These days airlines advertise low fares, then nickel and dime you for everything else. In 2018, U.S. airlines raked in nearly $5 billion from baggage fees alone. This year they’re on track to make even more money. Don’t let annoying fees ruin your travel budget, use our tips to avoid them.
Most airlines charge between $25 to $35 for your first checked bag and even more for a second. Keep in mind, the fee applies to both your departing and returning flights. For a family of four, that’s easily an extra $200. Using an airline credit card can save you money because many of them waive the first checked bag fee. Companions traveling on the same reservation also receive the perk. Three cards that offer free checked bags are the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card and JetBlue Plus Card. If you’d rather not apply for a new credit card, your best bet is to just pack light and squeeze everything into your carry on. Alternatively, you can fly with Southwest and get two checked bags free.
Women are notorious for overpacking. A report showed that 9 out of 10 ladies don’t even wear all the clothes they pack for vacation. If your luggage exceeds the airlines weight limit (usually 50 lbs.), you’ll be charged an overweight baggage fee and it’s not cheap. Depending on the airline, you’ll pay between $100 to $200 per bag, each way. An easy way to avoid the fee is to weigh your suitcase when you think you’re done packing. If it’s more than 50 lbs. start taking stuff out until you’re in compliance. It may be helpful to use a packing app like PackPoint so you’ll know exactly what you need instead of trying to carry your entire wardrobe.
Flight changes or cancellation
When you’re trying to travel on a budget, a dirt-cheap red eye can be very attractive. However, you may have second thoughts once you realize how early you’d have to wake up to get to the airport. The good news is you have 24 hours to cancel your tickets without penalty. After that, you’ll have to pay an expensive change fee unless it’s an emergency. It’s not uncommon for airlines to charge $200 plus the difference in fares for domestic flights. You’ll cough up a lot more than that for international flights. The best way to avoid the headache is to hold off until you’re 100% sure of your plans.
Unless you have extremely complicated travel plans, there’s no need to book your trip over the phone. Avoid the $25 to $35 fee and do it yourself online. You can book directly through the airline or use a travel site like Kayak to find the best deals.
Printed boarding pass
Many low-cost airlines don’t offer the traditional services that most travelers are used to. You’ll pay extra for your carry-on bag, seat selection and to have your boarding pass printed. Spirit Airlines charges $2 per boarding pass printed at the airport kiosk and $10 if it’s printed at the check-in counter. The obvious solution is to print your tickets at home for free.
Do you prefer a window or aisle seat? Unfortunately, your opinion doesn’t matter when you fly with a budget airline or book a basic economy ticket. Usually you aren’t assigned a seat until you get to the airport and at that point, you’re given whatever is available. If you want a specific seat, you’ll have to pay a fee. Keep in mind, certain seats cost more than others. Unless you’re traveling as a group and don’t want to be separated, save yourself some money and just go with the flow. You’ll probably be knocked out during your flight anyway.