How to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees: Hacks for the Budget Traveler

How to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees: Hacks for the Budget Traveler

One thing every traveler hates: baggage fees. Imagine, you’re booking a flight and you think you’ve found a fantastic deal. Two-hundred bucks round trip to your favorite city! You’re about to click “book” and start packing your bags when you see it – the fine print. It says you’re charged for every bag and now 150 dollars both ways is added to your flight cost. It’s a budget traveler’s WORST nightmare! Thank god there are ways to avoid airline baggage fees – both standard and overweight – so you can click book without worrying about your baggage.

We just went through a rollercoaster of emotions together, I know. Nothing hurts the budget traveler’s heart more than having to pay extra fees you weren’t expecting.

These tips are ideal for anybody looking for ways out of baggage fees. Whether you are worried about how many bags you are taking or your suitcase being overweight, there are hacks to avoid both scenarios hurting your wallet.

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We all know we think about what we are going to pack when we have a trip coming up, and then we think about the baggage fees. At least have the best resources for packing before fees ruin the fun!

Save on Standard Airline Baggage Fees

My first section of tips on how to avoid airline baggage fees are designed to make you save from the beginning. You’re trying to avoid fees like the plague and this advice will help you do it.

Compare the Price & Benefits Difference Between Basic Economy & Economy

If you’re a budget traveler, you aren’t looking to book first class. So, I bet you’re browsing through economy fares.

Airlines are always advertising their lowest possible prices to make it seem like you are getting a good deal and that those deals are widely available. Truth is, they’re not.

Your 90 dollar flight to Chicago is actually one-way, charged for every bag, no seat selection, basic economy hell.

So, if at first you see the basic economy price and start planning your trip around it, don’t! Basic economy is what it says it is – basic! It comes with nothing factored into the price besides your seat on the plane.

If you’re planning to pack anything at all for that trip, chances are it’s cheaper for you to book an economy ticket and have a bag or two included in the fare price.

Of course, you can opt for basic economy if you plan on going au natural and not taking anything along with you. I’m just saying – compare the benefits of the lower fares to each other. You’ll likely get more bang for your buck with the slightly higher fare price!

Pack Light! Make the Most of Your Personal Item & Carry-On

The easiest way to avoid airline baggage fees is to not bring much baggage at all! You can check out all the specs between carry-on vs. checked luggage and decide what works best for your trip.

But, if you can master packing a trip’s worth of clothes into a personal item and carry-on, then congratulations! You’re a great packer and I’m very jealous of you.

The reality is a lot of people can’t or simply don’t want to pack so light. So, my suggestion is to pack light-er and really maximize the space afforded by your personal item and carry-on.

When choosing your personal item, maybe skip your tiny crossbody purse and opt for a decent-sized backpack. I always travel with my WANDRD PRVKE bag (because it’s the literal best) and I’m able to put so much in it because of its expandable travel features.

I opt for the same type of mindset when choosing my carry-on. Maximize space either using packing cubes (more on that later) or simply buying one that is expandable that still fits airline dimension requirements.

Packing light never seemed so easy!

Join Airline Rewards Programs

Signing up to be a part of an airline rewards program really isn’t as contractual or intimidating as it sounds. You can sign up without paying any fees and instantly earn points/miles that get you to different statuses within the program.

Each status comes with its own perks, including (you guessed it!) airline baggage automatically included with any fare you buy. Okay, read the fine print for whichever airline program you sign up for because it might not apply to every fare.

However, you get the idea! If you’re already flying with the airline, why not just sign up and earn points?

I typically fly United and it’s the airline I book most of my international flights with, so I’ve been able to earn a decent amount of points and now have two checked bags included with my future flights.

Sign Up for an Airline Credit Card

Airline credit card programs are a bit more committal than rewards programs and I believe that’s where the intimidation comes from about joining a rewards program.

It’s a bit confusing because most airlines offer both options nowadays. Having an airline credit card obviously has its own benefits, such as free checked bags, discounts on in-flight purchases, etc. Each card is different, so it’s best to look into the airline you fly on most frequently and see what requirements there are and if it’s worth the benefits they offer.

Save on Overweight Airline Baggage Fees

The second section of tips here are designed to help you avoid any extra fees with checked bags you know you are taking. I’m guilty of overpacking for every trip I take, so I know the ins and outs of overweight baggage fees!

Like the fact they are completely BUDGET-BUSTING! Paying for a checked bag is rough already, which we are here to try and avoid. But if that checked bag is overweight, you’re in for another huge blow to your bank account.

Even if the money isn’t a huge blow to you, why pay extra for something so avoidable?

Buy a Handheld Suitcase Scale

Weighing your suitcase at home is always a questionable endeavor. You don’t know how accurate your scale is, if you’re doing the math right, if your suitcase is sitting on the scale correctly, etc.

But what can make the process easier is having a handheld scale. Not only are they inexpensive and easy to use, but they are more accurate than trying to sit your big suitcase on a small scale and hoping to avoid any confounding variables.

Moreover, I love the handheld scale because it’s portable. You can put it in your suitcase to your destination and have it on hand to weigh your suitcase for your return trip home!

Utilize Packing Cubes for Suitcase Organization & Weight

One of my favorite travel purchases ever was these Veken packing cubes! The kit is perfect for a budget traveler, being under 20 dollars on Amazon.

It comes with five different cubes, a shoe bag, and a laundry bag! Plus, it has a little pamphlet on how to fold clothes to save space in your suitcase.

The packing cubes do so much to help you avoid having an overweight suitcase. They keep you organized, maximize space, and add virtually no weight to your bag. They are my absolute favorite accessories for saving space in my suitcase!

Account for Souvenirs & The Return Weight of Your Suitcase

My last tip for avoiding overweight baggage fees is to always leave extra space in your suitcase!

You never know what you might buy or bring back with you on your return flight. Chances are, you’re going to take back something, which will add to the weight of your suitcase. If you leave with a full suitcase, you’re risking an overweight baggage fee on your return home!

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to avoid airline baggage fees. They are a part of travel nowadays and they are not going anywhere!

Hopefully, these tips can help ease the burden of baggage fees if they cannot be completely avoided, while also offering you some creative ways to get around them if you’re a true budget traveler!

From one budget traveler to another – you’ve got this!

Don’t forget to save these tips to Pinterest!




Michela is a travel writer and photographer living in northern Italy. She is passionate about helping people make the most of their travels by sharing advice gained from her personal experiences, off-the-beaten-path destinations and time-saving quick itineraries. Browse her top articles or have her help you plan your itinerary to your dream destination!

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