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What are some tips to minimize fees for checked bags?

With many U.S. airlines imposing fees for checking bags for domestic travel, it can be helpful to be aware of a few tips for minimizing charges.

The most obvious one is that if you have a choice of airlines to reach your destination, consider flying on an airline not charging a fee or one that charges a lower fee. As of June 22, 2008, a few major American airlines such as Continental, Delta and Northwest have not begun charging a fee for the first checked bag.

Another option is to minimize what you carry. Check the weather and thoroughly consider your schedule and activities so that you can pack light. For example, if you will be in meetings all day and have no time for the gym, skip the gym clothes. If there's a chance of rain, bring an umbrella instead of a rain coat.

Consolidate items into a larger bag rather than multiple smaller bags. If you will be traveling with one or more companions, try packing together or otherwise consolidating your luggage as much as possible. You can save upwards of $100 and recoup the purchase of a larger suitcase if needed. For example, two travelers with economy tickets each carrying two checked bags on United will pay a total of $160 roundtrip on checked bags alone. If, instead, each traveler checked only one bag, the total baggage cost would be $60 roundtrip. Of course, be aware that while your larger bag may be within the required dimensions it must also meet the airline's weight limit.

For short trips, try to squeeze more into your carry-on bag but, again, be sure that you still meet your airline's carry-on limit as well as the TSA's 3 oz. liquid restriction.

As airlines are also increasing fees for overweight and odd-sized items, look into shipping parcels separately either to or from your destination. It may be well worth shipping your hockey sticks with a postal carrier rather than pay United's $125 special handling fee.



last updated 2008.10.19
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