Annoyed whenever you get charged excess baggage fees? Sometimes the littlest oversight can cost you more than you bargained for. Keep reading to find out how to avoid baggage fees on your next flight.
If you’re a budget traveller, you’re probably pretty familiar with the amazing feeling of finding a cheap flight deal. But what about some of the extras, like luggage costs? Those extra baggage fees are something that can sneak up on even the most well-seasoned travellers. Luckily, there are many ways you can try to avoid this extra cost. Here are a few tips you should consider before your next flight so that you can avoid those extra baggage fees.
How to Avoid Baggage Fees
- Know the airline’s baggage policy
- Pre-book your luggage
- Pack smart
- Weigh your luggage beforehand
- Travel light
- Dress in layers
- Buy quality luggage
- Pay one-way baggage fees
1. Know the airline’s baggage policy
It’s important to know in advance about your airline’s baggage costs. Below is a breakdown of major airlines and their baggage fees for economy passengers flying within Canada and the U.S. Keep in mind that if your bag is overweight, the extra fees are often charged by the kilogram.
|Checked baggage fees||Price (Local currency)|
|Air Canada||1st bag: $34.50 |
2nd bag: $57.50
|WestJet||1st bag: $30-35|
2nd bag: $50-59
|American Airlines||1st bag: $30|
2nd bag: $40
|Delta Airlines||1st bag: $30, |
2nd bag: $40
2. Pre-book your luggage with your airfare
Another essential travel tip is to purchase your bags online instead of at the airport (which can be way more expensive). You can save up to 40% with some airlines if you pay for baggage with your initial flight booking.
3. Pack smart
Learning to pack your suitcase efficiently can save you money on luggage fees. Try rolling your clothes to help conserve space so you can fit more into one suitcase instead of taking multiple bags. Another great packing tip is to use compression bags (Ziploc bags work, too!) to make even more space.
4. Weigh your luggage at home
A great habit to get into to avoid baggage fees for excessive weight is to weigh your bags at home. This will allow you to see if they are under your airline’s limit. If you’re over, try moving items between your carry-on baggage and checked bags to redistribute the weight in your suitcases.
5. Travel light
Depending on your reason for travelling or your destination, you may be able to travel light enough to avoid baggage fees altogether. Most major airlines will allow you to bring two carry-on items into the cabin. There’s usually no charge for a personal item, such as a purse, small backpack or a laptop bag. And the same for a suitcase or duffle bag that will fit in the overhead compartment.
Take only what you’ll need on a trip. If you’re going to Hawaii or the Caribbean, you’ll be fine with light clothing. As long as you have your passport, wallet, phone, prescription medication and some suitable clothing, everything else (within reason) you can buy on vacation!
6. Dress in layers
Airlines may weigh your baggage, but they don’t weigh your body. If your luggage is over the allowed weight, a handy trick to avoid baggage fees for overweight bags is to layer up. Wear your heaviest clothing items and chunkiest footwear and de-layer once you’re on the plane. There’s a recent travel news story about an easyJet passenger who piled on eight kilos of clothing to avoid baggage fees with the low-cost airline. Now, that’s a commitment to the cause.
7. Invest in quality luggage
Gone are the days of clunky, chunky suitcases that weigh a ton. Some airline baggage policies are strict! You don’t want your baggage tipping the scale when empty, so if you’ve got old luggage, an investment in modern and lightweight luggage can go a long way. Try an upgrade to something lightweight and easy-to-carry.
8. Pay one-way
This tip combines many of the above tips for avoiding baggage fees. If you can get to your destination by travelling carry-on only and by dressing in layers, don’t pay for checked baggage for your departure flight. Instead, pre-book a 20kg (or more) checked baggage fee for your flight home, so you only pay for baggage fees one-way.
Take the largest (and lightest) carry-on suitcase allowed, even if it’s only half full, and use that extra space to pack with goodies on the way home! Let’s face it, you’ll probably end up shopping on vacation (why not splurge on some souvenirs or clothes at the local market?) so you’ll end up with new items for your trip home and some new things to wear during your vacation days.
About Budget Airlines and Baggage Fees
Many airlines do allow you to take two carry-on items on board for free, but there are some that don’t.
While you may encounter more budget airlines when travelling overseas, such as Ryanair and easyJet, we do have a few of our own. It’s important to always check carry-on baggage guidelines when considering flying with a low-cost airline. Here are a few examples of low-cost airlines:
Swoop (WestJet’s low-fare carrier): Swoop only allows a free personal item for their passengers. In order for the baggage allowance to be free of charge, your luggage must fit under the seat in front of you. All other baggage is subject to additional fees. The cost of both a carry-on bag and a piece of checked luggage starts at C$35 and prices go up from there. The cost can be up to C$90 per item if you wait to pay for your luggage at the airport, so be sure to pay for your luggage online (preferably during your initial booking!). Find more details here.
Flair Air (airline based in Kelowna, B.C.): Essentially, the same goes for Flair. You can bring a personal item on the flight for free, but carry-on overhead luggage and checked baggage will cost you. Prices for carry-on bags start at C$36.75 and checked bags begin at C$31.50. Like with Swoop, you’ll pay a lot more at the airport (up to C$92), so try to book your luggage online. Find more details on Flair’s website.
Flying With Carry-On Luggage Only
In addition to avoiding baggage fees, flying with carry-on luggage only has some major perks. For example, you’ll save time before your flight. If you check-in online, download your boarding pass at home onto your mobile device and have no luggage to check, you can go straight to security when you get to the airport. Carry-on bags are also a blessing after your flight since you won’t have to wait at baggage claim for your luggage or worry about your items getting lost.
But this tactic should be done with caution. If your carry-on luggage isn’t packed properly, or the correct size, you might end up having to check it at the airport (which as we’ve seen, is your priciest baggage option).
More about carry-on luggage and avoiding excess fees
- Check the carry-on size limits: Be sure to check what sizes your airline allows for carry-on luggage. In general, your personal item should fit under the seat in front of you and your carry-on item should be stowed in the overhead compartment. Oversized bags might be checked and you’ll have to pay oversized baggage fees on the spot.
- Make sure your carry-on isn’t over the weight limit: Take into account that an airline might weigh your carry-on item. While this isn’t common with major Canadian airlines, it’s something you should be sure to check on your airline’s baggage policy. This is especially important when travelling internationally. Air Canada and WestJet only ask that the bags are light enough for you can lift your luggage into the overhead bin without assistance.
- Bring carry-on friendly toiletries: In Canada, liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in 100 ml containers or less. Pack the containers together in one clear, resealable plastic bag, which can be no bigger than one litre. The best way to travel with your favourite toiletries in liquid form is to transfer them into reusable plastic bottles that are meant for air travel. You can find these at your local pharmacy or dollar store. And to avoid travelling with too many liquids, try bringing bars of soap and shampoo bars instead.
- Check for excess carry-on allowances: When travelling with children, there may be an extra allowance for a diaper bag, but always ask before arriving at the airport.
Nothing ruins your wanderlust mood at the airport like surprise baggage fees. Apply some of these tips when prepping for your next flight and you can avoid those excess baggage fees on your next trip.
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*Post updated August 19, 2019. Information and baggage fees are subject to change. Always check the baggage policy of the airline you’re flying with before booking your flight.