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3 Super Annoying Airline Fees — and How to Avoid Them
I know, I know: Travel is awesome, but flying is just too expensive.
I’ve heard it time and again, and even said it myself. (And to be honest, I probably do spend more on travel than I really should.)
But as it turns out, flying is actually less expensive now than it has been in recent memory.
But even when fares go up, you’ve got lots of ways to minimize the price of your ticket, even on the those annoying “hidden” fees (which might not be so hidden — or annoying — after all).
How to Save Money on Flights and Avoid Hidden Airline Fees
Our very first suggestion?
Start finding ways to travel for free and avoid paying for your ticket altogether.
Yep, we’re talking frequent flyer miles, and if you don’t know where to start, don’t worry: We’ve got a guide.
But if you’re still working on accruing enough miles for your dream destination, you can get a lot of air travel for less than you’d expect… if you know how to work the system.
Lifehacker’s Kristin Wong points out five common airline fees you’ve probably run into before — and expert tips for how to minimize or get around them entirely.
Here are three of the most common of those fees and some of our favorite bits of her sage advice.
1. Baggage Fees
Yes, it costs money to check a bag. And yes, apparently there was a time when this wasn’t the case.
“If I think hard enough, I can remember when checking luggage was free,” writes Wong.
But when even one checked bag can cost up to $100 depending on your airline, it literally pays to travel light.
Luckily, the internet is packed with efficient ways to… pack.
“The most obvious way to get around this fee is to not check luggage at all and pack everything into one carry-on,” writes Wong.
She also points out one helpful packing method, the “skivvy roll.” Although it looks a little intimidating, “if you do it right, you’ll avoid wrinkles, too.”
Just think of your vacation preparations like a game of Tetris. And your prize for getting to level 10 is not having to wait at the baggage carousel or lug a 50-pound suitcase through the airport.
If you absolutely have to have your whole wardrobe for your journey to Paris, consider applying for your airline’s proprietary credit card. In many cases, it’ll waive the price of your first checked bag.
2. Seat Selection Fees
I despise flying in anything but a window seat. Yes, even if the flight’s 10 hours long and I’m going to have to annoy my two new “friends” to empty my tiny bladder six times.
But you can save some serious cash by sucking it up and leaving your seat up to chance.
“Yes, some airlines even charge for the luxury of picking a seat,” reports Wong. Worse yet: “It doesn’t even have to be a fancy First Class seat. Spirit charges between $1-$50, depending on the route. Allegiant charges up to $80 for some flights.”
The best way around it?
Make like Elsa and let it go. Besides, who knows? You might get a free upgrade if the rest of the plane fills up.
3. In-Flight Wi-Fi Fee
This one’s probably the most bougie, optional fee on the list.
But sometimes, in-flight Wi-Fi is a hard luxury to pass up. If you’re traveling during a work day — or you’re alone and want to be able to say “I love you” to someone on the ground when things get turbulent — you can’t really do it without internet.
But you don’t have to pay $10 for a single hour of it, either.
“Most browsers let you change your user agent, so you can identify as a mobile device,” explains Wong.
“This is meant for developers to test stuff, but you can also use this option to get cheaper in-flight Wi-Fi. Change your user agent, get the lower mobile price, then switch back after you pay.”
The mobile version of the in-flight WiFi is almost always cheaper, making this a neat hack. Here’s a guide on how to do it, because I have absolutely no idea.
Otherwise, Wong suggests checking around for in-flight Wi-Fi coupons at outlets like RetailMeNot.
Or make the most economical decision and purchase a long-term pass ahead of time if you know you’ll decide to get the pricier option in the air either way. With Gogo, for example, you “can nab an all-day pass for $16, and that’s typically much cheaper than purchasing your pass in-air.”
A secret of my own? Find a credit card that automatically offers a statement credit for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases as a perk. (Thanks, Discover it Miles — and they’re not even paying me to say that!)
“Hidden” Fees? Not So Much
When it comes down to it, these “hidden” fees are only assessed on choosable, itemized extras — and prices are usually well advertised on the airline’s website.
Plus, by making extras optional, airlines can afford to lower the cost of the flight itself, which can help you save money in the long run if you choose to fly as frugally as possible.
But doing without a checked bag or even ditching in-flight Wi-Fi might not be an option if you’re traveling long-distance, long-term or while you’re still responsible for getting work done.
So to get the full details on how to minimize those extra charges, check out Wong’s full article at Lifehacker.
And if you want even more ways to save on airfare, some of our other posts might help. Check them out:
If your summer plans are already booked, but you’re looking ahead to Thanksgiving, here are some tips for getting home for the holidays on the cheap.
And if you’re already good at saving money while you travel, think about this: You could be making money while you’re on the road, instead.
Your Turn: How do you get the most bang for your travel buck?
Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her writing has also been featured at Word Riot, DMQ Review, Hinchas de Poesia and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.