5 Most Ingenious Ways of Avoiding Carry-On Fees


Traveler's Toolbox  

Today, a major war is being waged around the issue of carry-on baggage. In one corner, we have the company who pioneered the controversial practice of charging for overhead bin luggage, and whose recent announcement to raise their fees to a whopping $45 per piece, as of August 1, was accompanied by promises of lower airfares. On the opposing side, we have – aside from an outraged flying public – some prominent U.S. senators including Charles Schumer (New York), Benjamin L. Cardin (Maryland) and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana). The latter are the authors of the Cardin-Landrieu Free of Fees for Carry-On Act, a bill that seeks to make it illegal for airlines to charge for carry-on baggage.

While the battle continues to rage, here are some winning tactics to ensure you don’t pay extra carry-on fees:

1. Shop Around The Big Sleep: Thanks to the dogged tactics of Senator Schumer, five airlines – American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, and U.S. Airways – have all promised that they won’t be charging for carry-ons.

2. Invest in Pockets:: JetBlue has gone one further by announcing, on their blog, the sale of the “Extrago Sherpas Shirt”, a hybrid suitcase-shirt that JetBlue’s inspiring marketing team designed to hold “an entire trip’s worth of necessities, including the $20 you’ll save by not checking or carrying on your bag.” Comfortable? Not really. Tongue-in-cheek? Totally. Adhering to the same concept is Chicago Tribune travel editor, Russ Werland’s real-life solution. Werland purchased a SeV/Scottevest Pack Windbreaker and proceeded to stuff an amazing quantity of personal items and (wrinkle-free) clothes into its 17 pockets ($75 from scottevest.com).

3. Check It – But Don’t Pay for It: A welcome new trend is the number of hotels that are offering to pick up the checked baggage tab for guests who meet certain conditions (i.e. a 2-night minimum). Recent examples include Washington D.C. hotels, The Normandy and The Dupont, Los Angeles’ Avalon and Maison 140, and the Loews chain.

4. Take the Air Out Despite travelers’ best efforts at stuffing, packing specialists have discovered that a lot of luggage space is taken up by air. With this in mind, you might want to invest in a SpaceBag To Go; these bags’ ability to push air out from between folded clothes leaves you with 25 percent extra capacity. Although prices hover around $19.99, a DIY alternative proposed by the Airfare Watchdog blog is to invest in a gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag and a $3.99 Ziploc pump.

5. Shop Around The Big Sleep: Book a “Nakation”. The American Association of Nude Recreation proposes a guaranteed way to travel light: take a trip to a nudist resort (according to AANR, these are no longer just for Scandinavians and aging hippies). Instead of all those bulky clothes, all you’ll need is a pair of shades, a hat, and lots of sunscreen.

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