(TNS)—Airfare is expensive enough as it is, but the added fees make things worse. Some of the discount airlines (think: Spirit, WOW Air and Allegiant) charge for everything from seat selection to printing your boarding pass. Some airlines even charge for carry-on luggage any bigger than a purse or small backpack. But if there’s one thing airlines agree on, it’s charging for regular ol’ checked baggage.
With few exceptions, you’ll always have to pay to check a bag for in-flight storage.
If you’re looking for ways to avoid paying for checked bags, you’re in luck. Here are five of the best strategies anyone can use:
Use Packing Cubes
Websites such as Amazon.com and eBags.com sell “packing cubes” that compress your selection of clothes down to carry-on size. Packing cubes also help you stay organized and keep your suitcase or backpack from “exploding” with clothes each time they’re opened.
With packing cubes, you’ll sort your clothing by type, then pack your luggage tightly to maximize space. While it might seem weird that cubes could help lighten your load, it really does work: They force your clothing into smaller, compressed rectangles and squares, so you can fit more into your bag.
‘Roll’ Your Clothes
I’m a big fan of “rolling” outfits while avoiding checking bags like the plague. It helps to select full outfits that you roll together. If you’re traveling for eight days, for example, you’ll select and roll together eight full outfits plus pajamas and underclothes.
By selecting specific outfits for each day and rolling them together, you end up with the exact amount of clothing you need. Rolling your outfits also helps keep them wrinkle-free and organized.
Plan on Doing Laundry
If you’re heading out for a longer trip and need more than seven to eight outfits to wear, planning for a few loads of laundry can help. (We’re going on a three-week trip to Europe this summer and, to be honest, I don’t even own three weeks of clothing.)
Instead of checking bags, we’re going to bring one week of clothing and wash it several times. If you don’t have a washing machine, you can hand wash your clothes in a sink or bathtub, then hang them to dry on our own portable clothesline.
Get the Right Travel Credit Card
If you fly a specific airline all the time, certain co-branded airline credit cards make it easy to earn miles and score free checked bags.
The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard is a smart example. With this card, you’ll get a signup bonus, no foreign transaction fees, preferred boarding on domestic flights and a free checked bag on domestic flights for you and up to four companions on your itinerary.
The Southwest Effect
While most airlines charge for checked bags, at least one never does: Southwest Airlines.
Southwest flies to a slew of hubs all over the U.S., plus Caribbean hotspots such as Grand Cayman (starting in June), Montego Bay, Aruba, Nassau and Punta Cana. No matter where you fly with Southwest Airlines, your first two checked bags fly free.
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