The Great Baggage Fee Scam

Sometimes that airplane ticket price IS too good to be true. Depending on which airline you choose, the type of ticket you purchase (economy, economy plus, business class, etc…), and your destination – you can end up paying another $100+ to bring an ordinary 21″ roller bag along with you on your trip.

I believe the theory is that you should be able to live for a week out of a small backpack. To this I say, well… something rude. I’m all for discouraging people from packing a jumbo suitcase for a week. No one needs that much clothing unless they’re samples for your new line of product, or some such thing. But for a trip to visit family on the other coast, or sight see around Hollywood? Nope.

But I’m not talking about a big suitcase. I’m talking about a small suitcase with clothing that has been carefully curated to coordinate and layer. In addition I have a backpack for my camera, Chromebook, and eReader plus sundry charging solutions. A chunk of space is allocated to meds, which anyone over 50 will find consumes more and more space and attention.

But my Vueling ticket (economy) from Barcelona to Spain, does not permit me to carry on my roller bag. Same deal with my flight from the US to Europe on Lufthansa. I had to check my bag since I couldn’t afford to pay about FIVE THOUSAND dollars more for our two tickets. So I check my bag. $60 for the flight to Europe. eu50 (about $54) for the flight from Barcelona to Seville. And then of course, there is the fee for the trip back. So all told, I’m paying another $228… just to bring some clothing along on my 3 week vacation to the European Union. Multiply that by two for a couple. That’s a lot of sight-seeing tickets or massages… or a couple of deluxe meals. All to bring along your undies, some small electronics, basic toiletries, medications and enough clothing to be comfortable in various weather.

Raise your hand if this sounds reasonable to you. Please raise your hand if it sounds reasonable, and you own stock in one or more airlines. Now please raise your hand if it sounds reasonable, and you work for an airline.

Is anyone’s hand still not raised? I seriously doubt it. But this is today’s travel experience. Keep this in mind when you book airlines. Fortunately, Cheap Air tries to keep track of all these fees and baggage limitations across the airline industry. I prefer to be an educated consumer. Mind you, some of these so-called “free” first bags only apply to Business and First Class tickets. You have to go onto each airline’s particular baggage policy for the most current details.

You should also take advantage of any frequent traveler accounts and status you may have. You can save yourself a nice chunk of change just having (as in my case, a Silver status with United’s (Star Alliance) courtesy of my lifetime Titanium status with Marriott’s Bonvoy club. This means that we only had to pay the $60 fee to check my wife’s (small) suitcase. I caught this just in time and the Lufthansa service person had to check with her Supervisor to confirm. I’d like to believe that you could get a refund if you realize after the fact that your bag should have been checked for free. Somehow I doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt to call your Frequent Flier customer service line and ask.

This practice of charging additional fees for things that really should be included in the purchase price is an increasingly common snake-in-the-grass for travelers. It’s that 2.10 for a small bottle of water or eu30 for a seat closer to the front door of the airplane, or $125 for extra legroom. For a while Ryan Airlines charged a pound to use the bathroom during the flight, a practice initiated in 2010 that gained them a bad reputation with customers which sticks to this day.

What all this boils down to is that sometimes the low cost ticket you are considering, isn’t really as cheap as it looks on Expedia or Travelocity or some other online booking site. Take a moment to check each airline’s baggage and fees policies before making that purchase.

What about you? Encounter any egregious travel fees lately? What really got your ire? Share the experience in the Comments section below!

Cash and Cards – Tips for a Trip Abroad

Traveling somewhere exotic from your bucket list is exciting. It can also be stressful. Although you can navigate most of Europe quite easily just speaking English, it’s always a wise idea to learn some basics. I have found that “hello”, “goodbye”, “thank you”, “where is the bathroom”, “how much is that?” and “I’m sorry, I don’t speak your language, do you speak English?” are phrases that will get you a long way anywhere you travel.

That being said, no one wants to find themselves in need of extra cash with no way to ask about exchange rates, or using a credit card, only to discover that your bank tacks on a 2% fee for every foreign transaction when you get home.

So here are a few things to do well before you climb on board that great big jet.

Talk with your bank about exchanging US dollars for the local currency of your destination (UK pounds, euros, etc…) Your bank should be able to order the amount you need within a few days. I have a long term relationship with my bank, and they don’t charge me a fee for this. If your bank wants to charge you a fee, consider asking around. If you travel often it might save you some serious cash to open an account with a bank that does not charge you a fee. (or you could change banks altogether, just saying) Getting local money before you arrive can make navigating the taxi or bus ride to your lodgings more of a touristy sight-seeing experience than a Survivor challenge.

Secondly, find out whether the banks that issue the credit card(s) you plan to take with you charge a “foreign transaction” fee. Those little puppies can add up. Do this far enough ahead to give you time to apply for a different credit card. Marriott and United Airlines both have branded VISA cards through Chase Bank that do not charge foreign transaction fees. Those are just examples from my own experience, you may find another card deal that serves you better.

Third, contact all your credit card companies (for the cards that you will be taking with you), and let them know where you will be, and when, so that they will know it’s not a case of identity theft. Make sure to leave the rest of your credit cards at home. Also, take pictures of all the cards and ID you are taking with you, front and back, so that you will have contact information in case you lose your wallet (or it is stolen).

And finally, when making purchases, especially large ones on a trip, you should take into consideration exchange rates, export and import fees, (and any card transaction fees if you are stuck with one that charges them). This can help you make wise decisions about what you really need, and what you should pass up. (take a photo perhaps, or make note of the manufacturer to purchase at home) Post-vacation financial regrets are a common occurrence. Save yourself this heartache by adding a foreign exchange app to the smart device you take with you.

(I’ll have more to say about travel tech to make a trip abroad less stressful in another blog)

So those are my tips from previous travel abroad to places like Bali, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Spain, France, and Scotland. Do you have a trick you want to share? What financial experiences (good or bad) have you had that taught you a valuable lesson? Drop us a comment!