Can’t Fit Everything in a Carry-On? Here’s How to Avoid Checked Baggage Fees

While everyone’s constantly telling you to “pack light,” and put everything in your carry-on, sometimes that just doesn’t work. Maybe you’ve got holiday gifts to bring along or you simply don’t want to be burdened by a carry-on suitcase. Perhaps you’re going somewhere cold and can’t fit everything you need in a tiny case. Whatever the reason, we understand. That’s why we have some tips on avoiding baggage fees even when you’ve got luggage you need to check.

Checked Baggage

Always Keep the Important Stuff with You

First and foremost, if you are checking baggage, you should be prepared for the worst. Don’t pack medications or travel documents in your checked bag, as it could get delayed or lost. Make sure you have all the essentials in your carry-on or purse.

Most airlines allow you two – a bag or suitcase that can fit in an overhead bin and a personal item. The latter (a purse, small tote bag, or shoulder bag) is supposed to fit under your seat.

(Note: There are some low-cost airlines, like Spirit and Frontier, that may charge extra for carry-on luggage. Do consider this when booking with these airlines. Frontier, for example, charges more for a carry-on than they do for a checked bag.)

Weigh the Costs

There are several airlines, like Southwest, that simply don’t charge for your first (or even second) checked bag. When comparing costs between ticket prices, you’ll want to consider the cost of checking luggage and factor it in. Most major airlines charge around $25 for your first checked bag and then the cost increases for additional ones.

Weigh Your Stuff

The next thing to consider is the weight of your checked luggage. For most airlines, it cannot exceed 50 pounds, else you’ll get charged extra fees for it being overweight. (Some airlines have weight limits as low as 40 lbs.) The fees for a bag exceeding the weight limit are often far more expensive than checking a second bag.

Always weigh your luggage before leaving the house so you won’t be forced to rearrange things at the airport.

Ship Stuff to Your Destination

If you plan far enough in advance, you may be able to ship certain, heavier items to your destination. However, while it may seem more convenient to travel light, we’ve found shipping costs can often rival that of checking one or two bags. Get an estimate so you can weigh your options.

Consider an Airline Credit Card

If you travel often, you may very well benefit from an airline credit card. Not only can you earn travel miles on purchases, many come with special perks like free checked baggage.