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How to Avoid Baggage Fees

Save valuable vacation cash—and time—by giving everyone a carry-on and teaching them how to pack to the max.

By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright

Family with luggage
Enlarge Image
Photo Illustration by Stephen Webster

Fast Fact: Airlines raked in nearly $3 billion from baggage fees last year (so don't count on them going away).

4 More Ways to Avoid Charges

  1. Choose a no-fee airline. Your first checked bag flies free on JetBlue; on Southwest Airlines, you get two bags free per person.
  2. Take advantage of exemptions. Many airlines waive fees for elite-level frequent fliers and their companions, and for active military.
  3. Consider an airline-branded credit card. Delta's Sky Miles Gold American Express allows up to nine people on the cardholder's reservation to check one bag gratis for an annual fee of $95. Love Continental Airlines? Check out OnePass Chase MasterCard.
  4. Sleep and save. Some hotels reimburse baggage fees if you stay a certain number of nights; check websites for current promotions.

The 3-1-1 Rule for Liquids and Gels

When trying to decide what's okay to carry on, remember the Transportation Security Administration's 3-1-1 rule: Pack liquids and gels in 3-ounce or smaller containers and place them inside a 1-quart ziptop plastic bag (one bag per traveler is allowed). Medications exceeding 3 ounces are acceptable in "reasonable quantities." Declare these items for inspection at the security checkpoint.

Airline Baggage Fees for Domestic Flights

Can't fit everything into carry-ons? Consult our chart to see how much you'll have to pay to check your bags.

Untitled Document

Airline

1st Checked Bag

2nd Checked Bag

Dimension Limitations (Maximum overall dimension, maximum weight)

More Information

AirTran

$20

$25

61 inches, 50 lbs

airtran.com

American Airlines

$25

$35

62 inches, 50 lbs

aa.com

Continental Airlines

$25

$35

62 inches, 50 lbs

continental.com

Delta

$25
NOTE: All passengers traveling to or from Key West, Florida, are limited to one checked bag. This supersedes all exceptions.

$35

62 inches, 50 lbs

delta.com

Frontier

$20

$20

62 inches, 50 lbs

frontierairlines.com

JetBlue

FREE

$35

62 inches, 50 lbs

jetblue.com

Spirit

For members of $9 Fare Club: Online $18, Online Check-In $23, Airport Counter $38; For non-members: Online $28, Online Check-In $33, Airport Counter $38

For members of $9 Fare Club: Online $25, Online Check-In $30, Airport Counter $45; For non-members: Online $35, Online Check-In $40, Airport Counter $45

62 inches, 40 lbs

spirit.com

Southwest

FREE

FREE

62 inches, 50 lbs

southwest.com

Sun Country

Online $20, Airport Counter $25

Online $30, Airport Counter $35

62 inches, 50 lbs

suncountry.com

US Airways

$25

$35

62 inches, 50 lbs

usairways.com

Virgin America

$25

$25

62 inches, 50 lbs

virginamerica.com

-Maria Minsker

Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.

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