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How to Avoid Baggage Fees Creatively

The fees are here. The fees are here. It is now rather hard to avoid paying an extra $30-$50 in luggage fees when you travel by air. So now a big chunk of available brainpower out there is trying to find ways to avoid these fees and cram as much stuff possible into their free space. Here are a few suggestions from my own cramped and well traveled brain. Not all of them are for normal people.

1. Pack less. And then take half of that. There are many tips within this one all by itself. Use space bags or compression bags. You can get them online, travel stores and even stores like Target. They come in different sizes. Get the ones that you press and roll, not a vacuum bag. You don't want to have to carry a vacuum with you. That would defeat the purpose. I use three or four of the compression bags, mixing up my clothes so I only have to open one of them at a time. I've been using them for years now and most people are surprised how much I fit into one carry-on bag with them. I wouldn't be able to wander for two weeks on one bag without them. I even compress my favorite pillow down to almost nothing and include it.

Look at the material your clothes are made of and the ability to mix and match everything for multiple outfits. I like specialty travel clothing made of material that I can rinse it out and then it dries within hours in the hotel room. Wear layers on the plane. This is easier in colder weather but wear your heaviest pieces of clothing on you while you are traveling. You can take them off, drape them over an arm, cram them in the over head compartment or whatever. But they are not taking up space in your bag. If you are really overflowing your bags past security, fill a empty fast food bag or airport store bag with your socks or hygiene products. No one objects to you looking like you spent money in the airport.

2. Carefully choose which airline is going to mistreat you . As you've probably heard, simply searching for discount flights doesn't ensure that you're getting the best deal possible. You need to look at the entire cost of the flight. Southwest gives you two checked bags and JetBlue gives you one. Everyone else is charging now.

3. Chew the fine print . Some airlines are allowing it's various club members/frequent fliers to go without the fees. If you are going overseas, you may not be charged fees. But a few airlines may charge you more.

4. See if your hotel or resort will cover it. Some are already offering money off the bill if you have the luggage receipt. This is yet another thing that complicates the search for a hotel. If one hotel is $20 more than another but they give you $30 back on luggage fees while this other hotel gives you a $20 gas card but charges a $15 resort fee….ugh…My head hurts just thinking about the complications ahead in finding the best deal.

5. What's your size? If you have close friends in your destination city and they are close to your size, maybe you can ask to borrow a jacket, a shirt, a dress, some shoes, socks, makeup… Okay that's enough. But maybe someone does have a child's car seat they could loan you instead of you paying to check it. The morally off center folks could buy clothes at their destination, wear them with tags and give them as gifts (or return them) before hitting the airport again. Do you have clothes you are about ready to trash or donate? Holes in socks and underwear? Take them with you, unload them before the other end of the trip and save the luggage fee one-way. I've left socks all over Europe and my bag got lighter as I went.

6. Taxi, take me to the nearest garage sale. $30 can usually buy a lot of clothes at a garage sale. You may look like crap but hey, you're from someplace else so you'll probably stand out no matter what you wear. Donate them at the end of the trip or convince your family to have a garage sale on the last day of your visit. You'll bond and get your money back.

6. Carry the kitchen sink too. They may gate check your bag for free today. But I suspect it won't be long before they have portable charge machines on them to make you pay. Maybe they'll setup of a register and counter right there on the ramp. All of this holds up the boarding process and makes you unpopular with other passengers however. It may work but please don't do it in front of me. I'll be wearing the Allstays.com hat.

7. Get cozy in the middle or window seat. If you are inside and not blocking anyone else or infringing on their space, you may get away with a slightly larger bag on the floor in front of you. As long as you are only making yourself uncomfortable. If you are in the aisle seat and their is not enough room for the bag to be completely out of the way, they'll take your bag away from you. I don't usually like the middle seat myself as I prefer to only have a sick person on one side of me instead of on both sides but the middle seat actually has more full space under the seat. The curved wall takes a bit of space away from the window seat. Check seatguru.com for your specific plane and seat map however as you could wind up with a seat with a airplane component box under it and no room for your stuff.

8. Look at the airlines code-sharing the flight. More and more often, flights are branded with more than one airline. This is called code-sharing. Many times, you can get a cheaper ticket on one airline even though it's the same exact seat and airplane as on another. In fact, the prices on one can be half the price of the other. The same goes for fees. Maybe you can start with a small regional brand that doesn't charge fees and ride that little perk all the way to your destination. Book the airline with the cheaper overall ticket and baggage fees.

9. Mail your bags. This may or may not work depending on what you are sending, your schedule and so on. This could work for family and residences but many hotels and resorts now charge a hefty fee just to accept a package for you. That would bury any savings. If it's just clothes, it could be cheaper to send by UPS or Fedex. Fill a compression bag and pack it in a postal service flat rate priority box until it's ready to burst and you'll ship it for less than $10.

10. Going forward: Watch out for deals and rewards programs. I suspect we'll see some new ideas come out of this. Maybe certain memberships will have free baggage deals with an airline. Perhaps if one was willing to pay a fee, they could get unlimited baggage checks for a year and a speedier security line. Maybe we'll have free baggage days or routes. Buy ten lattes and get a free baggage coupon. Who knows what is next.

Adam | Jul 28, 2009 | Category: Air Travel

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