Put away that loan application, weary travelers. We’ve got the scoop on the easiest ways to jet off without spending a not-so-small fortune on hidden fees and extra charges.

Know before you go

Fees are a bummer across the board, but they feel so much worse as a sneak attack. Avoid getting blindsided by knowing your carrier’s policies before you hit the road. Check out their website for a section about baggage allowances and fees, particularly if you’re bringing any special items like sporting equipment or baby strollers. Some airlines charge more “convenience” and administration fees than others too, so do a trial run and throw a flight into your shopping cart to see what those extra fees add up to. We’re big fans of factoring the extra costs into your decision-making process; if an airline requires you to basically refinance your mortgage just to check a bag, you might want to consider flying with someone else.

Book online


We like to think this one goes without saying – we’re Flights.com after all – but some travelers still adore the one-on-one experience of booking over the phone. You’ll probably stop feeling the love, however, once your Visa bill comes knocking. Some airlines tack on phone-ticketing fees that are waivable only for elite members, and the charges can add a hefty chunk of change to that totally unbeatable deal.

Keep calm and carry on


What’s the single best way to ditch those fees forever? Check a bag only when you absolutely can’t avoid it. The lion’s share of domestic airlines charge for every piece of luggage you throw below deck, and those fees can add up to a major portion of your travel budget over the course of even a few months. Just do us a huge favor: Don’t be that guy who shows up with a bag bigger than Nebraska and spends an hour telling the flight attendant that it’s always managed to fit in the overhead before. You may feel like you’re fighting the good fight, but everyone kinda hates you.

Up your loyalty game


You may not be as skilled a player as George Clooney in “Up in the Air,” but you don’t need to be chasing that million-mile dream just to throw your hat into the loyalty ring. Racking up miles, points and rewards is a killer way to score free stuff – did someone say first-class upgrade? – and fee waivers are among the most common membership perks. Plus, it doesn’t even take uber-elite status or a friendship with Clooney himself to score the deal. Many programs offer reduced fees as an introductory benefit.

Make your own perks


This one falls into the life-hack category, but don’t go thinking we’re moonlighting as self-help gurus yet. We just happen to firmly believe that flights are what you make of them. In other words, don’t shell out your precious coin for distractions you can easily tote on board yourself. Bring a tablet packed with movies and e-books, and you won’t need that in-flight Internet access. Tuck some snacks into your bag, and you can avoid the five-star costs associated with the airline’s one-star turkey sandwich. It’s all about finding the travel zen that balances comfort with cost. Even Eckhart Tolle would approve.

Let the seat cards fall where they may


Yes, you might get stuck with a seatmate who goes on for hours about her niece’s mock trial trophies. No, your knees will probably not have anything approaching enough room. Such are the realities of flying in the modern era, and that’s why some airlines have made a mad dash to provide premium seating in the economy cabin. Hold up before you click those boxes though; the seats can run you over $100 each way, and the extra space isn’t always so spacious. Plus, Chatty Kathy might’ve purchased a premium seat too, so are you ever completely safe?