Nickeled and dimed to the tune of $265 – so much for the free trip!

Beware of the “free” trip!  It will still cost you some money.  I recently used airline miles to fly our family from NYC to California, coveting the idea of a free trip.  I strategically purchased my tickets for under $350 so that the credit card that awarded these miles would only deduct 35,000 miles for each ticket. 

If each ticket cost over $350, I would have to pay with 60,000 miles.  I worked hard, searched high and low, for tickets under $350.  One day, there it was – an e-mail advertising discounted airline tickets to LA from NY for $328.  Great!  Free tickets – well, sorta.  I had to pay $5 per ticket for booking on the phone because, try as I might, I could not get this fare on line.

Next, we had to get our family to the airport… $75 (car service, one-way).

At the airport,  American Airlines requires $2 per bag (x 5 people) to use curbside check-in.  Plus tip – which I saw first-hand, was very important.  We paid our $10, checked in the bags and started to exit the line when a woman behind us started getting irate with her curbside attendant.  He had taken his $2 per bag, applied the appropriate tags and told her to take ALL of her bags to the security pre-screening area.  He did not offer to do it for her nor did he offer to take her bags inside (our attendant did both).  Must have not gotten a tip.  I carried her bags for her to the long line of non-tippers.  On my way back, I asked another attendant if everyone had to do the pre-screening and he said that everyone had their own way of doing things.  Hmmm.

The next place we got hit with the opportunity to spend more money was on the aircraft.  Drinks were complimentary but there were no snacks – free or otherwise.  Not a single peanut.  However, for $5, you could buy the airplane food that you never ate when it was free.

Total cost of “free” trip:  $265.