Weekend getaways used to mean shelling out the money for two economy class tickets, packing up two bags and heading to the airport (don't forget to leave instructions for the pet sitter) and then enjoying the pleasures of flying, like that free Coke (KO).

Not anymore. In this recessionary economy getting from one coast to another in comfort, and staying on a budget, isn’t easy. As gas prices continue to rise, U.S. airlines are tacking on fees and raising existing prices wherever they can. That is why it is a good idea to travel with a little extra cash just in case you would like to enjoy a beer in flight or in some cases, a water.

The good news is there are still some ways to save. For instance, bringing your own headphones on a United flight saves you a Lincoln. Here is MainStreet's guide to how some of the top U.S.airlines add up in terms on additional costs. (The "tab for two" is the approximate amount a couple traveling with two bags should bring if they want to eat a meal, with one partner ordering an alcoholic beverage, and then to enjoy some in-flight entertainment (with their own headphones, natch).)

No Cash Needed: According to their website, American Airlines is the first major U.S. airline to offer the flexibility to pay for food, alcoholic beverages and headsets with credit cards or debit cards, in addition to cash, onboard all flights. The flight attendants use state-of-the-art wireless handheld devices to quickly swipe your card and provide a receipt for the transaction.

In-Flight Entertainment: Movies and music are complimentary when passengers travel with their own headphones. For those without, headphones can be purchased for $2 in air.

Beverages: Non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary. Alcoholic beverages, including wine, liquors and beer, are $6.
Snacks and Food: Snack options, which include nuts, chips and cookies, are offered on flights longer than 2 hours for $3. Light Meals are available on flights longer than 3 hours for $6.

Checked Luggage Fee: $15 for first bag, and $25 for a second bag.

In-Flight Entertainment: Complimentary movies on flights lasting more than three hours, except Boeing 737s.

Beverages: Non-alcoholic drinks are free of charge, but each alcoholic beverage costs $6, unless you upgrade your ticket to United First or Business class, in which case, they’d be complimentary.

Snacks and Food:
United SnackBoxes are offered on flights that depart before 8 p.m. and are more than 3 hours in length. They are also available anytime on flights longer than five hours. They come in four different varieties and based on the selection, include treats like Stacy’s Multigrain Baked pita chips, Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies and Mott’s applesauce. Each SnackBox is $5. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals are available only on flights longer than five hours, and a select amount of flights to the Caribbean and Mexico for $7.

Checked Luggage Fee: From now until August 17, one piece of luggage can be checked in for free, while the second will cost $25. As of August 18, the first will come with a cost of $15, while the second will remain at $25. This only applies to luggage under 50 lbs.

TAB FOR TWO: $35, until August 18. (Cash only please)

TheStreet Recommends


In Flight Entertainment: Movies and music are free of charge for all passengers. Headphones are complimentary for those traveling without their own.

Beverages: Non-alcoholic beverages are $2, coffee and tea is $1 and alcoholic beverages are all priced at $7. However, if you’re flying First Class, you will be provided with complimentary beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) along with meals ever 3.5 hours.

Snacks and Food:
Complimentary meals are served every 3.5 hours to passengers flying First Class. As for the rest of us, it’s $7 for a meal, which could be a Chef Salad or Morning Deli Platter, depending on the time, and $5 for a Café Snack Box, which is served throughout the day.

Checked Luggage Fee:
$15 for the first bag, $25 for the second, and these prices will increase if your luggage is over 50 lbs.

TAB FOR TWO: $61(Baggage fee can be charged)

Cash Accepted, But Not Required: Those traveling without cash have the option to purchase Continental Currency with a credit card before boarding the flight. The Continental Currency can be used to purchase headsets, beer, cocktails and wine while traveling (each item costs one coupon.) According to the website, Continental Currency is available in the following increments: one coupon, $5, two coupons, $10, three coupons, $13, six coupons, $25.

In-Flight Entertainment: Movies and music are complimentary when passengers travel with their own headphones. Headphones can be purchased in air for $1.

Snacks and Food: Snacks, offered on flights longer that 1 hour and meals, offered on flights longer than 2 hours, are all complimentary

Beverages: Non-Alcoholic beverages are complimentary. Alcoholic beverages are $5.

Checked LuggageFee: Free for the first bag, $25 for a second bag.


One of the morals of the story (there's always got to be at least one) is brown bag it to airport and you can save big. Happy traveling!