Baggage fees... Now there's something that can confuse even the most savvy traveler. People are always saying to me that flying isn't fun anymore. What they're really saying is that it's changed.

There are security check lines to go through. You have to worry about the size of your shampoo bottle. You have to pay for meals on domestic U.S. flights... and then there are baggage fees!

It's just like everything, isn't it? People remember the "good old days" fondly. But it all seems easier and more romantic. You probably don't want to go back to the times when you had to make several stops to get to your destination, and if you're honest, you probably don't want to pay more for your airline ticket. That's what it would take if you wanted those free meals and wanted to be able to check your luggage for free.

What really will get your head spinning, though, is trying to figure out those baggage fees. They vary depending on what part of the world you are traveling in or to. They vary from airline to airline and from country to country. It won't do you any good to argue about them. Sooner or later you'll end up paying something... just pad a little extra money into your budget.

Most U.S. airlines now charge some sort of a fee to check luggage. We've always tried to travel with one carry-on piece of luggage each, and that still works in the U.S. In Europe, though, weight restrictions are tighter for carry-on luggage, and the allowable size is smaller...

What you can carry-on in the U.S. must be checked on some European carriers. Even in Europe, some carriers are starting to charge for checking bags.

You will pay a fee for one bag, and usually slightly more for a second bag, even more for a third or fourth bag, so try to limit those packing excesses. The fees apply to each passenger, so if there is a family of four traveling with four bags, you will each be charged for one bag... at the smallest amount.... as long as they also meet the weight restrictions.

Pay attention to how much your bags weigh. Most airlines will charge more if your bag weighs more than 50 pounds (22.5 kilograms). The fee goes up substantially if the bag weighs more than 70 pounds (32 kilos), and some airlines won't even take them if they're over 70 pounds. One very heavy bag will cost more than two bags which are both under the weight limits.

If you check in online, you can usually save a little money, but remember the weight restrictions still apply. Don't think you can get away with paying online and taking a heavy bag. The airlines must check your I.D. when you check the bag; they will check your home generated boarding pass to make sure you have paid the proper luggage fees; and if you're bag is overweight, they will charge you the additional fees. There's just no getting around it.

If you're lucky enough to be traveling first class, you've paid enough that you don't have to worry about this. For the rest of us, those baggage fees are now part of travel. Learn to pack smart, and you can keep them to a minimum... and if you pack light, it really does make travel easier.

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