for under $27.
6. Start Seeing Double
Make your gear serve double duty as storage in addition to their original function. When carrying on a stroller, pack the bottom carrier with diapers and wipes. Medical devices and car seats can also be checked for free, and if they have storage space, load them up! When carrying on one free personal item (for women this typically is a purse, for men a satchel or briefcase), try to fit in a simple change of clothes or some toiletries. Stuff small items into an eye glass case, flat items into a computer case, etc. I have even known travelers who prefer to wear pocketed vests in order to stash their smaller belongings. Every little pocket helps!
7. Know Security Regulations
In your dash to save cash, you might not know that some money saving techniques can be downright illegal. Know the regulations regarding carry-ons and all other safety rules before flying. For example, never ask another passenger to carry on an item for you (this means passengers that are not part of your traveling party).