Pack light or pay through the nose

By Mir
April 28, 2008
Category Quick Tips | Travel

Before you take the skies, take everything you don’t need out of your suitcase.

The rising cost of gasoline has some of us considering flying over driving for our summer plans—find a fare deal and flying could be cheaper—but you’ll need to pay close attention to the new airline regulations about baggage.

A sobering overview can be found here at Mouse Print, and you can find out more (complete with links to individual airlines’ regulations) here.

I wish I had some great tip here about how to circumvent the restrictions or something. My husband joked, “You should find a deal on one of those Space Bag vacuums!” but the reality is that restrictions apply to not only the number of bags, but the weight (and dimensions) of them as well. The only advice I can give you is to pack light or buy plenty of these and vacation at home.


  1. The question I have about all of these regulations is whether child safety equipment counts as a second bag!? We often need to bring along a booster seat for our 8-yr-old son when we visit family on the West Coast. We discovered that a booster will barely fit into one of those oversize Ziploc bags, which not only protects it when checked but has a handle for them to put the luggage tag through. I find it unfair for the airlines to charge $25 for such a lightweight item. I guess I could gate check it but that’s a hassle.
    Does anyone know more about this? I may email a few airlines to find out.

  2. Andrea: Yes, I would check with the individual airline about that. However, I would also suggest that you always gate check a car seat, because what would you do if they lost your stuff?? Then you’d be at your destination without a safe way to transport your child. We always either took car seats on the plane or gate checked them, because I’m paranoid.

  3. I’ve traveled quite a bit with my son this past year, and his car seat has always been accepted as an extra piece of checked luggage, without charge (ie if 2 bags are allowed, we check it as our third piece of luggage). On the few occasions the gate agent wasn’t aware of this practice, his/her manager was called and agreed that a car seat shouldn’t be counted in the normal baggage allowance. We also found that some airlines (usually not US-based carriers, unfortunately) allowed an extra checked bag for our son in addition to his car seat, even if we didn’t purchase a seat for him. Check the individual airline sites for their policies. I wouldn’t advise calling – it seems like this is a confusing topic for reservations agents, so it’s best to see the policy in writing.

    Also keep in mind that even gate-checked bags can go astray (unfortunately I have personal experience with that as well), but both times we’ve ended up with a lost car seat, the airline has had an acceptable supply of different-sized seats we could choose a loaner from.

  4. After many years of international travel we have learned to pack light and travel with a lot less than you might think you need. We buy the light weight “tencel” clothing which does not wrinkle and it can be washed and dried overnight.
    If I want jeans and athletic shoes then I must wear these on the plane. Likewise for a jacket or coat. Shoes contribute a lot of weight so limit them to one or two pair. Re-package any cosmetics/toiletry items. It is amazing how much weight the bottles and jars contribute.
    My technique for packing is to put everythng I think I want out on my bed then put half of it back! Most of the time when traveling you will not see the same people every day. Take outfits that can be changed with a scarf or silk blouse (very light weight). I only take things I know I can wear 2 or 3 times. Always consider shopping. If you know you will be shopping while away, take less and buy something you have been wanting. Remember, your luggage is ALWAYS heavier coming back. On the other hand if you are going rustic, consider clothing you are willing to toss at the end of your trip. Hope this helps! Oh, only one paperback book! you can always buy that book you’ve been meaning to read.

  5. I actually had to move stuff from one bag to another on our last vacation because one bag was like 52 pounds and the other was 45 in order to avoid a $50 overweight charge. And I’m not one to overpack! This is two suitcases for FOUR people!

  6. At Target we bought a little luggage scale in the luggage dept. We keep it in the outside pocket of the suitcase. So far its weight measurements have been fairly accurate. You just put the suitcase on the hook and hold it up and the scale tells you the weight of your luggage. In case our luggage goes overweight my husband keeps a small duffle bag in the outside pocket in case we need to do some rearranging. But we almost always fly Alaska which (for now) lets us take 2 bags each.

    We are lucky that our kids are now 6 and 8. We got them each their own suitcase. When we travel by plane they each wheel their own luggage and carry their own backpack. We have flown twice in the last 6 months and it worked great.

  7. I was going to write about how generally car seats are not treated as baggage but I had to stop when Blythe said they got replacements from the airline.

    Which made me laugh because…where did they GET the replacements? The ones they “lost” for other passengers? Reduce, reuse, recycle!

  8. I’m a fairly light packer/traveler, but my husband isn’t always. It’s always been “gross” to him to wear the same pair of jeans twice, but he’s starting to come around. While not easy to do for international travel, another option is to ship some of your stuff to your destination before you get there. We’ve lived away from our families for 16+ years, so we’ve been in the shipping business for gifts, etc. for quite a while. I’ve found that FedEx Ground is the cheapest way to ship packages. I got my own FedEx number (anyone can) and I print out my own shipping labels or have the folks at the FedEx location print it out using my number. It charges right to my credit card with no worries. You can go to each of the big shipper’s websites (FedEx, UPS, USPS) to get a price quote for the same size/weight box to do a comparison yourself. If you don’t do this on your way to your destination, it might make sense to mail dirty clothes back to yourself so your souveniers fit in your suitcases! 🙂

  9. (again a travel agent…)

    I’ve never had my car seat/stroller/pack n play considered baggage. But keep in mind this isn’t a RULE, it is a courtesy, so you can be denied. If you are packing a booster (for an 8 year old) then you also bought a ticket for the child allowing you at least another bag to the list. Once I started buying tickets for my son, I’ve never taken more than 3 items to check — even with a booster — because hello, I do not want to haul that much stuff around.

    Recently I’ve been inspired by this site — while to me it is a pipe dream to be totally in a carry-on, I like the comments on how much to pack.

    I’ve shipped luggage all over the place — and that works well too. However, I prefer to rethink how much I REALLY need. (Oh and I pack for my husband — because apparently he thinks he needs 14 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks for 4 days away. Thus, I pack and he is rarely over packed.)

  10. My son’s carseat was lost once and we had to get a “loaner” from the airline so that I could take him in the car. It was a freaking NIGHTMARE! Now he’s 2.5 and needs a seat so we bring it on board with us. It still sucks, but it’s better than losing it.

    I, too, just had to shift stuff from one bag to another because mine was 16 pounds over the limit (note to self: you love cookbooks, but you don’t NEED cookbooks ALL OF THE TIME!).

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