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10 Ways to Avoid Baggage Fees

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Airline fees can quickly add up. Here’s some tips and tricks for avoiding the pesky charges most airlines apply.

Baggage fees are never welcomed and most of the time unexpected. Airline fees like these can quickly add up and derail the work you put in to find the most cost-conscious flight.

Here are some tips and tricks for avoiding pesky fees, because most airlines charge for checked luggage. In fact, Southwest is the only major airline in the United States to not charge fees to check up to two bags per passenger.

Pack Light

This should be obvious; alas packing less is not as easy as it sounds. We want to feel secure when we’re traveling and be prepared for any situation. So, unless you’re going to the tundra, opt for light clothes. Consider cotton and other lightweight options instead of denim. Look for brands that cater to traveler – Arc’teryx is one apparel brand for men and women designed for travelers and is super lightweight.

Enroll in an Airline Credit Card

One great airline credit card perk is they waive baggage fees if you book your flight with that card. Bonus: if you book your companion’s travel, the airline will usually waive that luggage fee as well. But look into that before booking, since all credit cards have different restrictions in the fine print. There are many airline credit cards available and they all have perks, so it’s important to do your research to find what makes sense for your travel agenda (free bags or more miles?).

Get a Lightweight Suitcase

Your suitcase is added into the final weight of your luggage, something easy to forget. If you’re allowed 50 pounds weight in a checked bag and the bag is already 10 pounds, (no this isn’t a math problem) you will only have 40 pounds left. That’s 20 percent of your luggage allotment already gone! So do your research if you’re in the market to buy a new suitcase. Osprey and Rimowa are two brands boasting lightweight travel baggage.

Multi-Use Items

Why not bring a dress that turns into a beach cover up, that turns into a nightgown? It can be done. Bring a simple black shift dress (or other solid neutral color) or a button-down shirt you can dress up or down – they will appear to be several different outfits but will only take up a small amount of space. There are also many reversible shorts, pants and shirts on the market for travelers. Get creative!

Do Laundry

Doing laundry is a simple solution to having to pack seven of everything for a weeklong trip. While fees for laundry service at a hotel can be high, you can always make a trip to the local laundromat. Hey, you may even meet a local doing their laundry and get some travel tips for the area, like where to get the best tacos. The other option is to stay in a rental or hostel offering washing machines and dryers for guests.

Carry-On Ideas

You may have to pay for your luggage carry-on item on some flights these days, but you still can fly with a backpack, messenger bag or carryall bag at no extra cost. There are restrictions to sizing on some planes and it does have to fit under the seat in front of you. But you’d be surprised at what you can fit into a bag, especially when you’re at the baggage check counter and you need to deduct five pounds from your suitcase. Think about your big-ticket items, like a book, toiletries kit (as long as everything is under 3.4 ounces), or footwear.

Wear Your Heaviest Items on the Plane

When you’re flying from a cold or warm destination to the opposite climate, wear your heaviest items on the plane. You won’t be weighed, so you’ve got that going for you. This means your heaviest shoes (hiking boots and chunky wedges come to mind), parkas or huge winter coats, heavy jewelry and so on. Also, layering your outfit is a good idea – wear your thickest sweater under your jacket, a scarf, you get the idea. Planes are usually cold anyway, so you’ll be warm. Just stuff your coats and layers in the overhead bin.

Buy After You Fly

This is one of my travel commandments for stressing about forgetting something when I’m traveling. Just buy it when you arrive at your destination. But it also makes sense as a way to avoid baggage fees. I’m not saying you should buy your winter coat when you arrive or anything hard to purchase. Things like liquids are one of the heaviest items in luggage and most of the time they’re the easiest things you can find to buy.

Take Time to Pack

Don’t pack at the last minute because you won’t have time to plan your outfits. Give yourself time to pack. Make a packing list you can use every time you travel. Or open your suitcase a week before your flight date and begin throwing things in when you think of them. Dinner, dancing, hiking and swimming? Plan, plan, plan! If you do, there’s no way you can over-pack and get hit with those sneaky baggage fees. Also, consider getting a home luggage scale if you’re a constant over-packer.

Ship It

If you have a few heavy bags, shipping your luggage pre-travel may be a good option for saving money on extra baggage fees. Delivery services like DHL, FedEx and UPS are all options when shipping luggage or larger items. This decision may take a little more effort but in the end, it may be the most economical choice when traveling with a lot of gear or a large family.


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