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Carl Unger, SmarterTravel.com | September, 8, 2015
With most major airlines (even JetBlue) requiring that you pay checked baggage fees, dodging those fees has become increasingly more difficult in today’s travel world. That being said, here are seven ways you can avoid checked baggage fees on your next flight!
1. Fly Southwest Airlines
Southwest is the only major U.S. airline that allows free checked baggage. You read that right, the only one. And just to step on the throats of their competitors, they’ll even let you check TWO bags for free. Like most airlines, however, they will charge you for overweight baggage, so don’t try to cram your whole wardrobe into two bags just because you can.
2. Rack Up Enough Miles for Elite Status
Its hard to earn for a reason. However, if you’re able to fly frequently enough to (usually over 25,000 miles per year) you’ll find flying a much more enjoyable experience. Besides free checked baggage, elite travelers open doors that most leisure travelers would never even knew existed. From upgrades, reduced fees, priority boarding and more, if you’re lucky enough to travel that often, look into your preferred carrier’s programs.
3. Look at Different Fare Tiers
Most travelers go for the lowest fare they can find. In most cases, that’s the way to go. However, if you look closely enough, some of the higher fares will actually include free checked baggage. JetBlue’s new ticketing system includes higher priced flight options that also include one or two free checked bags along with other perks such as lower change and cancellation fees.
4. Carry On!
Besides a couple of airlines, including Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant, most major airlines haven’t added carry-on baggage fees (on top of checked baggage fees). So, if you’re only going away for a few days, get the most out of your carry on and your one, always free, personal item.
5. Use an Airline Rewards Credit Card
Many airline affiliated rewards cards grant users free checked baggage along with other perks along the way. Be wary – some cards carry large annual fees that can exceed $100, meaning you may have to check 4 bags per year to make it worth your while. They also lock you into one airline carrier, but if you really only fly one airline most of the time, this could be a great way to get around checked baggage fees.
6. Gate Check!
One of the oldest tricks in the book – your “carry on” is too big and the flight attendant needs to gate check it in order to keep the boarding process moving. Brilliant! But beware, airlines are cracking down on this trick and might ultimately make you pay a fee anyway.
7. Ship Your Luggage
This one is risky. Shipping a 45-pound suitcase from Boston to Seattle via UPS was priced out at $75. I would need to pay checked baggage fees 3 times to make that worth it. For a Chicago trip I was quoted $44 and for Philadelphia I was quoted $31. Along with price, you also need to consider time. From Boston to Seattle it would have taken 5 days via basic ground shipping. It could be something to consider, but might not be worth your time or money.
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