Pack a Suitcase to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees

Posted on Feb 20 2012 - 10:00am by Tim Eyre

If you exceed an airline’s limits for weight, size or quantity of bags, you could end up paying sky-high fees. Skip the fees by planning ahead, allowing you to fly the friendly skies and still have funds to spend on fun stuff, like riding a bike down a volcano in Maui. Yes, you can do that.

Baggage weight and size limits vary among airlines, and may differ depending on whether you’re flying first class, business class or economy. Policies may also differ between domestic and international flights. Check the luggage policies of your airline before packing. Obtain the information directly from the airline, not other sources.

It’s possible to spend more on baggage fees than on the plane ticket! Fees for exceeding weight limits can be excessive, but you can also be hit with multiples fees per bag if you go over the weight, size and quantity limits. In general, if your bag exceeds 50 pounds, you could end up paying a fee. If the bag weighs in the neighborhood of 70 to 100 pounds, get ready for some airlines to reject it.

Maybe you’re trying to fit everything into a carry-on, or perhaps you’re a heavy packer who’s having trouble staying within the number of allowed bags. Either way, go outside of your usual comfort zone just a bit. Consider these strategies that may be new for you.

Free Space with Compression
You may be able to reduce the number of bags you take by using plastic compression bags. Though these bags aren’t ideal for clothes that wrinkle, you can save some suitcase space by using them for other clothing. For the return trip, compress your dirty clothes to free space for all those Hawaiian shirts you bought!

Roll and Tuck
How many times have you seen someone holding up boarding while trying to cram an overstuffed carry-on bag into an overhead bin? A bag that’s the correct size for a carry-on can easily become oversized for the cabin if you place too much inside. Plus, stacking clothing too high will result in a bag that’s difficult to zip. If you don’t use compression bags, carefully roll pants, skirts and shirts and place them in a row on the bottom of the suitcase. Add any delicate clothing on top. Tuck rolled underwear or T-shirts along the sides of your bag. Place rolled socks into packed shoes. Instead of rolling a belt, tuck it along the edges of the bag.

Eliminate What’s Waiting for You 
All those necessities may not be as necessary as you think. Avoid including items that may be provided for you at your destination. In addition to the standard hair dryers and irons, some hotels provide beach towels, sand toys, robes, slippers, sewing repair kits, nail files, shower caps and cotton balls. If you’re not sure what’s included, call ahead or check the hotel’s website. Consider renting items like golf clubs, scuba gear and bike helmets. 

Make a Toiletry Trip
Stop at a drugstore after you land to pick up personal care items like sunscreen that aren’t provided by the hotel. Even travel-size bottles can bulk up a suitcase, but a simple list of things to pick up weighs nil. If your favorite shampoo isn’t available where you’re traveling, grab and fill a small airline-approved bottle usually offered where travel-size items are sold.

Wash and Wear Again
Open up to the idea of reusing your clothes while on a trip. If things get messy, clothes are washable, after all. While it may cost more than you’d like to have your hotel clean your clothes, it’s most likely more affordable than paying a fee for going over the weight limit. Do research before you leave to locate laundry services nearby.

Bulk up Your Body, Not Your Bag
Wear coats, heavy shoes or boots instead of packing them. Yes, it’s a pain to remove coats and boots for security, but it’s less of an annoyance than having overweight luggage.

Walk into the Airport with Confidence
Measure your bags after packing to make sure they still fall within the size limit for your airline. You may be surprised how many inches are added to a bag when you place something in its front pockets. To get an accurate weight, use a digital luggage scale to weigh bags. Luggage scales are more compact than you might think. The small luggage scale at REI weighs only 3.1 ounces. Take the luggage scale along with you to make sure you’re in the clear for the return trip after adding all your souvenirs to the bag. Aloha!

Tim Eyre

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  1. Drew February 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm -

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  2. Drew February 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm -

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