smart spending

Multiple airline fees add to travel costs

Nonalcoholic drinks, like water, coffee, tea and sodas, used to be free, but that might not be the case the next time you fly. While some airlines are still giving away coffee, tea, water and soft drinks, others are charging $1 to $3, depending on the carrier and the beverage.

Avoid by: For a short hop, eat before you leave or plan a restaurant stop right after you land. For long hauls (or if you have kids or medical issues), pack your own snacks. Not only will they be cheaper (you can pay warehouse prices), but chances are you'll come up with healthier alternatives to the standard salty, fried or sugary varieties you're likely to succumb to onboard.

With drinks, you can carry an empty bottle through security and fill it at a water fountain before you board. If that's too much of a hassle, then paying a few bucks for the onboard drinks may be the smart choice. Here's why: Flying tends to dehydrate you, so you need liquid. Drinks from airport concessions are likely to cost as much (or more) as the in-flight beverages.

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3. A 'better' seat.  The new twist with some airlines: If you have a preferred seat on the plane, you pay extra for it. For a fee, you can select an aisle, window or some other location (for instance, adjacent to the bulkhead or next to an emergency door). Not every airline charges this fee, but it's worth asking if your preferences have a price tag attached. The going rate: $5 to $15, one way, says Seaney.

Avoid by: Take a gamble and select your seat the day before the flight, says Seaney. How this works: When you download your boarding pass 24 hours before the flight, you choose your seat from the available spots that are left, and there's no charge, he says. But plan to make your choice exactly 24 hours before you fly, he advises. Airlines won't allow you to select your seat (post ticket purchase) any earlier, and the sooner you do it, the more choices you'll have.

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