Rookie Travel Tip: How to Avoid Baggage Fees When You Fly

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No matter where you’re traveling, space has always been a coveted commodity aboard an airplane. Recently, however, its our bags and not our bodies that are feeling the squeeze. Over the last few years, as most carriers began to charge for even one checked bag, passengers suddenly found themselves fighting (sometimes literally) for an overhead bin for their precariously overpacked carry-on. Fees for a checked bag usually range from $25 to as much as $50, but there can also be complicated pricing structures or additional fees depending on whether you book your suitcase online or at the airport.

But before you began to entertain the notion of abandoning air flight altogether, here are some ways to avoid a baggage fee.

Choose An Airline That Doesn’t Charge

Another way to avoid the fee is to simply choose an airline that doesn’t charged for a first checked bag. Presently, Air Canada, WestJet (on any fares but Econo), JetBlue (Blue Plus or Blue Flex) and Southwest (your first two bags are free on almost any fare) allow you to check in a bag or two for free.

Join a Frequent Flyer Program

One of the easiest ways to forgo a baggage fee is by joining an airline’s loyalty program. Many programs allow you (and several travel companions) a fee exemption for the first checked bag. But there is a caveat: you’ll need to reach elite status before the free baggage benefit kicks in and you may have to put in a lot of miles (and pay for a lot of checked baggage) before you do.

Become a Packing Prodigy

Pack light. Challenge yourself to do away with a checked bag and rely only on what you can skillfully stow in your carry-on suitcase. There are lots of websites and YouTube videos devoted to showing your how to lighten up your luggage. By traveling with a carry-on only, you’ll have the added benefit of never having to deal with lost luggage. Realistically, this option may not work so well if you’re going away for more than a week.

 

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Get An Airline-Branded Credit Card

These carrier credit cards will offer you (and often a number of your flying companions) your first checked bag free on domestic flights. They also have other travel-related perks, like discounts for in-flight food and beverage purchases and airport lounge access.

For example, with the Citi /AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines flights for you and up to four companions. With the Gold Delta SkyMiles from American Express you and up to eight friends traveling on the same flight get a free checked bag, as well as priority boarding. Though these prestige cards always have annual fees, they are often waived in the first year or can often be offset with the card’s other valuable money-saving perks (like free checked bags).

There are also numerous credit cards that don’t have a direct airline affiliation but do feature travel related perks that can help you offset baggage fees. For example, the Citi Prestige Card features a $250 credit for flight-related expenses and the Barclaycard Arrival and Arrival Plus let cardholders redeem miles for statement credits for charged travel expenses.

 

Finding a way to forego your checked bag fee can help make the skies seem just a little bit friendlier, especially during the cash-strapped holiday season.

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