Travelers should prepare for fee-laden skies

The only thing an airplane traveler can assume is that very few things are included in the ticket price these days.

At the top of the fee list is the price for checking a bag. For example, a family of two checking two bags each can cost an extra $240 round-trip.

As a go-to source for travel information, AAA recommends researching fees before booking the ticket. A cheaper ticket with one carrier might end up being more expensive after you factor in all of the extras.

Most carriers require travelers to pay a fee per checked bag, but more are starting to charge for carry-on bags, too. Keep in mind if you pre-pay for your luggage, you may get a better rate.

“Weight is really important to airlines,” said Amy Moreno, travel manager for AAA Arizona. “I recommend investing in a $15 portable luggage scale and take it with you to avoid surprises.”

While many carriers allow checked bags to weigh up to 50 pounds before there’s an additional surcharge, some carriers only allow 40 pounds. You don’t want to just show up at the airport, not knowing the baggage fee.

With some airlines, there’s also an extra cost for prime seats, whether those are aisle seats, seats closer to the front or emergency exit rows for more legroom. If it matters where you sit, secure your seat assignments in advance.

“It’s essential to read the fine print, as it’s easy to assume certain things,” Moreno said. “That’s where using a trusted travel agent will be invaluable. Agents know the ins and outs of fees and how to get the best bang for your buck.”

International flights remain the last bastion of fee-free — or almost fee-free — flying. Many international flights still include meals, entertainment and checked bags for travelers. Of course, ticket prices tend to be quite a bit higher, too.

As a travel resource, AAA recommends six tips for fliers:

• Bring food. While you can’t take beverages through security checkpoints at the airport, you can take food.

• Bring an empty water bottle and fill it from a fountain.

• Be prepared to have some of the country’s currency on you if you’re flying internationally.

• Purchase travel insurance. It’s best to go through your travel agent, but if you choose to buy third-party insurance, understand what the cancellation or revision policies are.

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