Airline checked baggage fees are here to stay, but you don't have to blow your travel budget on them. Some advance planning will help you keep your air travel costs to a minimum. Just as you would investigate your airfare options, take some time to find out about checked baggage fees and restrictions.
Here are some tips for reducing the impact of checked bag fees on your vacation budget.
- Choose an airline with no or lower fees for checked baggage. Southwest doesn't charge for checked bags, and some airlines, including JetBlue, still let you check one bag for free.
- Pack light to make the most of your baggage allowance. Weigh your packed suitcases to make sure they don't go over your airline's weight limit, which is typically 50 pounds per bag. Be sure to leave room for souvenirs. If you don't know your airline's baggage weight limit, read your contract of carriage to find out how much each bag should weigh.
- Weigh and measure your carry-on bag, too. Carry-on weight limits range from 16.5 pounds (Virgin America) to 40 pounds (Delta). Carry-on item dimensions vary by airline and type of aircraft. Some airlines don't publish carry-on bag weight limits on their websites, so it's a good idea to check your contract of carriage to be sure you know if such a limit exists.
- If you fly often, stick to one airline so that you can build up enough frequent flyer miles to attain "elite" or "premier" status. Once you hit this milestone, you won't be charged checked baggage fees.
- Rent large items you'll only use once or twice, such as golf clubs, skis, scuba gear, surfboards or bicycles. It's often less expensive to rent sports equipment than to check it as baggage, particularly if you already plan to check two bags. Some airlines charge as much as $100 for your third checked bag – and that's only for a one-way flight.