10 Ways to Win the Airline Fee War No Matter How You Pack


4. Watch out for fee creep: Spirit Airlines is the only carrier that charges for carryons, and its in-cabin luggage fees can actually cost significantly more than checking a bag. Joining the airline's $9 Fare Club (which costs $59.95) will save you money on fees, but it won't get you free bags. By the way, Allegiant is reportedly also contemplating a carryon fee.

5. Resign yourself to free checked-carryons: If you've drawn a high boarding group for your flight, assume your carry-on will have to be checked, but at least you won't have to pay for it.

For Big Bag Packers:

You pack too much; you know it and you don't care. However, you too can save some money.

A few tips for you:

1. Fly the Free Bag Airlines: JetBlue doesn't advertise this with quite the gusto of Southwest, but it too gives you a free bag (Southwest allows two, and they say it's helped them gain market share). Always check out an airline bag fee chart before you fly.

2. Use an Airline-Branded Credit Card: Continental and Delta offer branded credit cards that give you free checked-bags; see if your airline (or your own premium credit card) can match this (like Amex). Note that even some hotels are offering to reimburse your checked-bag fees.

3. Don't Check Two Bags: Sure, it's free on Southwest, but many airlines now charge from $60 to $70 roundtrip for that second bag. Does anyone really need two?

4. Watch the Weight: Overweight charges can kill your bottom line; you could pay another $300 roundtrip or more for a single bag. Buy a hand-held baggage scale at Target or Wal-Mart for under $20 and use it before you go to the airport.

5. Be Creative: Explore all your options; if you fly a lot, United's "all-you-can-eat" Premier Baggage gives you (and up to eight others in your party) two free bags for a year for $349. Planning to go on vacation and stay put for awhile? Shipping bags ahead via ground transportation could be a cheap alternative.

Bonus advice: No matter how much you pack, do not bring valuables with you. Read the fine print on your airline's website; many will not take responsibility for loss of electronics or jewelry. If you must, wear it or carry it and once you reach your destination, dump it all in a hotel safe.

Or maybe hide it among those antlers. I don't imagine anyone will disturb it there.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.

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