Posted in Life, Travel

$199? Are you kidding?

We were pretty excited when we saw short lines for bag drop at the Spirit Airlines counter at Orlando International Airport. Just before a hand went up to summon us to an open scale, I heard a man exclaim, “A hundred and ninety-nine dollars? Are you kidding me?” (Yes, he used more colorful language.) He hadn’t paid for checked bags in advance and both suitcases were over the forty pound limit. That’s not a happy way to start your journey. Clearly, he was a rookie Spirit traveler.

On our way home from Dallas, we found a few seats behind the gate desk. I overheard a man exclaim, “Ninety-nine dollars? You gotta be (add your colorful adjective here) kidding.” His carry-on bag exceeded the 18″x14″x8″ dimensions for a “personal item,” so he was going to have to pay. His wife added, “We never had a problem before.” I subtly wandered over just to see how big those carry on bags were. His backpack was about double the allowed fatness. Hers was an open, overstuffed tote bag. When he pulled out a wad of cash, the agent said, “I can only take a credit card.” His face got a little redder. His wife handed over a credit card and said, “Fine. We don’t want to be those people.”

“$99. Are you ^%$&^* kidding?”

As we waited to board the plane, I watched gate agents tell passenger after passenger to put their unpaid carry-on in the “personal item” size box. They know what’s not going to fit. It’s entertaining to watch people try to stuff huge bags into that little space. Guess what? You’re going to pay.

The gate agents who had to deal with all of that were well trained. They had awesome people skills. Good thing, because they had to deal with a lot of challenging people.

One of my new hobbies is travel hacking, figuring out how to make the most of cheap fares. I am amazed at how roomy a 17″x13″x7″ backpack can be. My wife and I both had one of those and one checked bag. Sweet.

So here’s some of what I’ve learned about traveling cheaply:

  • If your travel days are flexible, you’ll save money. Some days are cheaper than others. That’s just the way it is.
  • If you must check or carry on a large bag on Spirit or Frontier, pay for it when you book your flight. You’ll get the lowest price.
  • Buy a backpack or roller bag within the personal item guidelines. It will hold so much more than you think. Ladies, pack an empty purse inside your personal item and load it when you arrive.
  • Lay out everything you want to pack. Put half of it back in the closet and dresser. You’ll be fine. You can wear some clothes two times.
  • Buy your toiletries when you get to your destination. Our Airbnb had soap, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste in the bathroom.
  • Wear your jacket and hat. Put stuff in your pockets. Once you’re on the plane, stash them away. No need to take up luggage space.

This time, our flights were the cheapest part of our last trip to Dallas to see my son and his family. Next up: reign in the cost of a rental car, which is getting ridiculous.

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