Flying for that ski vacation? Learn how to fight the fees.

Flying for that ski vacation? Learn how to fight the fees.

Chances are, if you’re going on a destination ski vacation you’re taking some sort of air travel. It is no surprise that the rising costs of jet fuel have made ticket prices skyrocket up as much as 40% in the past year, what may come to most travelers as as surprise is the insane amount of additional fees they will experience trying to get themselves and their gear to that sweet ski vacation this season.

Carriers such as United, US Airways and American are really taking the screws to those of us bringing overweight ski bags and 2nd or 3rd bags for travel. Some are even going so far as to charge for your first checked bag (American, United, US Airways)! Freeskier’s very own photographer extraordinaire, Jay Michelfelder, has been forced to carry as much of his gear on his person just to avoid the insane baggage charges often adding up to over $100 per flight! Sorry to those of you that are sitting next to Jay on flights, hopefully his light-stands and strobes aren’t poking you in the face.

What can you do?

Bitching and moaning about the fees will get you nowhere. Most airlines have customer services representatives with souls blacker than night who could give two shits about your bags or how you’ll come up with the money to pay the ridiculous fees.

Become educated! There are still some airlines with a glimmer of goodness in their otherwise blackened corporate souls, the more you support these airlines the greater our chances are of telling airlines like United, American and US Airways that what they’re doing is wrong.

Click here to see USA Today’s breakdown of current airline fees for all airlines, ranging from baggage, telephone reservations, in flight beverages and more!

Don’t Pack Like An Idiot!

The 50lb limit may be tough when you’ve got a pair of skis, boots, poles, outerwear, all your clothing and 4 kilos of Columbia’s finest riding in your ski bag. Pack wisely, by bringing one pair of shoes, a hoodie and some t-shirts you can greatly reduce the amount of excess weight in your bags. No need to bring a multitude of shoes, sweaters and jeans. You’re going skiing, not to fashion week in NYC. Please note, Aspen is an exception unless you’re staying in Carbondale or Basalt.

Of course, always pack enough socks, underwear and tshirts to last you the week. Nobody likes traveling with a scumbag. If the place you’re staying at has a washer / dryer you just lucked out since you can carry half the amount of clothing.

Carry On Bags

A good carry on bag can fit a surprising amount of gear. Overhead bin friendly bags from Ogio and Dakine have enough room to last me 7 days of street clothes… Honestly. Simply by playing a few rounds of Tetris and learning to fold you can strategically pack a bag to hold just about everything you need for a week.

Remember, airlines allow you to bring one carry-on bag and a personal item. Typically, my personal item is my laptop bag. As long as your personal item is large enough to stuff under the seat in front of you, load that sucker up. Mine is usually stuffed to the brim with my laptop, power cables, iPod, noise canceling headphones and a folded up jacket.

If You Go Over 50 lbs

Going over the 50lb mark sucks, depending on which airline you’re flying you could be staring down the barrel of baggage charges up to $125. That amount is no laughing matter, not to mention it cuts into your partying budget pretty heavily.

Here are some tips on reducing your bag weight at the check in counter…

Ski boots weigh quite a bit and by taking your boots onto the plane as a personal item you could decrease your weight by up to 10 pounds! Stuff your boots with socks, shirts and anything else you can fit in there to take some lb’s out of the bag.

If you’re traveling with friends, see who has room in their bags to possibly fit any of your extra crap. Harvey and I miraculously managed to distribute 10 pounds of excess weight into all of our checked baggage on an international flight to Whistler and saved Freeskier almost $200 bucks. Too bad we ate and drank most of that savings away at Tim Hortons once we got to Canada…

Be very polite to the person at the counter, they control your destiny. By simply being polite, friendly and by flashing a smile you may be able to squeak away with being a couple of pounds over. Not everyone working for the airlines have a heart made of pure stone. As my grandmother says, honey gets you more flies than vinegar.

Put on as much of your shirts, hoodies and jackets as you can. Sure, you may sweat like a whore in church on the flight and you’ll take an hour to get through security but you just beat the airline out of that $25 > $150 fee. Take pride in that.

Chose an airline that doesn’t suck.

If you’re going to be paying an arm and a leg to fly somewhere the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable while you’re in route. The airline industry measures their seats with a term called “seat pitch”. Typical economy seats have about enough room for your eyelashes to rub against the seat in front of you, become an educated consumer and figure out which airlines have the most seat pitch and best on board amenities. Check out www.seatguru.com to figure out who you want to fly with.

Airlines that don’t suck.

Ok, so these are my personal favorites and go-to airlines when I travel for skiing… Which is quite often as you can imagine.

jetBlue: Competitive prices, lots of seat pitch, leather seats, the best and most easy to use frequent flyer program around, free snacks, each seat has 36 channels of DirecTV and there is no fee for your first bag. Second bag charges are $20.

Frontier: Plenty of routes to Colorado and Utah, lots of seat-pitch, leather seats, seat-back satellite TV available for $5, no fee for first checked bag, second checked bag $25.

Southwest: Their planes may lack the creature comforts like seat-back entertainment and the lack of a seat assignment may piss some off however their no-fees system is certainly attractive compared to other airlines. No fee on your first or second checked bag.

The Worst

US Airways: Want to check that first bag, that will be $15 bucks. You have a second bag? Fork over another $25. Checking bags at the curb will run you another $15 per bag! Hold on, you want something non-alcoholic to drink on the flight, fork over another $2. Want to watch our shitty in-flight entertainment on a screen the size of a postage stamp six rows in front of you, that will be $7.

Their planes are old, their seat pitch sucks and you aren’t treated like a human being inside the cabin. I’m not even making a hyperlink to your craptastic website in this story, that’s how much I despise your airline. If US Airways wasn’t in the Star Alliance I wouldn’t even consider them for my business.

Oh, did I mention that their pilots are worried that their planes don’t have enough fuel?



Have a tip or something to share about flying? Leave it in the comments!

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