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piggy bank airplane air travel vacationYour vacation is planned, your bags are packed and you’re ready to fly. But did you know that even after you’ve purchased your plane tickets, you could still incur fees on your flight? It’s true. Baggage fees are the best-known a la carte charges, but there are many others, big and small, that can crop up once you reach the airport. Here are five ways to avoid them.

1. Pack light and save up to $50 in checked bag fees each way. While a few airlines still allow you to bring checked luggage without a fee (such as Southwest and many international carriers), most U.S. airlines will charge you to handle your bags. The best way to bypass this is by taking fewer things and packing them all into a carry-on bag. Do you really need a dozen shirts for a five-day trip? Chances are, you’ll only wear half of those and wish you had left the rest at home. Bring pieces that mix and match with each other. That way all the tops go with all the bottoms, and you can make three or four days’ worth of clothes last two to three weeks without wearing the same outfit twice. Women can toss in a simple dress and use easy accessories to make it seem totally new if it needs to be worn again. For men, it’s even easier: just bring a variety of ties, which take up almost no room.

Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes that look great whether dressed up or down and that are comfortable to walk in. Shoes can take up way too much space in a travel bag, which isn’t helpful when you have limited space to work with. I find shoes that go with everything in my bag and then I pack one pair and wear the bulkier of the two on the plane.

Editor’s Note: Get more space-saving ideas in What Not to Pack.

2. Bring your own food. Most flights don’t offer free meals anymore. Heck, you’re lucky if you get a free drink and a snack. If there are meals or more substantial snacks offered on a flight, they generally cost quite a bit more than you would pay if you picked them up at the grocery store (think $8 – 10 for a sandwich, $6 for a “snack box”). These are things you could make for a fraction of the price at home and bring with you. Security has no problem with food, as long as you aren’t trying to also pack pudding and a drink. I tend to stock up on 100-calorie packs before my trips and then take a nice variety in my carry-on to snack on throughout the flight. Granola bars are also easily packable and can keep you full until you reach your destination.

3. Go totally wireless. Almost all the airlines offer Wi-Fi services on their planes, but it isn’t free. Is it really that necessary to update your Facebook status mid-flight? Keep your credit card in your wallet and opt for a good book or magazine. You’ll save a minimum of $10 for each leg of your flight.

4. Bring your own headphones. If you’re lucky enough to get on a flight that offers onboard entertainment, you’ll need some headphones to participate. Remember just a few short years ago where the flight attendants practically threw handfuls of headsets through the cabin like Mardi Gras beads? Well, no more. Now if you want to watch the movies or listen to the same 12 songs on their airline radio station, you’ll be expected to shell out $3 – $5 for a pair of those less-than-optimal headphones that practically break before you’ve touched down. Most people bring an iPod or handheld gaming device on their trips, so make sure you include your own better-constructed pair that doesn’t have to be vacuum-sealed for freshness.

5. Skip the upgrade. If offered an upgrade upon check-in, think twice — especially if it’s for a relatively short flight. Being in first or business class would be nice, but the upgrade fee can leave you $50 – $100 poorer. Gripe about your loss of extra legroom if you must, but that money could go a long way toward doing something more fun than sitting while you’re actually on your trip.

– written by Shereen Rayle, Editor of Shereen Travels Cheap

4 Responses to “Five Ways to Beat “A La Carte” Airline Fees”

  1. Charter Bus DC says:

    Here is Similar Story

    Several leading airlines promised over the weekend that they would not charge passengers for carry on bags, following Spirit Airlines announcement that it would institute up to a $45-per-bag charge for items placed in the overhead bins. That was the latest move in an industry that is depending increasingly on charges for everything from snacks and pillows to suitcases and sodas. The next move? Europe’s super-cheap a la carte airline Ryanair is trying to figure out how to put pay toilets on its planes.

  2. JOLLY8 says:

    I try to only use one max-size roll-on carry-on and one medium backpack. The pack for my in-flight items. My wife checks almost everything except drugs & knitting. The charges and the TSA make flying ridiculous these days. Thanks for the info on food. We’ll bring our own next time. I must confess that I do go for the upgrades, strictly for comfort. Packing minimally forces me to mix & match outfits. Even trying to do that, I still have some “stuff” that I never get to wear. I use a suit for formal cruise nights, no more tux. Roll clothing to avoid wrinkles. Stuff shoes w/sox & mini-items. Plabn to dress in layers avoiding heavy clothes. Even AK was comfortable w/o heavy stuff. Having your own bag also avoids loss and destruction of the bags. We do avoid flying whenever possible.

  3. David White says:

    Sorry, but you really aren’t “beating” any fees with these tips…you’re simply avoiding them by not obtaining the service that they pay for. “Beating” the fees would be finding ways to check luggage and not pay for the privilege; get a decent inflight meal; or have enough legroom without paying for business class.

  4. Gopal says:

    Airlines should also consider giving additional air miles for passengers who travel light , Including people whose weight is below standard weight.After all the cost of flight is directly related to weight. As the basis of freight collection is weight, if same basis can not be followed for air fare , least airlines should do is incentivise passengers who are light weight . With air travel becoming part of our life for business and pleasure, this will encourage more people to stay healthy and watch their BMI . It is good for every one.

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