Air travelers looking to cut the weight of a checked or carry-on bag may find one offbeat solution helps: booking the right hotel room.
Consumers have more incentive these days to travel light. The 15 largest U.S. carriers collected a record $3.5 billion in bag fees during 2012, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That's 3.8 percent more than in 2011.
And it's not just travelers checking more bags. Of 52 airline fee changes tracked by TravelNerd.com in the year ended in January, more than half involved bags.
"It's become absolutely imperative to pack light," said Anne McAlpin, a packing expert behind PackItUp.com, who has seen increasing interest from travelers looking to reduce their load to an 18-pound carry-on.
Among recent changes, Southwest Airlines increased its fee for overweight bags from $50 to $75 for bags weighing 51 pounds or more.
In May, Frontier Airlines announced it will join Allegiant Air and Spirit in charging passengers for bringing on a carry-on bag to go into an overhead bin. The cost: $25 to $100, depending on how far in advance the fee is paid. (Carry-ons that fit under the seat remain free on all three carriers.)
Hotels have been quick to respond, touting programs that offer the ability to borrow, rent or keep for free items that—as a result of new airline policies—might not make it into that bag.
In February, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts introduced "Hyatt Has It," which offers guests free use of items including lint brushes and curling irons, while Westin Hotels recently expanded internationally its program allowing guests to rent New Balance shoes and fitness gear for $5.
"Hotels realize the publicity appeal of these kinds of things," said Kelsey Blodget, the editorial director for hotel review site Oyster.com. Although programs tend to be more common, with more items on offer, among four- and five-star properties and boutique hotels, even midrange brands that don't advertise borrowing programs may have such items available for guests who think to ask at the front desk.
But travelers should still call the specific location where they'll be staying before leaving home with an emptier suitcase. Not all items are available in all locations. "You can't necessarily count on it for every hotel," Blodget said. Keep in mind, too, that the savings on baggage fees aren't likely to be substantial enough to justify a pricier hotel room that offers more by way of freebies.