Traveling is expensive enough. Some airlines will lure customers in with low flight prices but those quickly stack up when you add on baggage and other fees. Most airlines have relatively similar rules when it comes to baggage fees but they can vary a bit so it's always worth checking, especially if your flight is international. Here are some handy tips and tricks to help you avoid back breaking baggage fees.
Know the rules
Usually, airlines restrict bags based on two measurables, weight and size. If you are over on either of those you're going to have to pay extra. Luggage creating companies know these restrictions and do a good job of making their bags just as big as they can be without going over but airline sizing rules have changed over time so your luggage might be just an inch too big in one direction. To make sure you aren't left with a bill at the gate you should go online before you pack for your flight and check their restrictions.
When it comes to size, make sure to measure your luggage after it's full rather than beforehand. You can pack a lot into bags and if you're traveling by car or train it's fine if they're stuff but it might bump you over a size threshold for plane travel.
Know your airline
A lot of tips to avoid baggage fees are about reducing your bag's weight or keeping it under size, rightfully so as these are a big factor, but some airlines charge more for bags regardless of weight. Before you book a flight you can look up the baggage fees for each airline and compare their fees in regards to how many bags you want to travel with. Southwest is the best airline when it comes to not paying baggage fees. They allow two checked bags at no additional cost as long as they're within weight and size restrictions.
Watch your bag's weight
Even bags that are within size restrictions can easily be over weight restrictions. Airlines often charge massive fees for bags that are just a pound over their weight limits. It's easy to pack your bags and not think about weight, after all you are probably more worried about having what you need on your trip, but your trip will start off on a sour note if the money you were hoping to spend on leisure is spent on your bag being overweight.
To watch your bag's weight, you'll need some sort of scale. You can use a bathroom scale but that can be awkward. For only $7.95 you can pick up the Etekcity Digital Hanging Luggage Scale that will give you the exact weight of your bag and is small enough, and notably light enough at just 2 oz., to bring with you so you can reweigh your bags before your return trip. It hooks onto your luggage handle and can be used very quickly on multiple bags.
One of the biggest culprits to your bag being overweight may be your bag itself. You want to fill your luggage with as much of your stuff as you can, not be restricted by a heavy bag. The brand it luggage makes a 31.5" tall bag that comes in at just 5.29lbs. Its total dimensions are 60" which is under the limit for multiple major airlines including United, American, and Delta.
Stuff your carry-on bags
While airlines are very strict with weighing bags that are checked on planes, they are surprisingly loose with weight for carry-on baggage. This is great for fliers because they mostly just care about getting their items to their destination. Most airlines allow you to have a carry-on piece of luggage and a personal item. Make sure to maximize these bags' usefulness. Forego smaller purses or bags and replace them with a backpack as close to the personal item size limit as possible.
Use a similar strategy with your carry-on by getting a bag that can fit in the overhead compartment but is as big as possible. Put your heavy items in these bags while traveling and put lighter weight items in your checked bags. A word of caution, remember that carry-on bags have different restrictions when it comes to which contents you can travel with than checked bags. If you have to take liquids you will have to check them.
Having heavy carry-on luggage will make your actual trip a little bit more labor intensive but can save you money and allow you to have more of the items you want on your trip.
Use frequent flier or upgrade to higher than economy class
Airlines want to reduce the weight of passengers' bags but they'll be raising the maximum weight for people that have upgraded to non-economy class or are members of their frequent flier programs. For example, United's maximum weight per bag is 50 lbs. for economy class but 70 lbs. for business, first, Polaris first, and Polaris Business class. They have the same difference when it comes to Premier Silver members (50 lbs. maximum) and Gold, Platinum, Premier 1K and Star Alliance Gold (70 lbs. maximum).
Additionally, even checked bags that are under the weight limit cost money on certain airlines.
If you have to bring everything in your bag and it's a little heavier why not fly in more comfort by upgrading to business class rather than just paying for your bag being too heavy?
Additionally, even checked bags that are under the weight limit cost money on certain airlines. These airlines will often include one, two, or even three checked bags as part of a class upgrade or premium program. Again, if you're spending money anyway, you might as well fly in style.
Buy items when you arrive or don't bring them at all
As odd as it may sound, sometimes it's cheaper just to buy items when you arrive at a destination. This is especially true for toiletries. You can't bring liquids in large containers in your carry-on bags and they're very dense items so a relatively small bottle can add a lot of weight to your bag. Lighter items are fine but especially if you are on a long trip it's worth just grabbing certain items after you arrive at the destination. When traveling you'll also need to ask yourself if you really need to bring something at all. If you're able to do laundry on your trip it might be worth packing fewer clothes.
Plan for if you're bringing things back
When you go on trips you often bring back souvenirs or gifts. If you go home for the holidays or go on a trip and expect to come back with items that you didn't leave with then you need to plan for their weight. It's tempting to get your bags to 49.9 lbs. on your way out but you'll be stuck with a tough decision on the way back when you have to leave something behind.
A related gift delivery tip, if you're flying somewhere and giving someone a gift consider having the company ship the item to their address instead, you can usually even have it wrapped. Why bring it with you when a gift can meet you at your destination pre-wrapped and ready to share?
Wrapping things up
Flying can be expensive regardless of how many money saving tips and tricks you use but saving money on each back by avoiding baggage fees adds up. If you're traveling with a family the difference in paying extra baggage fees for each person could be the cost of an entire ticket.
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