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How To Avoid Baggage Fees in 2016

As I travel through airports worldwide its hilarious to see passengers try to avoid baggage fees. So I thought, umm… maybe I should give you some tips to help you pack smarter, travel better and avoid the fees. You’ll find these tips below, read on…

Carryon bags at the Houston-Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
Carryon bags at the Houston-Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

In Europe its more fun as the limitations are even more strict. I mean 7kg (15.4lbs) for a carryon? I think my computer, hard drives and cables weigh that much :-).

The U.S. is more about the size than the weight. If it was the weight; all those bags would have to be checked.

I have to tell you though that in Asia, especially Japan, the boarding process is so smooth and efficient; different culture you think?

It’s so fun to see people try to stuff the bags that should obviously be checked, into the sizers by the gates as they board. The agent watches and want to laugh but can’t and the passengers watch impatiently awaiting their turn to board.

Iberia Sizer MAD-Barajas
Iberia Sizer MAD-Barajas

Earlier this year, there was one guy James McElvar, a singer from the U.K. who passed out as he had put on too much clothing in an effort to avoid the fees. Twelve layers to be exact. Seriously? You can read about that story here.

Lufthansa (LH) Airbus A321 interior
Lufthansa (LH) Airbus A321 interior

So in the spirit of having a little fun this Christmas, Norwegian Airlines in Europe; the U.K. operations did a survey about top excuses given to avoid the fees. They are detailed here from the Daily Mail.

Norwegian Air Shuttle Boeing 787 Interior
Norwegian Air Shuttle Boeing 787 Interior

I just pack less and if I’m over I just either pay beforehand or just check the bag. I was in Girona, Costa Brava (northern Spain) and I was flying low cost carrier Ryanair. I knew that my bag was over their weight limit, but way under the U.S. carriers’, so I just paid for it online and dropped it off at the airport.

When I got to the airport, I could other travelers doing all kinds of shenanigans such as hiding one bag or putting on an extra coat. For me, it was less stress and my airport experience is so much better :-). And if I don’t have a bag to check-in I don’t have to queue up to check my bag at the airport. Win-win all around.

Check-in Counter at Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD)
Check-in Counter at Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD)

 

But, I do recognize that some times you do have to check a bag, so here are some tips to help you avoid the baggage fees and undue embarrassment:

  1. Get a suitcase that is made for carry-on purposes and only pack it with what it can hold. Bluesmart has what’s called a Smart Carry on as it weights itself and also tells you if its lost :-). Check that out here.

    Bluesmart Carry-On
    Bluesmart Carry-On
  2. Get a credit card from the airline you will be flying or another credit card issuer (American, Delta, Hawaiian, United and Virgin America all have such cards). Most airline gives you baggage allowances when you apply for and receive their credit cards. Here’s an example.
  3. Become an elite frequent flier. Typically if you are an elite member (usually Gold or better) you get to check your bags for free
  4. Have a packing list – this will help you strategize so you don’t go over weight
  5. Fly First Class. Yes as a First or Premium class passenger, you get the baggage fees waived and in some cases, you can carry heavier bags. So depending on your travel plans, the cost of first class may be just about or less than the cost of Economy class plus the baggage fees.
  6. Only pack what you need – Don’t take stuff you think you’ll need, it’s just more weight that you can’t afford; if you need something special, just buy it and ensure that you do wear it.

    Bags in a hotel lobby
    Bags in a hotel lobby
  7. Write down what you use – This sounds silly, but it works. Keep track of what you use during any of your trips, then for the next trip don’t take what you did not use.
  8. Purchase the fare that allow you take a bag. Sometimes, the difference between this fare and the fare below it is less than the cost of the bags. Just do your research when you shop, don’t always buy the lowest fare if you know you have a bag to check.
  9. Use a bathroom scale to weight your bags before you travel. A simple tip. Its best to weight yourself first, then step on the scale with your bag. It won’t be exact, but it will be close.
  10. Research the weather during your trip at the destination this way you will know exactly what to pack.
  11. If you are traveling for more than a week, plan on washing. Some hotel now provide laundry facilities or you can find a laundry mat nearby. Yes, you can wear the same clothing in different places, you’ll be seeing new people. Of course your photos may have you in the same clothing, but its clean and you can be crafty with the accessories :-).
  12. You don’t need more than one pair of pant if you are a guy and it can be just one jeans for all occasions. Besides, I’m sure the last time you took three pairs of jeans you never used the other two. Always bring a pair of shorts though and one set of underwear for each day up to five days. On Day five if there is a day six, start washing in the sink in your hotel room.
  13. In terms of shoes, you don’t need more than a pair of sandals/flip flops and a good multi-purpose shoes. Ensure you get something that’s good for walking since when you travel you do a lot walking. Don’t buy new shoes for travel as they are not broken in and usually will hurt your feet.

    Shoes
    Shoes

Whatever yo do though, don’t stuff your bag so much that its bulging or you can’t lift it. If you go over size limits there’s a charge as well so watch that. DOn’t buy those humongous suitcases as that’s just wrong. I don’t think that the guys who makes those ever use them.

You are in luck though as I’m developing an App to help you know what to pack and for where so stay tuned. It will save you all this embarrassment.

What’s been your best excuse and how do you avoid the fees?

2 thoughts on “How To Avoid Baggage Fees in 2016

  1. Great tips Kerwin! It too amazes us at some of the lengths folks go to to avoid baggage fees. My carry-on is always teetering on the limit due to my cameras, computer and related accessories.

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