You pay more than enough for airfare, blowing it up with optional fees is crazy, right? Except during the holidays. Sometimes it pays to pay more, and here are five of the more useful fees plus one non-airline offering you should consider.
1. Early boarding
If you are a typically disorganized family (or want to be sure of room for a carry-on), this is the fee for you. It can be cheap, too: Southwest’s EarlyBird boarding is only $12.50 while American’s Main Cabin Extra starts at $20 and gives you the additional perk of a little more legroom; its Choice Essential starts at $29 and includes a checked bag or pay $80 (and up) for Choice Plus and watch the $200 change fee disappear.
2. Day-pass to a VIP lounge
This isn’t about pampering; VIP lounges are where you want to be during delays or cancellations (a real possibility at Thanksgiving) because lounges have dedicated airline employees for personalized help. If you’ve ever stood in line with 100 other passengers to talk to the single, overworked gate agent, this is worth it. Day-pass prices vary; Virgin America charges $40 for some lounges while others charge $50, but look for discounts during holidays.
3. Locking in prices
Airlines are legally obligated to give shoppers 24 hours to change their minds about a flight, but what if you need more time? United’s solution is FareLock, which allows reservations to be held from three to seven days for as little as $7 (though this can vary substantially). If plans are iffy and holiday airfare prices are on the rise, this could be a money-saver.
4. Bigger and better seats
Some better seat fees can add hundreds to the price of airline tickets, but keep your eyes open and you may score a deal. On Spirit, for example, bigger seats start at just $12 (and rise to $199) but it might be worth it since the discounter’s 28-inch seat pitch (the distance between your seat and the one in front of you) offers the least amount of room of any U.S. airline.
5. Entertainment fees
Didn’t bring the tablet and the kiddies are whining? If you’re flying Delta, they have a $5 game bundle to go with seatback screen-equipped planes. Forgotten your own headphones? The ones Delta offers aren’t Bose but they are just two bucks.
Pre-Check is the TSA’s quicker security experience for $85 (for five years) and worth it. Travelers get a pre-9/11 security experience with dedicated fast lane, walk-through metal detector and your shoes and jacket do not have to be removed.