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No one likes to get nickeled and dimed and the airlines, especially low fare carriers, have made quite a business doing it. And nickels and dimes are an understatement. As reported by USA Today, the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that “U.S. airlines collected $5.8 billion in baggage fees in 2019, nearly a billion dollars more than in 2018.” Of course, those numbers are down due to the pandemic but regardless, no one wants to pay those pesky fees. Savvy travelers know how to avoid them altogether. Here’s how:
1. Research Baggage Fees
No matter which carrier you are flying, always research the luggage fees with the fare you purchased. And believe it or not, you should not only research the fees for checked baggage but for carry-on as well, as sometimes, basic economy fares don’t even allow passengers to use the overhead bin space and will charge you up to $65 for bringing a bag onto the plane – not checking it. Many international airlines are very strict and will even weigh carry-on bags so know how much you’re allowed to bring, the dimensions of the bags allowed and the weight limit.
RELATED: How to Save Money With a Secret Third Carry-On
2. Buy a Luggage Scale
If you don’t have access to a scale at home or when you’re on the road, then buy a portable luggage scale so you can quickly and easily find out how much your bags weigh and avoid any surprises at the airport. If you do have a scale at home, just weigh yourself while holding your bag, then again without the bag and subtract your solo weight. Buy a portable luggage scale here.
3. Fly Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines gives customers two free bags, up to 50 lbs each. Just keep in mind that they sometimes have higher fares because they automatically build those fees into their fares.
4. Get a Scottevest
I’m a big fan of Scottevest vests and jackets and have written about them many times before, They act as a secret third carry-on. These garments have 20+ pockets and some of them are large enough to fit your laptop. Not only does that mean you can pack less to avoid baggage fees, but they also keep your valuables safe and secure on your person while you’re out and about. Full disclosure: Scottevest is a past JohnnyJet.com sponsor but I continue to recommend them because they are a quality product, perfect for travelers.
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5. Use a Fishing Vest
If you don’t want to splurge for a Scottevest and aren’t too concerned about style, then you could consider a less expensive fishing vest as an alternative. They too have multiple pockets and will allow you to pack more items on your person and stay organized.
6. Book First or Business
Believe it or not, it’s sometimes actually cheaper to fly First or Business Class when you factor in all the other costs like baggage fees, seat selection and food that are added on to economy fares.
7. Try the Neck Pillow Trick
One trick some budget travelers use to bring more stuff onto the airplane with them is replacing the interior foam of a neck pillow with their clothes. Some roll up their underwear, t-shirts or even squeeze a couple of sweatshirts in there – perfect for when you’re on a chilly aircraft as well.
8. Earn Elite Status
If you fly often, stick to one airline and sign up to their frequent flier program so you can earn elite status. Even low-level status enables customers to get free checked baggage.
9. Get an Airline Credit Card
If you fly a particular airline several times a year but don’t spend enough money to earn elite status, then look into getting an airline credit card that offers free checked baggage for you and everyone on your reservation.
10. Don’t Put Everyone’s Luggage on One Reservation
If you’re flying with a loved one and you’re each checking a bag, don’t check both bags under one name. I know it’s easier, but it will cost you more. For example, my wife, kids and I were flying from Honolulu to Los Angeles in March and the first checked bag was $30. The second bag was $40. So, we saved $10 by each checking a bag instead of putting them both on the same reservation.
11. Travel with Carry-On Only
Duh! But seriously, Americans are notorious for overpacking … You should have seen the size of my bag on my first trip to Europe! Big mistake and I learned the hard way. You really don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. In fact, here are 10 things you don’t need to pack so that you can travel much lighter.
12. Use Compression Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are a great way to stay organized when you travel but compression packing cubes will also allow you to fit more stuff into your suitcase without taking up much more space. Another benefit is that if you’re traveling with more than one suitcase and one suitcase is over weight, you can simply remove a packing cube from one bag and transfer it to another instead of trying to take individual items out of your bag. Buy compression packing cubes here.