The airline is not your friend. It will do anything it can to gouge your dignity, time, and most of all, money. One of the biggest scams to get a few extra bucks out of you are those dreaded baggage fees.
If the lines, security, "random" screenings, and unwanted fondling aren't bad enough, you have to pay them to check your bags (which, most of the time, is done poorly). Flying truly is the most inconvenient way to travel.
Most airlines used to check at least the first bag for free, but many of them don't even offer that anymore. Hell, there are a few that actually have the nerve to make you pay for your carry-on (full list here).
But there are a few things you can do to make your trip less painless and pay as few extra fees as possible. Here are some tips I've learned during my traveling experiences throughout the years.
When packing, most people tend to try and cut weight from the contents of their luggage, but many travelers overlook the weight of the luggage itself. When I travel, I always go for the duffel bag instead of more traditional suitcases and wheeled luggage.
A very large duffel bag can weigh under two pounds—good luck finding regular luggage that light. The convenience of rolling a heavy bag around the airport is all but erased when you realize it's overweight and have to shell out 450 bucks just to get it on the plane!
Now that we have the right luggage, we still need to pack it as efficiently as possible. One of the best space-saving methods for packing clothing is to roll it up. By rolling your clothes into little cylinders, you create a small, uniform shapes that can be easily organized and stacked or placed side-by-side.
Most military personnel roll their clothes up for their duffel bags, so if they're doing it, why not us?
Plus, rolling your clothes is way faster than folding every single item and trying to lay it neatly inside your bag. And if you have bulky or non-clothing items that you can't roll up, you can still pack them more efficiently by packing like a professional concierge.
When I travel, I always wear a hoodie or coat. For starters, it's always cold in the airport, and secondly, I want as little of my body as possible exposed to the petri dish we call an airport. But besides keeping warm and germ-free, outerwear can also act as extra storage space.
Coats, sweatshirts, and hoodies all have large pockets that can be stuffed with small clothing items, fragile jewelry, or small but heavy items that add extra weight to your checked bags. Using your clothes is the easiest way to avoid taking up more space in your carry-ons or having to pay the fees for overweight luggage.
And if the average hoodie or jacket doesn't quite cut it for you, you can always go for the professional assassin look and buy this awesome trench coat from Scottevest. These customized coats are loaded with secret pockets and compartments that give you plenty of room to store extra stuff. You can probably even DIY one if you don't want to spend more than you have to.
While this is a very cool coat, you'd still need to take everything out of it to go through security. If you do decide to stuff your pockets (even with a regular jacket), it's probably best to just take the whole thing off and put it in its own little bin for the x-ray machines.
Most airlines allow for one carry-on item and one personal item. A carry-on item can be a small duffel bag or backpack, something that can fit either under the seat or in the overhead bins. I always carry my backpack with me whenever I travel and load it with extra clothes, a toothbrush, my phone charger, and my laptop, just in case the airlines lose my baggage.
Speaking of laptops, that's one item you should ALWAYS carry on. Even though you can mark checked items as "fragile," you still run the risk of it breaking or being damaged. Leaving the fate of your valuables up to baggage handlers and the TSA is asking for trouble. Baggage handlers toss bags around, fragile or not, like a fresh Greek salad (although there are ways to make them treat your bags better).
You can file a claim if anything gets damaged, but there's no guarantee that you'll be fully compensated for it. There is actually a federal regulation that says you can get back a maximum of 3,300 dollars from the airlines for lost or damaged property. It's best to use a laptop case for your computer, which will count as a personal item in addition to your carry-on.
If you don't have a laptop case, bring a briefcase or backpack, something that you can easily carry around. And for the ladies, a large purse is perfect for throwing in extra clothes, regulation-sized toiletries and other essential overnight items.
If you're traveling with a few friends or your family, you can sometimes make use of their extra storage space if they have any. If you arrive at the baggage check-in line and realize you have too many bags, you can always check to see if one of your group members has an available luggage slot.
If you all have the maximum number of free bags but are over the weight limit, you can also divide and conquer. Most likely only a few of your bags will be overweight while the others are under the limit. By moving a few things from one bag to another until everyone's bags meet the weight limit.
This may seem pretty obvious, but many travelers have no idea how much their luggage actually weighs until they're in the check-in line. Before you decide to go to the airport, always do your research and find out exactly what the weight limits are and how many items you can check and carry on. Weigh and measure each one at home if you have a scale to be sure you won't have any issues with the size and weight requirements.
Flying will never be fun, but taking some of these precautions will make your experience at the airport go much more smoothly, and maybe a little cheaper, too. Know of any packing or traveling tips we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.
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