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10 Ways You Can Save on Airline Checked Bag Fees

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Why is this women so happy? She just saved lots of money on her checked bag fees the next time she flies. She checked out many of the ways that you can either skip baggage checked fees the airlines impose on their passengers, or how she could greatly reduce them, giving her more money to spend on the important things, her vacation.

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In 2017 U.S. flyers spent more than $4.5 billion on baggage fees from the airlines. This suggests that legions of passengers are continuing to shell out hundreds of dollars for optional charges that can be avoided with modest effort.

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Naturally, packing light is one of the best ways to avoid these extra fees. But traveling with the bare minimum isn’t always an option—especially for passengers taking month-long cruises or families that need multiple pieces of luggage. Even those of us who’ve mastered the art of packing light are getting hit with full-size fees. Many of the major carriers have just announced a price hike, except Southwest. You can still “fly two bags FREE.”

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the industry’s barrage of baggage fees, tricks that the airlines probably don’t want you to know about.

Know your airlines baggage policy

Know your airlines baggage policy

Navigating the airlines’ complicated baggage policies is no small undertaking. Baggage fees change constantly, and can vary by airline, destination, date of travel, number of bags, and bag weight and size. Even if you’ve secured an affordable plane ticket, you could end up paying a lot more than you bargained for when flying on a carrier that charges baggage fees.

Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Join a Frequent Flyer Program


Joining a frequent flyer program is easy. Simply visit the website of the airline whose program you choose to join and look for links to its mileage program. There’s no charge to enroll. And no, you are not required to carry a credit card affiliated with the program. Immediately after registering, you will be issued a unique membership number, both on the website and in a follow-up e-mail (just be sure to provide your e-mail address during registration). Make note of the number; it’s the key to program participation.

The question then becomes, in which program should I consolidate my mileage earning? The answer depends on where you will be traveling, which airline you’ll be flying, which hotels you’ll patronize, and so on.The best program for you is the one that awards miles for the trips you make most often, using the airlines and hotels you prefer to use and allowing you to earn free tickets (and possibly elite status and the associated perks) as quickly and conveniently as possible.


Apply for an Airline Credit Card

Apply for an Airline Credit Card

Airline credit cards are ideal for those who regularly travel with a particular airline, or who could choose to do so. Cards from major airlines typically charge an annual fee, with $95 a common amount. Whether you should get one comes down to whether the value you get from the card exceeds the fee.Several major airlines waive checked bag fees for cardholders.

These cards earn frequent flyer miles every time you use them — usually one mile per dollar, with extra miles for purchases from the airline itself or with partners. You redeem your miles for free or discounted flights, although award flights may be subject to blackout dates and restrictions on destinations. Airline cards also offer perks like free checked bags and priority boarding. Depending on how you redeem rewards, you might get more value than with a general travel card.

For example, most Delta SkyMiles cardholders can check one bag for free on Delta flights, and United MileagePlus Club cardholders can check two bags for free.

Use a Luggage Scale Before & During Your Trips

Use a Luggage Scale Before & During Your Trips

Overweight baggage fees can be much more expensive than checked bag fees. Although you may manage to heroically stuff two weeks’ worth of clothes into a single checked bag, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars per swollen, overweight piece of luggage. Purchase a small luggage scale and pack it with you when you travel. If your bag is just under the weight limit on your outgoing flight, extras you pick up along your trip, from souvenirs to soggy raincoats, could add some serious heft on the way home. Avoid overweight baggage fees by weighing your luggage each time you fly, including before your return flight. Is your luggage too heavy for the flight back? Stuff some things into your travel partner’s suitcase or ship them home.

Ship your bags to your destination

Ship your bags to your destination

At first glance, shipping one’s bags may sound like a prohibitively expensive prospect. But take another look at your airline’s baggage policies and the fees the airlines are now charging, and suddenly standard delivery services and even luggage shipping companies don’t sound like such a bad idea. How much does shipping luggage cost? Prices charged by standard delivery services like FedEx, UPS and USPS vary based on size and weight of bags (luggage shipping companies such as Luggage Forward and Luggage Concierge tend to be slightly more expensive). FedEx charges $47 to send a 40-pound suitcase from New York to Chicago in two business days. But….there’s no need to wait in lines at the check-in desk and baggage carousel when sending luggage through the mail.

Upgrade your luggage

Upgrade your luggage


If you have not done this in years, you may be surprised as to how lightweight the newer models of luggage are these days. Thanks to high-tech materials like ballistic nylon and polycarbonate, it’s not difficult to find full-size suitcases weighing less than 10 pounds or less. The lighter your actual carrying case can be, the more you can pack into it and still maintain the airline weight limits. Many of the new suitcases offer more room with lighter outer casings, so you can actually pack more “stuff” than older suitcases that tended to have more mass weight than newer models.

Split your packing

Split your packing


Rather than pack all your clothes into 1 or 2 large checked bags, think about using one checked bag and one carry-on bag. Most airlines allow you to bring onboard a carry-on bag and one personal item. By using a carry-on luggage, you can save yourself lots of dollars and allow you to carry more clothes on longer trips.

Think about international travel

Think about international travel


Most domestic airlines’ checked bag weight limit is 50 pounds. But when you fly internationally, that weight now goes down to 40 pounds per bag. It’s a big and expensive difference you need to keep in mind when traveling. And let me tell you first-hand, the international airlines are VERY strict with this policy.

Fly Southwest

Fly Southwest

You can check two bags FREE and they also give you lots of snacks for your trip, free of charge, of course. Southwest, like all of the other lines, has a frequent flyer program and credit card, so you can provide yourself with additional savings over the years of travel. Southwest indicates that they have no plans in the future to change this policy.

Upgrade yourself

Upgrade yourself


First-class travelers rarely pay any bag fees. And while you may not want to spend an extra $800 to get a first-class ticket, sometimes you can get an upgrade the day of for a much lower fee. Delta, for example, sometimes offers coach passengers a chance to upgrade for $90 at check-in. Since an overweight bag weighing 50 to 70 pounds can run you as much as $90, you may as well take the upgrade. You’ll end up spending the money anyway, and this way you’ll get the comfort and luxury at the same time it. Just make sure that your airline offers free bags for first class passengers before you commit to spending.

So consider trying to implement some of these tips so that you don’t get hit with extra charges you were not counting on for your trip. Save that money so you can spend it on your trip, not for your trip.