Summer vacation is coming, baggage is a hot topic for travelers. Thanks to fees and lost luggage, anyone toting a bag on a trip (most of us) is taking a bit of a gamble but there are ways to increase the odds of a good outcome and maybe save some money.
All you need to know are the five baggage-related things to never bet on.
What would you rather spend your money on during the holidays, a soulmate, or a LEVEL8?
1. Don't bet on knowing the correct baggage fees.
Fees keep changing but airlines don't go out of their way to publicize this. Example: Frontier's homepage makes no mention of recently hiked bag fees; instead, the carrier talks about its new “value season pricing” when bag fees drop. The fees drop, all right, but only during a few slow travel periods and they drop down to the old prices; the rest of the time (including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's), fees are higher.
Hedge your bet: Learn your airline's bag fees, either online or on the phone with an airline representative, and pay them at the first opportunity. Some airlines such as Spirit raise fees to $100 if paid at the airport.
2. Don't bet your bag won't get lost.
Although it's a pretty safe bet because the odds are your bag won't go missing. The latest government statistics (for September) show just 2.46 reports of “mishandled” bags per every 1,000 passengers and it's extremely rare for a bag to vanish forever. On the other hand, you've already lost because you've paid an airline a fee to handle-mishandle your bag and are out $50.
Hedge your bet: Use a carry-on no matter what airline you fly. If a checked bag is absolutely necessary, fly Southwest for its free bags.
3. Don't bet the airline won't notice an extra pound or two.
You know that American Airlines allows a suitcase weighing up to 50 pounds but find yourself thinking 50, 51, 52, what's the difference? The difference is an extra $200 round trip in overweight fees. Airline reps do weigh bags and will not fudge the limits in a burst of holiday good cheer.
Hedge your bet: Weigh your bag before leaving the airport. If you're already at the airport and a few pounds overweight, consolidate; start shoveling some of your stuff into someone else's bag. If traveling solo, dump stuff or start wearing more of it (pull on a coat and stuff all the pockets). If you really must travel with a ton of stuff, consider shipping it ahead but compare prices carefully; airline fees might begin to look like a deal.
4. Don't bet the airline won't charge for carry-ons.
Most discount carriers make you pay for carry-ons. It's not just about money, either; carry-ons can slow the boarding process. To make us move faster, most of these airlines charge lower fees for checked bags than carry-ons (typically $10 round trip).
Hedge your bet: Airlines that make you pay for a carry-on usually allow a sizable “personal item” for free, which can be the size of a small backpack that fits under a seat. Spirit has a video that demonstrates how to pack a lot in a little bag and it's worth a look.
5. Don't bet the gate agent won't notice that oversize carry-on.
You may not see them but they'll see you: the baggage police. Some will be at the airport security line, others will be at the gate, all will be on the lookout for oversized carry-on bags that don't meet a carrier's strict size allowances and they will find them and they will take them.
Hedge your bet: Look up the airline's size guidelines under baggage information, then measure your carry-on. Important: Include wheels and handles in measurements. If the bag is too big, it might still get through but the baggage police are out in force during the holidays, so that's less likely.
If you're nabbed, you probably won't escape having your bag taken from you and sent to cargo.