The airlines keep finding new ways to make you pay baggage fees. Outsmart them with these strategies.
Step 1: Know the rules Know the airline's rules before you go. The penalty for 1 overweight or oversize bag is often higher than what you'd pay to check 2 smaller suitcases. Plus, you could be charged 2 separate penalties if a bag is both too heavy and too big. Also, some airlines now charge a carry-on fee for luggage that doesn't fit under the seat in front of you.
TIP: Cheap luggage usually weighs less than expensive brands.
Step 2: Make the hotel pay Avoid airline baggage fees by booking a hotel that will reimburse you for them. Many chains are doing just that to attract business.
Step 3: Pack smart Pack smart: Sticking with 1 or 2 colors that mix and match and packing items that can be hand-washed may help you get away with just taking a carry-on.
TIP: Wear your heaviest, bulkiest clothes and shoes on the plane, and stuff items into the overhead compartment once you're aboard.
Step 4: Consider overnight shipping Consider shipping luggage to your destination. It usually doesn't pay with just 1 bag, but it can be cheaper if you're traveling with more than 2 suitcases or taking bulky sports equipment since airline baggage fees jump steeply with a third bag. Just beware: Some hotels charge a fee for accepting shipped luggage and holding it until your arrival.
Step 5: Show a little loyalty Sign up for frequent flyer programs if you're not participating already. Many carriers waive or reduce fees for members. Having an airline's credit card can help you avoid airline baggage fees, too.
FACT: U.S. airlines made more than $3 billion in baggage fees in 2010.