Flying can be pricey and your plane ticket barely covers more than your seat on a flight. Travelers are hit with more fees for everything from seat selection to in-flight meals and checked bags. Checked bag fees can range from $25 on the low side to as much as $150 per bag, depending on the airline and how many bags you’re checking.
There are some ways to get around that checked bag fee, and while most of them involve spending some money, that cost usually comes with other perks.
- Fly Southwest - It’s the only major U.S. airline that offers free checked bags, up to two per person. The downside of flying Southwest is that you don’t get to choose your seat in advance, it’s all first-come, first-served.
- Earn elite status on an airline - Frequent fliers often get other perks, including a free checked bag. For example, Silver Medallions in Delta’s SkyMiles program get one free checked bag up to 70 pounds on domestic flights, and it goes up to three free checked bags if they’re in first class or Delta one.
- Get an airline credit card - According to travel advisor Meaghan Clawsie, airlines often give their cardmembers free checked luggage. She says her United Club credit card allows her and her traveling companion two free checked bags weighing up to 70 pounds.
- Book a premium cabin - Sure, these tickets are more expensive than checked bag fees, but they also come with perks like in-flight dining, a bigger seat and priority check-in and boarding.
- Gate check your bag - If a flight is full, gate agents may ask if any passengers want to check their bags for free so they can free up space in overhead bins. But you’ll have to pack in a carry-on bag, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of trying to avoid a baggage fee.
- Pay for United’s baggage subscription - Their base plan starts at $349 a year, which gets you one standard bag free of charge within the continental U.S., but the subscription can be customized to cover more bags for more money.
- Weigh your bag at home - It won’t stop that standard baggage fee, but it will help you avoid paying for oversized baggage fees.