Common Mistakes With Airline Luggage That Cost You Money

01 of 08

Assuming Carry-On Baggage is Always Free

Passengers placing bags in overhead bins
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Budget travelers practice one bag, carry-on travel when they fly. Most of the time, this deprives their chosen airline of baggage fee revenue. However, that is not always the case.

Some carriers charge even for one carry-on bag in the overhead bins. For example, ​Spirit Airlines charges $26 for carry-on bag space that is reserved at the same time as the ticket booking is made. If you show up at the airport with a carry-on previously unreserved, the cost is $55.

Many budget carriers price their tickets as if you are getting on the plane with nothing in your hand. Anything -- even a carry-on bag --  falls into the category of "options and extras" on Spirit. Other carriers that now charge for a carry-on bag include Allegiant and Frontier 

02 of 08

Packing Carry-On Baggage With Banned Items

a traveler putting toiletries in see-through bag
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It's true that you can glide through airport security checkpoints sometimes with liquid containers that are larger than the allowed limits. But if you want to move quickly through these security checks, it's best not to tempt fate. In the United States, be certain that you've complied with the 3-1-1 requirements.

You might not be detected every trip, but the one time you're running late -- well -- Murphy's Law is alive and well in these situations. Save yourself the possible expense of a missed flight by checking the sizes of your bottles and making certain you've removed anything that could be considered a weapon. 

03 of 08

Failing to Meet Carry-On Baggage Size Requirements

a person measuring bag with tape measure
Mark D. Kahler

If you purchase a true carry-on bag, chances are good that you'll slip under a given airline's maximum size policy. But it pays to check on the dimensions your carrier prescribes, and make that check at home before you finish packing.

In the past few years, overhead bin space has become increasingly scarce as travelers try to avoid baggage fees. Flight attendants, out of necessity, are far less tolerant of the bag that is just a bit too large. Some airlines have lowered the maximums in an attempt to alleviate the space crunch. Find out the maximum dimensions and plan accordingly.

04 of 08

Ignoring the Benefits of Carry-On Air Travel

overhead Bins on airplane
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With all the aforementioned caveats about carry-on baggage in mind, it is important to recognize that one-bag, carry-on travel remains the best way for budget travelers to avoid airline baggage fees

Paying baggage fees becomes an expensive habit. That money can be applied to more enjoyable travel activities. A passenger's two checked bags on a given flight requires $60 on many airlines. Outbound and inbound, that amounts to at least $120. Baggage fees are far more expensive on some budget airlines.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Failing to Pay Baggage Fees at Booking

easyJet website
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As previously noted, you frequently will be asked at the time of booking to reserve space for your baggage. Notice the words "at the time of booking" rather than "at the time of online check-in" a few hours prior to your flight. The longer you wait to reserve this service, the more the cost will escalate.

Baggage fees at easyJet.com, for example, vary between £12 - £22, depending upon the selection of route and flight period. But those prices only apply for baggage reservations at time of booking. Later, you'll pay £30 at bag drop or £45 at the gate. Those fees are per bag, per flight. Make your baggage plans as early as possible.

06 of 08

Too Many Bags in Tow

assorted luggage on a baggage cart
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It's important to follow budget travel packing practices as you prepare for your flights. In short, this means bringing only essential items and clothing that is easily washed or re-purposed during the trip. Don't skimp on items such as medications, but leave bulky or valuable items at home whenever possible. 

You are charged by the number of bags, so it sometimes makes sense to combine two smaller bags into one larger bag. But the effectiveness of that technique proves limited. Keep reading to consider those limitations. 

07 of 08

Packing Overweight Bags

overpacked luggage
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Combining smaller bags into larger bags might save money in a pinch, but the strategy has limitations because airlines also charge fees for bags that are unusually large or heavy.

Baggage weight and height limits vary by airline, and it pays to become familiar with the guidelines from each airline you'll be flying during your trip. Weigh-ins at the terminal or gate can add stress and expense to your trip.

08 of 08

Poor Labeling and Marking of Bags

piece of black luggage
Mark D. Kahler

Lost baggage costs time and money. You'll need to replace what's in the lost bag, and allow for the inconvenience of reconnecting. 

The suitcase pictured above is bound for Detroit's Metro Airport. That's the only distinctive characteristic. The owner's name and address are unseen. It's a common black bag, of the size and design you'll see drift past you dozens of times on the baggage claim carousel. 

Put something distinctive on your bag. It can be as minimal as a piece of yarn tied to the handle. This will minimize the risk of someone else reaching for your bag. Be certain your bag can be identified quickly if it is lost. It helps to snap a picture of it prior to check-in.

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