It’s no secret airlines love to work us over for every possible penny. You can take the apathetic approach and just hand over your hard-earned money or choose to do some research so you can afford a couple extra vacation margaritas.
One effective way to decrease travel costs is to avoid those pesky baggage fees. Instead of just packing your suitcase and hoping for the best, there are several ways you can minimize or even eliminate these additional costs. Continue on for an overview on how it’s done…
Your best defense against baggage fees is knowledge and preparation. Costs associated with carry-on and checked bags can vary based on airline, flight destination and other factors. That means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. To make matters worse, it’s often difficult to track down a specific airline’s rules.
You need to familiarize yourself with baggage fees even before booking your flight because they need to be taken into account when comparing fares. For example, a flight on an airline with a higher upfront cost may end up cheaper in the long run depending on its extra fees and your travel plans. If you can’t easily locate an airline’s baggage rules, we’d recommend this guide by airfarewatchdog and iflybags.com to help estimate any additional fees before committing to a specific flight. Irregular items like bicycles may also bring even more fees, but it’s possible to sidestep them if you aren’t afraid to get a little creative.
As a general tip, Southwest allows for 2 free checked bags per person and JetBlue will extend the same benefit for your first bag. The most ideal situation is to travel with just a suitable carry-on and avoid checking bags all together, but obviously that’s not always a feasible option.
Extra fees can add up quickly if your bags are overweight and/or oversized. These costs have gotten so out-of-hand they can easily add several hundred dollars to your trip cost. Again, you need to do your research to make sure you don’t get hit with these exorbitant fees.
Everyone should own a luggage scale. You can buy one for less than $10, which is negligible considering how much it’ll save you in the long run. Use it to pack your bags within an airline’s limits to avoid overage fees. Doing so at home will also help you avoid looking like that lunatic at check-in shifting clothes from one suitcase to another. It’s especially important if your traveling home with lots of souvenirs (or in my case Mickey ears) since you didn’t initially account for that extra weight.
There are a couple of simple ways to lighten your load. First, make sure you pick lightweight luggage. You should also pack your heaviest items in a carry-on or if possible, wear them (think: bulky jackets and boots). Choose versatile clothes to keep your travel wardrobe to a minimum. Packing cubes are another affordable travel must-have so you can properly organize your gear and efficiently utilize all available space.
Some credit cards and frequent flier programs offer significant travel discounts. Make sure you research and take advantage of these benefits. Another over overlooked option is to ship large items home or travel supplies to your hotel.
Bottom line: The more pre-flight preparation you can do, the better chance you’ll have at avoiding or at least minimizing airline baggage fees when traveling.