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Travel

Amtrak to charge baggage fees, but it’s not as bad as you think

Amtrak

Amtrak will begin charging $20 for excess baggage starting Thursday, but the allowed luggage -- two 50-pound bags, two 24-pound carryon bags -- is pretty generous.

(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Et tu, Amtrak?

The passenger rail service is cracking down on passengers who carry too much stuff. You can take two 50-pound bags and two 25-pound carry-ons, which is a whole lot more generous than the airlines.

Exceed that and you’ll pay the price. Starting Thursday, Amtrak will charge a $20 excess baggage fee for every bag over that limit.

By packing smarter, you still can avoid fees on Amtrak.

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There are other ways to avoid bag fees when you travel on other modes. Airlines are especially hungry for those fees, which totaled $3.4 billion in 2014.

-- Fly Southwest Airlines. Bless its heart, it still doesn’t charge for baggage. You still get two bags free (they also need to be less than 50 pounds each).

-- Fly another carrier and book your ticket using its branded credit card, which usually gets you at least one bag free.

-- Take Greyhound. Your first checked bag is free. Besides its recent improvements (free wi-fi and leather seats), it’s a whole lot cheaper than flying. If you wanted to book a round-trip ticket from LAX to San Francisco for tomorrow, you’d pay at least $451 to fly. On Greyhound, you’d pay $74. Yes, it takes longer, but you can do a lot of reading/texting/pinning/tweeting in that time.

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-- Drive. If you were a family of four flying from LAX to Phoenix and each of you had a bag, you’d pay $200 in baggage fees. According to the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator, if you were driving a 2014 Honda Accord, your fuel cost would be about $40, round-trip.

Like the bus, it would take longer, but who doesn’t love “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” sung off key for the about 750 miles?


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