The Easiest Way to Avoid Paying for Checked Luggage

Photo:  Aris-Tect Group (Shutterstock)
Photo: Aris-Tect Group (Shutterstock)

If you’ve boarded a flight in the past few years, you’ve certainly heard what seems to be the new norm of boarding announcements: “We’re looking for volunteers to gate-check their bags.” When airlines ask passengers to check bags at the gate due to limited overhead bin space, many passengers react with frustration and fear—and the last thing we need at the airport is additional frustration.

Luckily, gate-checking isn’t something to be dreaded. In fact, it’s one of our favorite travel hacks. Here’s how to gate-check your luggage and why you should try it on your next flight.

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Turn your carry-on into checked luggage

Even when your luggage is small enough to count as carry-on for your flight, it’s still a pain to lug around the terminal, not to mention in and out of the overhead bins. Here’s your underrated hack: Airlines will check allowed carry-on bags at the gate for free, meaning you get to be freed of your luggage without paying the dreaded checking fees ahead of time. Gate-checking is the perfect compromise for travelers who want the freedom—without the killer costs—of checked bags.

However, The Points Guy explains that you shouldn’t take this hack too far—free gate-checking won’t work for passengers who try to bring a full-sized carry-on item on board when their fare type does not permit them to do so. But if you do indeed have a carry-on appropriate bag, you’ll be able to request gate-checking up to thirty minutes before boarding (so long as the crew is ready). Even if you can’t gate-check until you’re boarding, at least you’ll be able to find your seat without worrying about overhead bin space.

One final note before you take off: Make sure to check whether you get your bags at the landing gate or at baggage claim. Plus, due to the airline’s order of operations, gate-checking means your bag will usually be among the first out at baggage claim. At the end of the day, gate-checking your bag should not be any riskier than traditional bag checks, but when it comes to flying, it doesn’t hurt to double- and triple-check every step along the way. And maybe stick an AirTag in there?

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