10 Tips to Save on Baggage Fees

Photo (cc) by InSapphoWeTrust

When Fox News recently reported that United Airlines was going to raise bag fees to $100 on many international flights, it advised readers to “seriously consider packing light. ”

You don’t say!

But what if you actually need to carry luggage with you? Or you just want to have clean clothes on a longer trip? Avoiding baggage fees isn’t just a hobby of mine. It’s an obsession – and I don’t consider “pack light” to be useful advice. Here’s what I do…

1. Pick the right airline

If my family of three traveled on United Airlines, we’d be charged $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second. But fly Southwest and each of us get two 50-pound bags for free. If we each had two bags, the difference on a round-trip flight would be $360. JetBlue also allows one bag free. Frontier allows a bicycle as a standard checked bag, avoiding Delta’s $150 charge each way.

2. Get an airline credit card

Delta, United, and American all offer credit cards that include checked-bag fee waivers for cardholders and in some cases their companions. Since many of these cards waive the annual fee, using the card for just one trip can save you hundreds of dollars.

3. Weigh your bags

The only thing worse than getting hit with a standard checked-bag fee is getting an overweight baggage fee. For example, United will charge $100 for a bag between 50 and 70 pounds and $200 for a bag 70 to 100 pounds. To avoid these charges, you can purchase a small hanging scale for under $20. Then shift the weight between bags to stay under the limit.

4. Maximize carry-on bags

Most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one “personal item” – a purse, backpack, or briefcase that can fit underneath the seat in front of you. Don’t incur any baggage fees until you’ve taken advantage of that. Since carry-on luggage isn’t usually weighed, you can pack your heaviest items there.

5. Wear your gear

With 24 pockets, including one for an iPad, the Scottevest can hold a substantial amount of gear that doesn’t count as luggage. In the winter, you can also wear a bulky jacket on board rather than pack it.

6. Leverage free items

When I travel with my toddler, I always check a car seat, since child safety devices can be checked for free. I place it in a duffel bag to protect it, and I’m always able to get away with packing a few other things around it. Medical devices and child strollers can also be checked for free.

7. Gate check

Before nearly every flight I take, the gate agents volunteer to check luggage free of charge in order to minimize delays caused by excessive carry-ons. To take advantage of this, simply bring your carry-on-sized luggage to the gate and check it there.

8. Book a higher class

On many flights, the price of a first-class ticket can be close enough to a coach ticket that the free baggage allowance makes up for most of the difference. This is such a great incentive to travel in style that it is one of my 6 Reasons Frugal Travelers Sit in Business Class.

9. Upgrade

On a recent flight, I was able to upgrade my seats to first class for $75 each way. This increased my free checked baggage allowance from zero to three bags at 70 pounds each. Had I packed that much, I would have saved $300 in fees – while enjoying first class.

10. Get status

You might already know that frequent fliers who have elite status get their bag fees waived. But did you know that having status on one airline can get other carriers to waive their fees? Most carriers within an airline alliance honor passengers who hold status with one of their partners. For example, being a United Gold Premier will allow you to waive bag fees on US Airways and other Star Alliance carriers.

Bottom line: Airlines are making an all-out effort to raise their revenues by charging ever-increasing baggage fees – and savvy passengers should be trying equally hard to defeat them.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs

These free apps and websites can help you get cash back on groceries, shop more efficiently or squeeze the most from the ingredients you have on hand.

9 Forgotten Frugal Strategies — and How to Resurrect Them
9 Forgotten Frugal Strategies — and How to Resurrect Them

These time-tested methods can help us live smarter today.

8 Key Steps to Planning for Retirement as a Couple
8 Key Steps to Planning for Retirement as a Couple

Ready for retirement? Not so fast. You might be surprised at some of the issues that come up for couples when they plan.

Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer
Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer

Earn cash by reading emails, taking surveys, playing games, shopping and signing up for offers through this website.

7 Surprising Advantages of Downsizing as a Retiree
7 Surprising Advantages of Downsizing as a Retiree

Downsizing your home offers many benefits, including some you may not have anticipated.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

9 Millionaires and Billionaires With Surprisingly Frugal Habits
9 Millionaires and Billionaires With Surprisingly Frugal Habits

Some of the world’s richest women and men drive modest cars, clip coupons and love a bargain.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.