To say that Melanie Nayer is a frequent traveler is akin to saying Claude Monet liked to paint. She’s a travel writer and hotel reviewer who contributes to a number of publications, including the New York Daily News and, the world’s top travel blog. But more importantly, she’s sympathetic to travelers bemoaning the loss of free baggage check. “People are, quite frankly, ticked off at the airlines,” she says. But she also understands the industry’s stance. “Remember, at the end of the day, it’s a business, and they have to make money.” Even with the rising costs of checked luggage, Nayer says there are ways to manage both your money and stress.

Take advantage of frequent-flyer programs.“Frequent flyer status goes a long way,” Nayer says. The elite level on several airlines’ programs rewards you with free baggage checks.

Realize that airline baggage fees are cheaper than other options. Luggage shipping services, which pick up your bags from your home and deliver them to your hotel or other destination, are receiving a lot of attention because of consumers’ frustration. But some companies charge far more than the airlines do. “If you go back and look at the prices [from the airlines], you’re actually saving money,” Nayer explains. That’s not to say shipping is always a bad idea. She says it can be quite convenient for bulky sports equipment, like golf clubs, or other items you can live without for a
day or two before you board the plane.

Avoid overpacking. Nayer is adamant that most travelers taking a trip lasting up to a week can fit everything in a carry on. “Mix and match” is the key, she says.Pack one nice pair of pants and one nice shirt, for example, plus clothes that can be dressed up or down. Another tip: skip the extra outfit that you think you’ll need if you spill something on it. “Woolite has travel packs that I swear by,” Nayer says.

Buy hard-cased luggage. Soft luggage can expand, so thatÂ’s where many travelers run into trouble in trying to fit their items beneath the seat or in the overhead, Nayer explains.

Give yourself time to clear security. “Don’t assume you’re going to fly through,” she says. Taxis get stuck in traffic, plus random security checks can and do occur. If you’re pulled out of line, “Let them do their jobs,” Nayer says. Give kids checklists and make them responsible for placing their shoes, iPods, and other items in the X-ray buckets.

By Diane M. Byrne