The Golden Age of discount air travel is long behind us. Unfortunately, that’s meant that airlines have had to get more clever (read: sneaky) about their advertised “low” fares. This often means nickel-and-diming passengers to an almost appalling level with hidden charges. Here are five ways to avoid today’s sky-high airline baggage fees:
Know Your Airline’s Policies
Fully understanding airline policies can seem to require a contract law degree. While you needn’t be overly thorough, a quick online search will highlight pertinent fees. Some airlines are particularly egregious with their hidden costs. Low-budget carriers Spirit and Ryanair, for example, offer seemingly dirt-cheap fares. However, both charge additional fees – starting at $25 USD each way — even for carry-on baggage.
Join a Frequent Flyer Program
It’s easy to assume that you don’t travel enough to bother with frequent flyer programs. However, they’re free and don’t require traveling as much as you might think to start reaping the rewards. Even travelers who take a few vacations a year can benefit from base reward levels with perks like free checked baggage.
Score an Airline Credit Card
If you can’t wait to accumulate enough miles for the above benefits, apply for an airline credit card instead. Almost every brand name airline offers one and most include a long list of travel-related perks. The Delta SkyMiles card, for example, provides for one free checked bag, while United MileagePlus Club card members can check two bags for free. Keep an eye out for special offers on these cards to avoid the typical annual fees.
Buy a Luggage Scale
Even seasoned travelers underestimate — sometimes grossly — just how much their luggage weighs. Buy a luggage scale or use any standard bathroom scale to calculate the weight of your bags before you arrive at the airport. Sometimes removing an extra pair of shoes or a backup power cord can mean the difference between paying for overweight baggage or not.
Scrap Your Old, Bulky Luggage
High-tech materials have allowed manufacturers to cut luggage weight in half. Ditching an old, 15-pound canvas suitcase for a seven-pound spinner could enable you to pack 20% or more gear, clothing, and essentials. For solid and affordable options, eBags is a great place to start. If money is no object, however, Rimowa’s Salsa Air is a beautiful line of featherweight, polycarbonate solutions available in six sizes and a variety of colors.