Air travel has never been cheap and affordable as it is today. The rise of the low-cost fares and the fierce competition between the airlines have pushed plane ticket prices down, making frequent travel affordable to more and more people. But as you have probably noticed, the airlines found new ways to compensate for the lower ticket prices, they simply charge separately for just about anything - reservation of seats, priority boarding, food and beverages (some airlines would even ask you to pay for a glass of water!) and of course, your luggage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2016 alone, airlines collected more than $4.2 billion in baggage fees!!!
In this article, we’ll have a look at a few tips that could save you a lot of money on your next travels.
Don’t book the cheapest flight you see right away! Make sure you understand whether the ticket price includes luggage, and if so, what are the limitations. Buying a plane ticket for $100 that doesn’t include luggage would mean paying an extra of up to $50 a direction, that’s double the price you planned to pay! On the contrary, you might find a ticket that costs $150 for the round trip and includes checked-in luggage. So again, have some patience and invest a couple of minutes into reading the small print.
2. Read carefully airline luggage policy
It’s important that you get well informed of the relevant airlines’ luggage fees and luggage policies before buying the flight ticket and make sure that they match your needs for this travel. And luggage fees vary significantly between different airlines. If you are a frequent traveler, knowing beforehand the policies of the different airlines could save you a lot of time, money and headache. Though most airlines still allow one free piece of hand luggage and a small backpack, the allowed dimensions of those are becoming ever smaller. With regards to check-in luggage, fees can raise the total price of the fare considerably. Our suggestion is that for trips longer than a week, try getting the lowest price for a check-in luggage. For shorter trips, try to save this extra luggage fee by packing your carry-on luggage light and efficiently (see below).
Here’s a tip – Southwest don’t charge for first to checked-in pieces when you fly in the U.S. Make sure however to check Southwest website for weight and size limitations. You can also take a look at TripAdvisor's list of baggage allowances and fees in North American airlines.
3. Join a frequent flyer club or get a travel credit card
If you fly frequently, you should consider joining your preferred airline’s frequent flyer club, such as Star Alliance Miles and More. If you collect enough miles, free checked-in luggage is a common perk. Same goes to some travelers’ credit cards, such as the ones in this comparison, updated in August 2017.
4. Travel light and pack tight
When dreaming about your next travel, you might picture yourself doing a lot of different fun stuff and wearing a different shirt and pants every day, maybe also add an extra pair of shoes. But be realistic – most people get to fill up their luggage with a lot of things that they don’t come to use during the trip and these often get back home unpacked. We would suggest taking enough underwear, socks, and t-shirts that you'd want to change on a daily basis, but you definitely don't need 7 pants and sweaters for a week's city vacation.
In order to make a good selection of the things to put in the luggage, prepare your travel in advance and make a list of your main locations and activities. Write down the necessary items for each of them. Put in your luggage only one or at the most two or three versions of the same item. For example, if you’re up to a business meeting, you might need a suit, and one would probably be enough. If you plan a two weeks trip, it doesn’t mean that you need 14 shirts, pants, socks, etc. – you can always do laundry once or twice.
5. If it’s big and heavy take it on you
Especially in winter or when traveling somewhere cold – wearing winter clothes on you for the flight can save tons of space and weight in your bags. If it’s getting too hot on the plane, you can always take off the coat, put in the overhead compartment, under your seat, or even use it as a soft pillow. Same goes for shoes – if you plan to wear a pair of trekking boots for hiking and a pair of sneakers for the more relaxed parts of your trip, make sure to wear the boots for the flight and keep the sneakers in the luggage. This also applies to other gear and items, such as a camera, a laptop, books etc., of course, as long as it looks reasonable...
6. Get the right bags
Having the right bags for your flight in essential. You may consider three types of bags – the check-in luggage, usually a suitcase; a smaller carry-on luggage; and a smaller bag, usually a backpack, where you would keep things to pass time on the flight – your media, a book, snacks, etc. Make sure to take a backpack large enough to cram extra stuff that won’t fit in the check-in luggage or in the carry-on, but small enough to fit under your seat and not raise the anger of the airline employees. Our Pioneer Vintage Travel Backpacks are exactly the right size for this purpose.
A travel duffle bag is usually small enough to be allowed as carry-on luggage, and at the same time it’s roomy enough for up to a week’s trip packing (of course depending on its size, your packing habits and the season). Made of soft materials such as canvas or leather, a duffle bag also fits easily into the overhead compartment. Investing once in a good duffle bag could save a lot on baggage fees. Given those facts and the rising baggage fees, it’s no wonder that duffle bags sales have been trending up wildly in recent years. You can check out our duffle bags here. Leather duffle bags are our favorites. Besides from being strong and durable, they are also very fashionable, with that vintage, classy leather looks.
7. Distribute the weight between your bags - friends can help!
If you carry more than one piece of luggage, divide your belongings wisely between your bags. For example, take the heavy shoes out of your check-in luggage and put them in your carry-on, in a separate plastic bag, or just wear them for the flight. Hardcover books are also heavy - make sure to take them in your backpack on in your hand. Traveling with a partner or a friend can add even more flexibility here, maybe even save you one of the checked-in or carry-on pieces.
In recent years plane tickets have become cheaper and made frequent travels more affordable. However, the airlines compensate for the lower fare prices by charging separately for everything else, including for essential baggage. To minimize expenditure on baggage fees, make sure to get informed about airline baggage policy, travel light and pack efficiently, take the big and heavy stuff on you for the flight, and buy a good duffle bag that would last you for years.
Enjoy your trip!