J. - According to a recent report, U.S. airline passengers spent $3.36 billion on checked and carry-on baggage fees over the last year.* These six smart tips will help travelers looking to save on airline baggage fees.
"Packing light is probably the best way to avoid baggage fees. But often times, travelers simply aren't able to travel with the bare minimum -- especially families and those traveling over an extended period of time," says Sarah Schlichter, editor of IndependentTraveler.com. "In those cases, a little extra research and creative thinking can go a long way to save money on those extra costs," she says.
Six tips for dodging airline baggage fees:
Pack smart. Perhaps the most basic -- and best -- option for travelers, packing light is a definite way to reduce extra baggage costs. IndependentTraveler.com offers travelers an interactive packing list with more than 100 of the most commonly packed items, as well as the option to add additional personal items. The list can be printed, e-mailed or saved to help travelers remember what to pack.
Know your policy. Navigating an airline's complicated baggage policies can be no small undertaking, but worth the effort. Baggage fees are typically around $20 to $25 for the first checked bag, and only rise from there. Thoroughly read an airline's policy before booking the flight.
Join a frequent flier program. Virtually all major airlines offer some kind of frequent flier program that includes baggage fee discounts or waivers for "elite" or "preferred" members. For those who do not rack up the necessary miles to be considered "elite" (around 25,000 for most airlines), consider applying for an airline credit card. Several major airlines waive checked bag fees for cardholders.
Fly on a discount airline. Southwest Airlines allows two checked bags per passenger, while JetBlue lets passengers check one bag for free. But beware: not all discount airlines waive baggage fees â Spirit Airlines charges travelers for carry-on bags that don't fit under the seat, in addition to checked bag fees.
Use a luggage scale. Overweight baggage fees can be exceedingly more expensive than regular checked bag fees. Purchase a small luggage scale and pack it with you when you travel. Weigh luggage each time you fly â including before your return flight; extras picked up along the trip can add significant weight.
Ship your bag. Shipping luggage may be the best option for those traveling with an overweight bag. Prices charged by standard delivery services like FedEx, UPS and USPS vary based on size and weight of bags. The cost to check a 55 pound bag, round trip, on a Delta flight from New York to Los Angeles would be $230.
Shipping the same bag round trip from New York to Los Angeles (using UPS' five-day shipping), would cost $168 â a savings of $62.
* Report released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and reflects 2011 airline baggage fees.