How to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees

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It was estimated that in 2010 over $9 billion was spent on airline baggage fees (and other related charges) by U.S. passengers.

This is an astounding figure, yet bizarrely airline baggage fees are something that can easily be reduced (or avoided altogether) if you know how.

Most additional baggage fees are incurred because a passenger’s luggage is too heavy, so packing light seems to be the obvious answer here. But what is packing light (and only packing the bare minimum) isn’t an option for you? Are you forced to admit defeat and pay the hefty charges? Of course not!

Here are a few tricks you can use to reduce (and eliminate) airline baggage fees:

Do Your Homework

Stuffing a suitcaseEvery airline is different, and every airline has their own baggage policy and rules about baggage fees.

In addition to this, these policies can often change fairly regularly and may differ depending on the day you’re traveling and where you’re traveling too (usually popular flights will have stricter baggage policies).

Because of this, it’s a good idea to investigate which airlines will give you the cheapest flights (by checking on or, then researching those airlines to find out their baggage policies before making your booking.

TripAdvisor’s site is great because it actually allows you to estimate how much your baggage fees will be based on how many you’re taking.

Join a Frequent Flier Scheme

By joining a frequent flyer program you’ll often be given several perks; such as discounts and waivers on checked baggage fees.

The easiest way to join and to get ‘elite status’ (which offers you more perks) is by getting an airline credit card. Note that some credit cards may charge annual fees, so watch out for those.

Weigh Your Bags Beforehand

There’s nothing worse than getting to the airport and finding out your bags have been deemed ‘too heavy’, exceeding the weight limit for checked baggage will incur a fee.

How can you make sure you avoid this? Find out what the airline’s maximum weight allowance is, purchase a small weighing scale and weigh your bags before you leave. Try to keep your bags as far under the maximum weight as possible so that you can pick up a few souvenirs along the way and not get charged on the way home.

Buy Lighter Luggage

Light bagIf you’re traveling with suitcases (as opposed to a backpack), one way to reduce the weight of your luggage is to buy lighter suitcases (made from lighter materials such as polycarbonate).

It’s perfectly feasible to find a 30 inch suitcase that weighs less than 10 pounds.

Although lightweight luggage made from high-tech materials will cost you considerably more than ‘regular’ suitcases, after a few flights (and not having to pay excessive baggage fees) they’ll surely pay for themselves.

Ship Your Bags

One way of avoiding airline baggage fees (that most people never consider) is to ship your luggage instead of taking it on the plane with you.

Although this might sound like it’s not going to work out any cheaper, if you consider that some airlines will quite happily charge you $50 for checking your bags ($25 each way).

Obviously shipping with companies such as FedEx and UPS is a different ballgame (as they charge based on size and weight), but it’s definitely something to consider.

Another advantage of doing things this way is that you won’t have to wait in queues to check your bags in at the airport and you won’t have to wait at the baggage carousel at the other end.

Travel by Coach/Train Instead

This might sound like a bit of a silly idea, but why not avoid baggage fees altogether by traveling by train or coach instead (providing you have the time)?

Traveling by coach admittedly isn’t great (as it’s just as uncomfortable as a plane but a lot slower), but long train rides can actually be pretty enjoyable, scenic and relaxing.

Related posts:

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  2. Airline Legroom Comparison (for Economy Class)
  3. Booking Airline Tickets in Advance Vs Buying As You Go
  4. 6 of the Biggest Airline Myths Debunked

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