During six plane rides over the last three weeks, I have watched
passengers attempt to cram oversize bags into too-small bins, argue
with flight attendants who wanted to gate-check their bags (for
free) and delay the gate departure for the rest of us.
No matter how irritating all of that might be, as long as
carriers charge ever-rising fees for checked bags, passengers will
continue to complain, argue and be unhappy.
So what are the best ways to avoid checked baggage fees?
1.Fly Southwest or JetBlue. They're the only
carriers that still do not charge for the first checked bag.
Southwest even lets passengers check a second bag each for free,
while JetBlue charges $35 for the second bag.
2. Pack lighter. I know this doesn't work for
everyone (some people are just packaholics) and it really doesn't work for
parents traveling with small kids. Although two adults flying with
three small children would be entitled to carry on five bags, who's
going to pull them all through the airport? But checking five bags
can add $125 each way to travel costs, or $250 to a round-trip family vacation. So, instead try to pack one
or two larger suitcases. It's less to pull through the airport and
will at least reduce checked bag fees. Just be mindful of
overpacking a big bag. Overweight baggage fees can eat up any
savings. All carriers have a section on their website outlining
baggage policies and charges.
3. Consider shipping ahead. Depending on how
much you're taking along, it might be worth a trip to FedEx, UPS or
even the Post Office to send things ahead. It might not save a lot
of money, but it will save the hassle of pulling several bags and
several children through the airport. And it will eliminate
altogether the chances of the airline losing your bags.
4. AARP.com suggests three other ideas for saving
money on checked bag fees. One is to be a frequent flyer, although
I'm sure people who fly more than 25,000 miles a year are light
packers who rarely check a bag. Another suggestion is to book a
hotel that will rebate your checked bag fee. The third is to get an
airline credit card, which allows you to rack up frequent flyer
miles with every purchase and may waive baggage fees if the ticket
is booked with card. Be careful there, however. Unless you're a
heavy packer and realitively frequent flyer, the credit card annual
fees on airline cards can be steep.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.
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