Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Simple Guide On How To Avoid Airline Baggage Fees

Photo by Rui Silvestre on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the rising cost of airfares and how to find cheap airline tickets. Now it is time to address the airlines’ biggest cash cow: baggage fees. 

Baggage fees have become the bread and butter of airlines all over the world. Not so long ago, only low-cost carriers like Spirit or AirAsia imposed bag fees. These days major airlines charge to transport your luggage on many routes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, airlines collected $4.6 billion for baggage in 2017. That's right, billion

Checked bag fees run from around $25 to $50 per bag. Some airlines also charge for carry-on luggage. Plus, there are additional fees for overweight or oversize gear. These numbers add up quickly and can leave a humongous dent in travelers' wallets.

Budget travelers, families, and anyone else who is trying to make a dollar holler ask themselves one question every time they fly: How can I reduce or avoid airline baggage fees?

Here is my simple guide on how to avoid airline baggage fees and keep hard-earned cash in your pocket.

Read About Fees Before Buying A Ticket

Even before purchasing a plane ticket, you should read the airline’s baggage policy. A good deal can easily be negated by fees. You must factor in baggage fees to know the true cost of the flight.

Take a look at this example. It appears that Frontier has the cheapest flight from New York to Denver. At $221, it is $42 less than the next cheapest flight on Delta. However, when I applied the Bags filter on Google Flights the gap decreases. Frontier is only cheaper by $7.

Not so great of a deal now, especially considering some of the other fees that a budget airline like Frontier may charge. Understanding the bag fees before purchasing the ticket can ensure that a good deal is, in fact, a good deal. 

Invest In Good Carry-On Gear

Instead of giving money to the airlines to check your bag, join Team Carry-On and purchase travel gear that will eliminate the need to pay the fee.

Here is what to buy:

Lightweight Carry-On Bag
There are so many bags out there at every price point. Most people are familiar with rolling suitcases, but a backpack style may be more suitable if you travel to remote locations.

If you decide to go with a traditional suitcase, look for one with 4-wheels, lightweight (< 7 lbs), and no larger than 22 x 14 x 9. These dimensions will keep you within carry-on limits for most airlines, but there is no standard across carriers. Check with the airlines that you fly most frequently and confirm these dimensions fall within their guidelines.

Packing Cubes
These things changed my life. Packing cubes allow you to pack more into less space. They compress and organize all of your clothes and accessories. I use Uncharted Ultra-Light Packing Cubes and recommend purchasing the 3-piece set. It contains a small, medium, and large cube. Try them. They are an immense help when it comes to maximizing space in smaller luggage.

Luggage Scale
There is nothing more painful than discovering your bag is overweight at the check-in counter or worse, the gate. You will either have to reconfigure your belongings in front of total strangers or pay a fee to check the bag. Luggage scales are an inexpensive way to avoid the hassle and potential embarrassment. 

Underseat Carry-On
If you fly often with low-cost carriers that charge for checked and carry-on luggage, like Spirit and Frontier, you may want to consider an underseat carry-on. These bags are small enough to be considered a personal item which means you avoid all baggage fees. Some “underseaters” have wheels and handles and are easy to maneuver. As with a regular-sized carry-on bag, check the required dimensions with the airline to ensure the bag will fit under the seat.

I use Vera Bradley's Iconic Compact Weekender as my underseater. The Vera Bradley website says it will hold 1-2 outfits. However, by using packing cubes, I fit enough clothes for a 5-day trip to Jamaica.

Learn How to Pack Light

Some people struggle with the idea of packing light, but it is necessary if you want to avoid checking a bag. The difficult part is planning out what you want to bring on the trip. I am a light packer, but even I tend to bring an extra pair of shoes or a jacket, just in case. It takes some work but not shelling out an extra $50 - $100 is excellent motivation.

Here are some tips for packing light:

Roll Your Clothes
The fold vs. roll debate flares up in travel groups from time to time. I've done it both ways and in my opinion, rolling maximizes space. Check out the Ranger Roll series by armygringo on YouTube to learn how to roll and pack clothes for travel.

Pack Interchangeable Pieces
Mix and match pieces cut down on the number of clothes to pack. My rule is to pack clothes that can be worn at least twice during the trip. I like jackets and jeans because they are durable and you can change out tops to make a new outfit. I also limit myself to two pairs of shoes, one of which has to be worn on the plane.

Wear Bulkier Items On The Plane
If you have to bring your favorite pair of calf boots, that's fine but wear them on the plane to save space in your bag. If the weather is cool, dress in layers. Airlines have not restricted what you can wear on to the plane (not yet anyway).

Wash Clothes During The Trip
If you're gone for more than 5 days, you will most likely have to do laundry. When booking accommodations, check for a laundry on the premise or nearby.

Photo by yousef alfuhigi on Unsplash

Baggage fees are the new world order for the airline industry. Luckily, for budget travelers, there are several options to reduce or eliminate these fees. Try them out and use the extra cash to fund more of your travel goals. 


  1. Carry on luggage with wheels is well suited for use on any type of travel. lightweight carry on luggage

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