Paying airline fees is no fun. Extra baggage fees at the airport are one of the most common (and most hated) these days. In fact, airlines continue to rely on baggage fees and similar other charges to improve their profitability. In 2012 airlines in the USA collected about $3.5 billion as baggage fees. Most passengers end up shelling extra bucks either due to improper packing, rushed packing, or just sheer bad luck. However, with thoughtful consideration and a helpful trick or two you can avoid extra baggage fees. Here are the top 10 travel tips to help save a ton of money:
1. Choose your airline carefully. Different airlines impose different restrictions. For instance, Emirates — my favorite airline — allows checked-in luggage to be 30 kilos, whereas most other airlines around the world all cut-off at 23-25kg. Be careful when choosing budget airlines. You might end up saving few bucks but what if the extra baggage fee exceeds the amount saved. There’s no point in flying with “budget” airlines that end up costing more in the end.
2. Buy an electronic hanging scale to double-check the weight of your baggage. If it exceeds the airlines’ restrictions, make other arrangements. It’s advisable for you to avoid carrying unnecessary items onboard. For instance, instead of carrying a couple of heavy books go for an e-book reader. Be sure to pack your baggage wisely. Distribute the weight properly in different bags so that these do not exceed the limit.
If you don’t want to buy a hanging scale, most international airports have a packing and/or weighing station where you can weigh your bag for free before you get in line. Or go to a check-in counter that is not in use and weigh your bag there 😉
3. Don’t fly Air Asia. They charge for everything from pillows and blankets to not printing out your ticket before you arrive. They probably even charge for seatbelt extensions.
4. When you check-in, have an extra bag. If the suitcase weight exceeds the limit, use the extra bag to dump some of your heavy stuff. Once you have done this, get the suitcase re-checked. This way, you will be able to avoid the extra fees.
5. Be tactful if your baggage slightly exceeds the imposed restriction. Talk to the particular airline employee checking the bags. It is usually quite easily to sweet-talk your way into having them overlook the minor difference.
6. Airlines are smart. These days, they closely watch out for heavy carry-on bags when you check-in. Be careful with this. Choose a light weight carry-on bag and make it appear as if there’s nothing heavy in it. Try boarding in during the rush hour to avoid unwanted attention.
7. Use the right bags for packing your stuff. Lightweight luggage is increasingly becoming popular these days. Carefully pack your electronic items such as laptops, DVD players and tablets. You can go for mini travel bottles to pack your toiletries. Next, before packing any stuff such as towel, napkins or hair dryer, see if the hotel in your destination supplies this. It helps save space in your baggage.
8. You can even ship your baggage to the hotel in advance to avoid extra fees. It helps keep your luggage protected and prevents any chances of loss, theft or misplace. Furthermore, there are certain items that airlines allow for free such as car seats and children’s strollers. Try and conceal some of your stuff in here. You can save plenty of space for your carry-on.
9. Take few clothes in your luggage. You can always wash your clothes during the journey to save money. Similarly, avoid carrying unwanted jewelry. In case you want to take some, wear them.
10. If you are an elite flyer, use frequent flyer programs to avoid extra baggage fees. The higher your frequent flyer tier, the more luggage you can travel with for free. I have accounts with more than a dozen different airlines and trust me, the more you fly the more valuable these points are — even if your tier is not high enough to get you any extra weight.
Pack your items carefully and be a smart traveler. Think ahead with every item, “do I really need this?” Just follow the above mentioned tips and you are sure to get away with baggage fees at the airport.
If all else fails, just throw a few of the heaviest items in your pockets real fast when the airline staff isn’t looking. Voilà!