Simple tips to help you avoid paying baggage fees

A few tricks to make sure you never have to pay excess baggage fees.

How to avoid paying baggage fees

Any time you book a flight you get baggage allowances. Sometimes it’s just carry-on – most often with budget carriers, but on premium carriers, such as Virgin and Qantas, you’ll also get anywhere between 17kg and 32kg of checked baggage. With Jetstar, any fare above the Saver Fare also includes 20kg checked baggage.

Baggage limits on international flights vary. Some airlines will allow 2 x 23kg bags per passenger, while others will only allow 23kg in total.

Go over those limits, though, and you’ll pay dearly.

If you’re budget conscious and travelling domestically, your best bet for maximum savings is a low-cost carrier and to travel with carry-on bags only. That’s fine if you’re only going for a few days, or even a week, but any longer and you’ll be wearing the same underpants a few days in a row, which you’ll regret when you’re on your way home with your knees under your chin (which you often will be on a low-cost carrier).

There are a few tricks to make sure you never have to pay excess baggage fees and stay underweight. Some are time-honoured and some a little bit cheeky, but will still save you having to fork out for penalties.

Double check
Check your airline’s baggage allowances then check them again.

Use your credit
Some airline credit cards will allow you an extra bag, so check to see if you have that privilege.

Make a list
List the clothes you’ll need with an emphasis on pairing items for maximum use. That is, pick one pair of jeans that go with all your tops, and limit your shoes to one pair of walking/city shoes, one pair of comfort (i.e. back at the hotel, or on the plane) and one pair of ‘going out’ shoes.

A limited colour palette (i.e. black or monotone) always works for me and will work for you, too.

Will you have washing facilities? Pack less. Check the weather and limit your clothes to the climate. Don’t guess whether you need heavy jackets – know – and leave them at home if you really don’t need them. I suggest a heavy, multi-purpose jumper and a lighter weight, waterproof jacket, then layer, if necessary. If in doubt, go the lighter weight option. You can always layer up.

Once you’ve made your list, check it for any superfluous items and get rid of them.

Roll up
Clothes that need to be flat, such as jeans, pants, or bulkier jackets should stay flat. T-shirts, underwear, lightweight shirts and pants should be rolled a stuffed into areas the flat-folded clothes don’t fill. Put any socks inside your shoes. Fill every nook and cranny in your bag.

Weigh it up
Get out your household scales and weigh what you’ve packed. If you’re even a little bit over, you’ll pay the price (having said that, I recently caught a Virgin/Qantas domestic flight and one of my bags was 200g over and they let it pass – but – it’s not a risk I’d recommend taking). Even going over a little bit will cost you at least $25 extra, sometimes more.

Pay up
If you are over and you just can’t shave the extra weight, then it may be time to pay up. It’s much cheaper to pay for excess baggage in advance than it is at the airport.

Share the load
If you are travelling with family or friends, get them to weigh their bags, and if they have room (or you do) spread the weight between those bags.

Wear it
If you have to take bulky items, such as a heavy jacket or boots, wear them on the plane. You won’t be weighed, so if you have cameras, books or other heavy items that can fit in your pockets, use that space to save on baggage weight and space.

Don’t feel bad about it, either. Some people go to ridiculous lengths to maximise their ‘allowance’. There are tales of passengers wearing two suits onboard, using jeans as scarves, earing two coats and tying three jumpers around their waist, stuffing shoes in pockets and even trying to bribe gate agents to allow them onboard and overstuffed.

Carry it on
While carry-on bags are sometimes weighed, in all my flights, I’ve only ever had it happen to me once. Again, not recommending that you abuse carry-on, but you may be able to sneak a few hundred grams into your carry-on bag if you can’t check it in.

No one wants to pay excess fees, but if you follow these tips, you’ll maximise your chances of staying under the limit.

Do you have any tips for staying under the baggage limit? Have you ever been stitched up with excess fees at the airport?

