How to Avoid Travel Fees

Tips for Avoiding Airline Baggage Fees

In 2010, airlines collected $3.4 billion in luggage charges, which is a pretty good indicator that these much-hated fees are probably here to stay [source: Nardini]. If you don't want to pay them, one option is to just not check any luggage. Of course, this will require you to pack less -- and more smartly. Torpedo toiletries like soap, shampoo and lotion, which your hotel will supply, and pack clothes that you can mix and match into several outfits. Roll up your clothes, which allows you to fit more into your suitcase than if you stacked them in piles. Stuff your socks into your shoes, and make sure you're wearing your bulkiest kicks. Pack a few old shirts or pants that you can toss after wearing, which will free up space for any items you purchase that will need to fit into your suitcase on the trip home.

If you're lucky, your trip will be on a route serviced by Southwest or JetBlue. Southwest doesn't charge a penny for your first two checked bags, while JetBlue allows you one free piece. Of course, purposely choosing one of these airlines for your trip won't necessarily translate to a lower cost overall -- you'll have to compare ticket prices to make sure that's the case.

Sometimes you really do need to check a bag or two, especially if you're going on a long trip. The trick here is to avoid paying an additional fee for overweight baggage. Airlines vary in what they consider to be an overweight bag, so make sure to check your carrier's Web site. Generally, you're allowed 40 or 50 pounds (18 or 22 kilograms) per bag. If you're over that, you'll pay a hefty price. U.S. Airways, for one, assesses a $90 surcharge for bags that are 51 to 70 pounds (23 to 31 kilograms), and $175 for bags 71 to 100 pounds (32 to 45 kilograms). Toss your bag onto your bathroom scale before you leave for the airport in case you need to remove some items.

One option people often overlook is shipping your bags to your destination via FedEx Ground or UPS Ground. No, it's probably not less expensive than paying the baggage fee -- it costs about $70 to send two 35-pound bags directly to your destination. But the bonus is that you'll avoid waiting in line to check your bags at the airport, and they're less likely to get lost [source: Potter].