Sadly fees seem to be a growing trend in the travel industry and it really annoys me. It seems almost impossible to complete a trip without getting charged some kind of travel fee and all these various charges can really add up! With some fees, there is really no way around them. However, there are some tricks I use to avoid them.
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Checked Bag Fees
Many domestic flights and low-cost carriers charge for checked bags. Most airlines will charge for the second checked bag on international flights. Of course, the obvious answer here is to pack light and not check a bag. (Be sure to check out our packing tips.) You also need to make sure you check this carry-on size chart to make sure that your carry-on bag meets the requirements for the airline you are flying. If it does not, you could be forced to check your bag and pay the fee.
For me, it is not always possible to travel with only a carry-on bag. Some airlines (like United) have a credit card that allows you one free checked bag when you use that credit card to book the flight. Other airlines will give you checked bag privileges based on your frequent flyer status.
Overweight Bag Fees
The weight limit for bags varies by airline so make sure you research that in advance for the airline that you are flying. In my experience, it also will depend on the agent checking you in as to whether you get charged. Some will allow luggage a little over the limit, while others really play it by the book. Always be nice to the agent! There have been times I have been able to talk my way out of the fee. Other times, I have had to move shoes or other heavy items from my checked bag to my carry on to get the bag under the limit.
Also, some airlines now have weight limits for carry-on bags. My carryon was overweight for my flight on Aer Lingus to Dublin, but the agent let it go – “this time.” I didn’t even know there was a limit, so please make sure you review the airline’s policies before traveling. Oh, and I wouldn’t even think of flying on an airline (Spirit) that charges for all carryon luggage!
Foreign Transaction Fees
Some credit cards charge an extra 3% fee for any transactions made in foreign currency. There is no reason that you should pay this because there are plenty of credit cards that don’t. Just like The Points Guy, I really like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, in addition to having no foreign transaction fees, there are many other bonuses for frequent travelers. If you don’t want to pay an annual fee for your credit card, you might want to check out the Amazon Rewards Signature Visa.
Fees for International Roaming
International Roaming Fees can add up fast! I learned the hard way the first time I traveled internationally with my iPhone. My carrier at the time was AT&T and my monthly bill came out to be over $500! Luckily, I called and complained and then reduced it significantly. For a while after that, I would turn off my international data and only use wifi.
Only using wifi when traveling internationally is not ideal. If I was on the go, I couldn’t just look up something on my phone or message anyone (unless I wanted to incur ridiculous roaming fees). I also looked into buying monthly international data packages. They weren’t cheap either and the amount of data was limited.
Then, I realized there was another option. T-mobile has plans with unlimited free international roaming. I thought it must be too good to be true, but it wasn’t. I was able to get a cheaper plan than I had with AT&T and I now had international roaming. I wouldn’t have to be so dependent on finding wifi! Seriously, switching to T-mobile made traveling so much easier and saved me money too.
Fees for Transferring Your Miles
You may have seen the offer from airlines where you get a small mileage bonus for gifting your miles. What they don’t advertise is that there is a fee to gift your miles to someone else. So if when I have wanted to use my miles for someone to fly, I book the travel for them and then just put their name down as the passenger. This bypasses the transfer fee.
Fees for Selecting Your Seat
Some airlines will charge a fee to select your seat in advance or to book certain seats like those in exit rows. I know it sucks to sit in a middle seat, believe me, I had to do it both ways on my trip to Ireland. So my recommendation is to go online as soon as the check-in window opens for the best selection of seats.
If your preferred seat is not available, then you can ask an agent at the airport to change it. Sometimes they have access to book seats that cannot be reserved online. Also, some airlines reserve premium seats for those that have earned status on the airline. If all else fails (like it did on my flight to Ireland), I will suck it up and sit in a middle seat. I refuse to pay for an airplane seat assignment as that just encourages airlines to charge it more in the future.
Fees for Priority Boarding
Of course first/business class passengers board first, but some airlines have an option to pay to board the flight first. Again, out of principle, I don’t like to pay this type of fee. If you have status with an airline, you will usually be allowed to board first. Also, if you are traveling with small children or uniformed military personnel, they will allow you to board early. Some airlines allow passengers who have purchased their tickets with the airline’s credit card to board early as well.
Fees for Wifi
It is sad, but I have become addicted to being online and I will admit it. If you don’t have a plan like T-mobile that includes free international roaming, I am sure you are always looking for wifi.
It’s nice to have wifi on the plane, especially if it is going to be a long flight. However, most airlines do charge for wifi but there are a few like Jet Blue and Norwegian that offer it for free on select planes. If you are a T-mobile customer on Gogo enabled flight, you get 1hr of Wi-fi free. Some airlines offer it for free to business class passengers, so check the details so you will be prepared.
Some hotels also charge for wifi. Usually, if you have status with the hotel chain they will waive the free. I have had luck complaining (nicely) to the front desk clerk about the fee and getting a complimentary code. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?
I really don’t like this trend towards fees and I wonder what the next type of travel fee will be? What fees do you hate? Do you have any tips to avoid them?
Expert Tips for Avoiding Travel Fees
- Every airline is different so make sure you check the requirements before you travel.
- Look into switching to T-mobile to avoid international roaming charges. Click here for more information.
- You may be able to avoid fees depending on the credit card you use.
- In some cases, you may be able to talk your way out of fees. It doesn’t hurt to ask, just be nice about it.
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