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    COMMENTS

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    Jim
    25th Aug 2018
    8:59am
    I travel 4/5 times a year and have never been charged excess baggage, I usually use the main airlines, I have often been a kilo over, I have seen people get charged when they are way over their allowance, I am not recommending you intentionally go over weight, you might be the unlucky one. Depending on who you travel with overseas the conditions change, some airlines go by the size of your case others go by the weight.
    MICK
    25th Aug 2018
    10:11am
    Pretty standard stuff Leon. Never heard about the credit card part but unlikely many would allow a second bag for that. Will certainly check next time around.
    The Bronze Anzac
    25th Aug 2018
    10:12am
    Some budget airlines, for example, Air Asia, offer a good 20kg check-in allowance for just A$15.00, & then for a further A$17.00 you can increase to 30kg. So, if you travel by a major International airline which you can usually get 30kg without an extra exorbitant charge, you can connect to say Air Asia for your domestic flights for A$32.00 for the 30kg. So, for your round trip you pay just over A$1.00 per kg extra check-in baggage.
    MICK
    25th Aug 2018
    10:34am
    Air Asia? The airline which crashed because the pilot turned off the engines a few years ago?
    Good luck flying any their world carrier including Chinese airlines. Personally my safety is more important than a free bag.
    The Bronze Anzac
    25th Aug 2018
    10:12am
    Some budget airlines, for example, Air Asia, offer a good 20kg check-in allowance for just A$15.00, & then for a further A$17.00 you can increase to 30kg. So, if you travel by a major International airline which you can usually get 30kg without an extra exorbitant charge, you can connect to say Air Asia for your domestic flights for A$32.00 for the 30kg. So, for your round trip you pay just over A$1.00 per kg extra check-in baggage.
    Anonymous
    26th Aug 2018
    6:11pm
    I never go over around 14kg...just do not understand why people take so much. I always come home with unworn clothes and always vow I will tske less but if I can keep to around 14 kg I will take the items/s.
    With a carry on bag I find it is more than enough luggage for me
    Alula
    25th Aug 2018
    10:17am
    You can usually buy something at your destination if really needed. Then give it away before you leave, or the garment you least like.
    Jim
    25th Aug 2018
    11:02am
    I noticed the last time I was in Europe you could buy a wearable suit case, not sure how comfortable that would be, I think I will stick to paying if I have to.
    KSS
    25th Aug 2018
    3:36pm
    Don't forget to check ALL airlines you use for your trip. I have a trip coming up shortly. Getting there and back I can have 32 kg. BUT for an internal domestic trip on a local airline whilst there it goes down to 23kg. If I pack to the outward bound limit, I would not be able to take one third of my 'stuff' on the domestic flight!
    SuziJ
    26th Aug 2018
    4:55pm
    KSS, I've done my research and have found the following:

    The maximum weight for the LONGEST part of the complete journey is the maximum weight you have for the complete journey. JUST SO LONG AS YOU BOOK THE COMPLETE FORWARD AND RETURN JOURNEYS ON THE ONE TICKET.

    Eg ABX - SYD - SIN - LHR, and return. The journey from Singapore to London is the longest leg of the journey and the allowance is 2 bags @ 32kg each, then the weight allowance is 2 bags @ 32kg for the complete journey. It doesn't matter about the ABX - SYD journey 'normally' being only 1 bag @ 23kg.
    goddessofstrife
    25th Aug 2018
    10:15pm
    I need to take some small bags for side trips, and I'm finding that one big bag and two small bags will cost me $200 on BA. Think I'll put the two small bags inside a big one, to stay within the allowance. Crazy.
    SuziJ
    26th Aug 2018
    5:02pm
    What class were you thinking of flying in? These luggage weights are included in any bookings with BA:
    Economy, has 1 bag @ 23kg.
    Premium Economy has 2 bags @ 23kg
    Business has 2 bags @ 32kg,
    First has 3 bags @ 32kg.

    I certainly wouldn't try to travel economy. Of course you could have collapsible smaller bags for side trips, which could be packed into your large bag, but why would you need 2?
    Anonymous
    26th Aug 2018
    6:14pm
    My next long flight to Dublin is going to be business. At my age why not...i worked for it and I only have a limited life span left so why not..I know of two other couples who are now doing the same thing...if they don't their kids will.
    rtrish
    26th Aug 2018
    12:24pm
    Some good points in the article. Pack less, coordinate colours etc. I have had visitors stay with me who want to do ironing. Ironing? I no longer have an iron! As to luggage, I can pack my luggage as slightly as possible. Even weigh tee shirts etc to pack the lightest. Always under the weight restrictions. I have to take my CPAP equipment in a separate suitcase and for safety take it with me on board, so it doesn’t get damaged. I usually find the airline staff helpful. By the way, wanting to check my luggage on trains, I have sometimes had it refused because it is TOO LIGHT! There is a minimum weight. So that is another consideration.
    WP
    26th Aug 2018
    12:40pm
    We always take portable digital baggage scales. You can weigh bags at home before you go but they are likely to be heavier on the return journey. Weighing up and dividing everything in the hotel is a lot easier than doing it at the airport.
    Also on multi hop trips be aware that internal airlines will have much smaller baggage limits than the big international carriers.
    KIAH
    30th Aug 2018
    1:16pm
    I've never paid excess in all the years of travelling. Learnt to travel light since Uni days. The advice to "share the load" is good and we do that a lot.
    I don't buy a lot anyway when I go abroad since I think shopping time means less sightseeing time.


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