Baggage fees and other charges may be a profit engine for the airlines, but they have air travelers steamed. Luggage charges topped a list of travel annoyances in a recent Consumer Reports poll, and earlier this month travelers began fighting back against hidden fees with an online petition and a push for legislation. These fees can run from $20-$25 for the first bag and another $25-$35 if you check a second. For a round trip with two checked bags, that’s another $100 or more to add to the final bill. No wonder people are so angry.
To hear the controversy raging around baggage fees, you could be forgiven for thinking that paying to check your luggage had become an unavoidable fact of air travel. Yet seasoned travelers still have plenty of clever methods for ducking these pricey fees, from taking advantage of promotions to ditching the bags altogether.
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Become a Frequent Flier
Not all travelers are created equal. Many frequent fliers are able to achieve “Elite” or “Gold” status on their favorite airlines by racking up miles (usually around 25,000), and thereby get their checked bag fees waived, among other perks. Delta, for instance, waives baggage fees for travelers who achieve Silver Medallion Status by racking up 25,000 miles.
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Stay at the Right Hotel
The InterContinental Hotel Group recently announced a promotion whereby they would reimburse the luggage fees of travelers who booked a room at one of their 4,500 hotels. There are conditions, of course – you have to use your Visa card to book two consecutive weekend nights between Sept. 1 and Dec. 30, and you’ll receive your reimbursement in the form of a Visa prepaid card. The maximum reimbursement is $50, but if you take a round trip and only check one bag, that should be enough to cover your costs.
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Use the Right Credit Card
Visa isn’t the only credit card company that has taken advantage of travelers’ anger over baggage fees by offering to refund them. American Express teamed up with Delta for their Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, and cardmembers can get their first checked bag free for all flights. Best of all, every member of the cardmember’s party can also check their bag for free – up to 10 people total.
Photo Credit: DeltaSkymilesCard.com
Ditch the Checked Bags Altogether
This list is full of ways to check a bag without paying for it. But why not just leave the heavy luggage at home? It’s a strategy that saves money and makes things more convenient once you land, say seasoned travelers. “When you don’t check a bag, it’s so much easier to get around – you don’t have to take cabs from the airport, you can take the subway or a shuttle bus,” says JohnnyJet.com’s John DiScala, a travel expert who flies about 150,000 miles a year.
Maria Brooks, a world traveler and advocate of the minimalist lifestyle, likewise eschews checked baggage for many of the same reasons. “Not only do I save money on baggage fees, but I also get to ground transportation faster, since I don't have the wait at the luggage carousel.” But the question is, how can you get all of your stuff in one carry-on?
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Ship, Don’t Check
For domestic flights, DiScala finds it more cost-effective to have your extra luggage shipped rather than pay the airline to carry it for you. The savings are modest – if you pay $20 to ship a 20-pound parcel, you’ve saved maybe $5.
“It saves so much time,” he says, “you don’t have to stick around at baggage claim waiting for it to come out.”
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Pack Clothes More Efficiently
“Pack things you can wear more than one way: Pack around one basic color, so you’ll take less shoes and accessories,” advises Anne McAlpin, a travel expert who offers packing tips at PackItUp.com. Helene Segura, a Certified Personal Organizer, also advises travelers to “Choose a two-color palette for easy mixing and matching.” And when it comes time to actually get things in the suitcase, Segura suggest rolling, rather than folding your clothes. Hey, the hotel probably has an iron, right?
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Buy Clothes When You Get There
Sometimes it’s more cost-effective to just get clothes and bathing suits when you get to your destination, then leaving them behind when you go home. “When I go on holiday I always buy really cheap clothes to wear,” says Ben Fox, a U.K.-based editor. “Then [before] I come back I donate them to a local charity or throw them in the bin so I can fill my case with souvenirs and duty-free.”
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…Or Just Ditch the Clothes Altogether
Why pack a suitcase full of clothes when you can just go naked? That’s the advice of the American Association for Nude Recreation, which encourages vacationers to consider a “Nakation - a vacation to a nudist resort! All you'll need for the week (sunscreen, cap, sunglasses, shoes and toiletries) can fit in a small carry on.” Remember to wear clothes to the airport, though, or you might have trouble getting through security.
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