Avoid hidden airline fees

August 8, 2008 5:10:27 PM PDT
Tips on packing light and traveling smart.

Making a reservation on the phone or in person
Fee: $5-$25
United levies $15 for the privilege of speaking to a human. American, JetBlue, and Southwest $10 (for internet only fares in Southwest's case, but they do make exceptions we were told). Northwest and Virgin America charge just $5.

TIP: Use the internet

Checking luggage
Fee: $3-25 (each way)
We're talking here just about checking even one bag, even if they're not oversized or overweight (that's a whole other story). Most major airlines now charge $25 for a second checked bag, and we wouldn't be surprised if next they start charging for every bag. Spirit Airlines charges $5 for each of the first two bags if paid for online, $10 each otherwise. The third bag costs a whopping $100, more if it's oversized or overweight. Allegiant.charges $3 for the first, $5 for the second. Air Canada gives you a discount for not checking baggage, which is a sneaky way of charging you if you do.

TIP: Fly an airline that doesn't charge luggage fees (yet) like Southwest, whenever possible. If you have to fly a major airline, be prepared to pay the fee. Have the correct cash in hand and allow extra time to check in -- for your fellow travelers who are fumbling around/ packing and re-packing at the check in counter and holding up the line.

Escalating excess baggage charges
Which can sometimes cost more than your fare, although some airlines (especially international ones) clearly overdo it. But passengers overdo it, too, and an airline ticket should not entitle you to move your entire household by air. Let those who overpack pay for the privilege.

TIP: Know your weight limits and weigh your bags before you leave home. Packing tips later.

Getting a seat assignment
Fee: $5-$11 each way
Air Canada, AirTran and Allegiant are some of the carriers that now charge for this "perk." AirTran charges $5 if you're on a discounted coach ticket; Allegiant charges $11. AirTran charges $15 if you want to grab an exit row seat and Northwest recently upped the charge from $15 to $20.

TIP: Unless you like the middle seat, which doesn't recline, next to the toilet door, reserve your seat and pay the fee (I still think it's worth it).

To pack:
Light weight suitcase that is expandable with sturdy zipper (carry on size)
1 pair of shoes
Ziploc bags
Small containers of shampoo and conditioner
Black reversible dress
Scarf/shawl
2 linen tops, short and long sleeve
1 tote bag

Weight busters: (items you don't need to bring)
Hair dryer
Heavy raincoat
Hardback books

Items for plane:
Inflatable pillow (to avoid Jetblue $7 fee for pillow)
Earplugs
Socks
Cashews/chocolate

Marybeth Bond Bio
Marybeth Bond is a "gutsy traveler" with traveling tricks and tips for women of all ages. After traveling solo for two years through six continents and more than 70 countries around the world, she has dedicated herself through writing, television, radio and public speaking to provide her audience know-how and practical advice for traveling.

She is an award-winning author/editor of eleven travel books including 50 Best Girlfriend Getaways Worldwide (National Geographic), A Woman's World, Gutsy Women, Gutsy Mamas and also the Adventure Editor for travelgirl Magazine. She is the Travel Spokesperson for corporate clients including AAA and Hilton Garden Inn. TV savvy with regular appearances on national programs (including The Oprah Winfrey Show); she is a travel ambassador, woman speaker and award-winning leader in the field of women travel.

For more information visit: http://gutsytraveler.com


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