How NOT to get charged for excess baggage at the airport

In earlier posts I discussed how to get a seriously cheap flight, and I discussed my disastrous baggage story with Ryanair.

One of the most stressful parts about the airport, if not the most stressful part, is the fear of getting charged for excess baggage. You may have found that cheap flight, but if you’re charged more than the flight in excess baggage fees, that ruins the point. I’ve had overweight bags before; sometimes I’ve had a good experience and it’s gone unnoticed, but other times I’ve paid the price. If my bags are overweight I almost feel like a criminal trying to sneak my bags onto the plane. As I approach the check-in desk my heart races, my cheeks go bright red and I start sweating with nerves that they’re going to say something about those extra kilos.

So to save you the worry, here are some useful tips for avoiding airline baggage charges and excess baggage fees.

Check the exact dimensions of carry-on luggage

Different low-cost airlines have different maximum cabin baggage allowances. For instance Ryanair allow a bag 50cm x 40cm x 20cm, whilst Flybe only allows 45cm x 30cm x 23cm. Easyjet has an unlimited weight allowance, whilst Ryanair allow 10kg.  If you’re travelling just with carry on luggage, it’s best to purchase a bag that fits those maximum requirements. Many have tags on that say ‘cabin baggage approved’, but check the measurements as this doesn’t mean it will fit on every airline. Purchase a bag that fits the requirements of the airline you usually travel with and make sure you think it will fit in that basket they have at the airport. Don’t forget, if the wheels stick out or you pack it really full, it might not fit.

Make sure all your liquids are under 100ml in carry-on

It seems really obvious these days, but time and time again I see women in particular at security losing their Elizabeth Arden creams and their expensive hair products. When people are travelling with carry on it’s easy to forget that you simply can’t take standard sized liquids. So make sure they’re under 100ml, and if they’re not, buy some miniature bottles and decant a bit into there. If you want to avoid paying for a plastic resealable bag at the airport, take your own with you. Put them all in the same place before you go so you don’t waste time at the airport.

Make sure you read the rules

Read the rules of your airline. Check whether you have to check-in online or whether you have to print your won boarding pass, as if you forget, you might have to pay around £50 to have a boarding pass printed. Always check the baggage allowance as it might have changed, plus make sure you take a look at the airline’s excess baggage rates to find out how much it will cost per kilo. If you read my Ryanair story, you’ll know that on the day it’s £20 per kilo for excess baggage. If you think your bag is going to be overweight, sometimes you can pre-book excess baggage online or over the internet before it’s too late. Just read the terms and conditions, be smart.

Choose a lightweight suitcase

A handy little tip, when buying a suitcase, purchase something made of lightweight material. The lighter your suitcase, the more stuff you can put in it and the lighter it will be. Those metal and plastic suitcases, although durable, are known to be particularly heavy.

Put your heaviest items in your hand luggage

You’re allowed to take a reasonable amount of hand luggage these days, so utilize it! Instead of taking a small little handbag, take a bigger cabin bag and put things like your shoes, cameras and hair dryer inside it.

Act like your hand luggage isn’t too heavy!

Not always proven to work, but worth a try, if you think your hand luggage is a little on the heavy side, act like it isn’t too heavy! If I feel my hand luggage is a little on the heavy side, I try not to draw attention to myself and effortlessly carry it to the boarding gate!

Weigh your luggage before hand

Buy luggage scales to measure the weight of your luggage at home so that you can have some peace of mind and not be shocked at the check-in desk.

Wear your heaviest clothes

A trick I always use is to wear my heaviest clothes. Big cardigans, heavy jewellery, cumbersome coats…whatever it is, layer up!!! You might look like a big Michelin man, but at least you won’t be charged for excess baggage!

Wear a Rufus Roo!

This is genius. The Rufus Roo is a jacket with four extra large pockets so you can wear your possessions! Since it’s not hand luggage, there’s nothing the airlines can say or do to stop you wearing one and stuffing your pockets.

photo by sun dazed

Victoria Brewood

Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

  • Boom
    Posted at 06:25h, 06 January Reply

    Yes wearing the clothes is a good tip. Ive known people wear 3 t-shirts and stuff whilst flying to get through the limits. Years ago you used to be able to get away with booking sports equipment on the flight and stuffing golf bags with everything you want.. but not anymore.

    Ive yet to see Ryanair or the rother carriers try and tell you to put clothes you are carrying into your hand luggage. So wear two jumpers and carry your coat!

    i also saw a promotion in an airport where if you bought items from a certain shop, then you could take them onboard as an additional item of hand luggage with ryanair!… Get some plastic bags from that shop and stuff them with stuff!!!!

    • Anni
      Posted at 13:54h, 09 January Reply

      Ryanair no longer allows bags from airport shops to be brought on to the plain as an additional luggage, it all needs to fit the one bag restrictions.

  • Dave
    Posted at 13:18h, 31 January Reply

    Wear a big coat. Stick a lens in each pocket. Hot and sweaty but keeps the camera bag nice and within weightlimits.

    • victoria
      Posted at 19:22h, 31 January Reply

      Great tip Dave, will be wearing a coat with deep pockets next time!

    • Anni
      Posted at 13:56h, 09 January Reply

      Also put your comutpor battery together with the heavy part of your charger in one pocket and your liquid bag in the other, can save you up to one kg of weight!

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