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Want to save on travel? Pack light.

Stacey Leasca
October 03, 2017

The travel industry site Skift recently explained that travelers who check bags are often paying much, much more than they used to. 

Skift pointed to a report by the Government Accountability Office that determined base airfare is actually lower than it once was. But because airlines achieved these ticket prices by unbundling their fares, travelers who choose to check bags will ultimately end up paying more than they did before the unbundling began.

Related: This Is Where Every Dollar of Your Airfare Goes

That is because now, most airlines make travelers pay for their ticket, baggage, reservation changes, and other services separately. In the earlier days of air travel, all of these fees were added together into the price of your ticket.

According to the GAO report, just by unbundling baggage fees and reservation changes, United States airlines' revenues increased from $6.3 billion in 2010 to $7.1 billion in 2016.

So how can you save? It’s simple: Do not pay for the extras and pack only a carry-on.

“As a result, customers who paid for checked bags paid more on average for the combined airfare and bag fee than when the airfare and bag fee were bundled together,” the report explained. “Conversely, passengers who did not check bags paid less overall.”

Of course, not everyone is pleased with being told to “pack only a carry-on."

“At this rate, passengers are going to have to start showing up with a suitcase full of clothes and a suitcase full of money just to get on the plane,” Florida Senator Bill Nelson — who requested the report by the GAO — said in a statement. “It’s high time the airlines rein in these outrageous fees.”

And while little can be done right now about the fees, Congress has passed legislation requiring airlines to provide immediate reimbursement for lost or late luggage.

In the meantime, try out a few of Travel + Leisure’s time-tested hacks to packing smart and light. You'll save more than a few bucks — and you'll get to your gate in record time.

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