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Avoid Luggage Charges

Skip or reduce airline
baggage fees with these helpful suggestions.

Avoid luggage charges
Photo caption
Use your head and you can be creative about keeping luggage costs down.

Ouch. The carry-on scrum got rougher this year. With American, United, and other airlines now charging for checked luggage—up to $15 for the first bag, $25 minimum for the second—many winter vacationers have taken to overstuffng their roll-aboards with bulky sweaters, down jackets, and even ski boots. That’s a recipe for scuffed knuckles and hot tempers. But before you just bite your lip and pay the fees, consider these options.

  • Ship Your Luggage Of course it will cost you—the U.S. Postal Service charges $24 to deliver 50 pounds in three days by priority mail. But think of it: no heavy bags to lug, no baggage carousels, no sneaky surcharges.
  • Pack Light—Then Rent Bound for the slopes in Utah or Wyoming? Plan to rent skis and boots on arrival. Scan for deals. At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a five-day ski-gear rental deal is $164 for adults and $101 for kids. Got a toddler? Visit and arrange to have a stroller, crib, and toys waiting for you.
  • Share and Share Alike If you have to check bags, treat all your family’s nonintimate garments as cargo to be shared. Pack bags full—and at the same time, nix that second sweater and just-in-case coat. The goal: to leave a hefty duffel or two at home.
  • Go Empty-Handed Or almost. Take one change of clothes, drape a warm coat over your arm—it’ll make a nice pillow on the plane—and buy your toiletries after you land.
  • Seek the Sun Which takes up more space: flip-flops or ski boots? Swim fins or a snowboard? A pareu or a parka? Enough said. Maybe it’s your winter to skip the moguls and powder and go for surf and sand.

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in May 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.