How to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees

Measure your carry-on to make sure it falls within airline rules.
Measure your carry-on to make sure it falls within airline rules. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Most U.S. airlines have started charging fees for checked baggage. You can avoid these charges by using a carry-on bag instead. In addition to saving money, you can save time during check-in and at baggage claim. You'll also have peace of mind knowing that your luggage won't be lost. Check with your airline for its specific rules on carry-on size and weight to avoid any surprises at the plane door.

If you're staying at a hotel, resort or bed and breakfast, phone in advance to find out what amenities are available, such as towels, hair dryer, soap, shampoo and other toiletries. Only pack the items that are not provided.

Purchase travel-sized toiletry items. Alternatively, purchase your own plastic bottles that comply with the Transport Security Administration regulations and decant your toiletries into smaller bottles. To comply with security requirements, all liquids and gels must be placed in individual 3.4-oz. or smaller containers to fit inside a quart-size clear plastic, zip bag.

Select and coordinate your clothing so that you can mix and match without having to wear a completely new outfit each day. Keep in mind laundry services that may be available. Alternatively, take your own laundry soap from home and wash your underwear and other quick-drying items yourself.

Buy lighter luggage so that less of your weight allowance is taken up by the bag itself. Pick a soft-bodied bag so that it will fit under the seat in case the overhead bin is full by the time you board.

Check for exceptions to the baggage-fee rule, such as flying in business class.

Consider shipping some of your items to your destination in advance if you absolutely must have them and the shipping cost is less than the bag fee.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once at your destination, hang wrinkled clothing in the bathroom - the steam generated from a hot bath or shower will help to remove the creases.
  • If travelling with others who pack lighter than you, ask whether you can use some of their suitcase space if you can't fit everything into yours.
  • The sign of a well-packed suitcase is one where each item of clothing has been worn at least once.
  • Going carry-on will save you time - there's no more waiting in baggage claim for your suitcase to arrive on the carousel, so you can get to the beach faster! Also, most airline carriers allow you to print your boarding pass from the internet so there's no waiting in long check-in queues at the airport - you can go straight through to the security check point.
  • Going carry-on provides peace of mind - your suitcase won't get lost because you'll have it with you all the time, you won't miss any connecting flights because of delayed luggage, there's no chance of items being stolen out your suitcase during baggage processing, and if you need to make any last-minute changes to your itinerary, you will be able to do so because you'll have your luggage with you.
  • Check with your airline carrier for the carry-on baggage dimension and weight allowances.
  • Check with the TSA for a list of prohibited items and additional guidelines for carry-ons.

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