It's in the Bag! 6 Ways to Avoid Baggage Fees on Your Next Flight

Mar 30, 2017Reading Time: 5 min

Remember the days of travel when you could book your plane ticket and your bag would fly with you for free? Unless you fly certain carriers that don’t charge baggage fees, which are few and far between, trying to avoid these pesky $25 charges per bag per flight isn’t always easy. Most of us resolve to fork over our wallets so that we have something to wear when we get to our destinations. However, with a little bit of know-how, you can dodge baggage fees and save around $50 per round trip ticket. If you fly once a month a year, that’s a whopping $600 in savings. 

1. Book Your Ticket With a Credit Card That Offers Free Checked Baggage

Several credit card companies offer free checked bags on certain airlines. The main catch is usually that you have to book your ticket on that credit card to waive your baggage fee on the flight. Some examples include the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express and the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard. Many of these credit cards with baggage benefits also extend the savings to those flying with you on the same reservation. If you tend to fly one airline, you can save around $50 round trip merely by having the partnering credit card. Some travelers won’t sign up for these credit cards because they carry an annual fee. However, if you fly twice and check a bag, the fee has already paid for itself in most cases.


2. Use a Promo Code to Purchase Your Ticket to Offset the Cost of Checked Baggage

Before you click purchase on that ticket to Paris, you’ll want to do a search of promo codes to see if you can save the price of a checked bag on your ticket. There are many promo codes floating around for travel booking sites, from Expedia to Orbitz to Travelocity. When you fail to do a promo code search before booking a flight, you are often missing out the savings that can total the cost of a checked bag one way. If you want to justify checking a bag, at least use a promo code to offset the cost when you buy your ticket.

3. Play the Gate Check Gamble

Some planes are configured so that overhead bins won’t accommodate roller bags. You’ll be gate checking your bag anyways so you don’t need to pay to check a bag. Before you commit to checking a bag, look to see what kind of plane you are on before forking over that fee. You can also play the gate check gamble by merely seeing if your flight is completely full. Almost always in this case, the airline will ask for volunteers to gate check their bags.

4. Pack Light and Use a Luggage Scale at Home

Going carry-on only on your flight is one of the only ways to avoid baggage fees completely. The important thing to remember about carry-on luggage is that you need to know your airline’s carry-on size. If you show up to the airport with a bigger bag but want to carry-on, you will often be forced to check your oversized bag. It is also worth the investment to buy a luggage scale. You can use this at home to weigh your bag before getting to the airport. If you do have to check a bag, the fees can often add up even more if you have an overweight bag.

5. Use Your Personal Item Allowance, Car Seats and Strollers to Bring More for Less

It’s the night before your flight and you can’t fit everything in your carry-on suitcase. You are worried you’ll have to check a bag. However, many travelers fail to realize they have a few carry-on tricks up their sleeve. Most airlines let you carry-on one roller type bag and a personal item, meaning a purse or briefcase. If you are struggling to pack light, be sure you are taking advantage of the items you are allowed to carry-on for free. For families with small children, this means loading up car seats and strollers that you have to gate check anyways with items that maybe didn’t fit in your one carry-on bag and personal item allowance.


6. Become Airline Loyal

If you aren’t signed up for an airline mileage program, you could be missing out on checked baggage savings. Many airlines reward you for your loyalty not just with miles but also with added perks like lounge access and free checked baggage. While achieving elite status can take a bit of time with some carriers, if you do fly a lot and aren’t taking advantage of an airline loyalty program, you’re probably missing out on free checked luggage on your flights.

Baggage fees are often synonymous with going to the dentist or getting jury duty. You know you’ll have to face them at one point or another, albeit begrudgingly. Dodging baggage fees can seem next to impossible in today’s world of travel, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning, you can keep that $50 in your pocket per round trip ticket by imploring these tips for avoiding baggage fees on your next flight.