Travel tips for limited luggage allowances

Recently, airlines have been cutting back on luggage allowances. Sometimes, even after you’ve weighed and tried to balance your bags, you find yourself still a few kilos overweight. Here are a few tips for the desperate, which was just about all of us on the trip home from Cambridge. (It was a miracle that some of us made it without paying extra.) These tips assume that your carry-on is being weighed too (our limit was about 7kg – 15 lbs.) Maybe one or two of the tips will put a smile on your face.

  1. Try to be close enough to the weight limit that you don’t immediately raise a flag. Three kilograms over is a lot easier to overlook than six.
  2. Wear a jacket with nice big pockets. Even if its 100 degrees outside, you’ll need protection from the plane’s air conditioning ;-).
  3. Put your laptop power pack and other dense items in your jacket pocket for the weigh in; there’s one guaranteed pound right there. (Thanks to Jim Leonard, Tyndale house student for this tip.)
  4. Calculate which items you are willing to part with if necessary. It’s better to simply throw away that old pair of jeans and a few extra T-shirts than pay the astronomical “over weight” charges. Do the math. If you can replace any item later for say $40, it’s probably not worth paying $200 to hang on to it for this trip. (Thanks again, Jim.)
  5. Pick your largest book – usually an encyclopedia, theology, etc. – as your “in-hand” reading material. This is the book you carry in your hand as you check in – so it won’t be in any of your bags that are being weighed. I doubt anyone actually verbalize their puzzlement as to why you have brought along an academic lexicon for airplane reading. If traveling in a large group, other friends can hold a few of your largest tomes for you while you check in. This will insure maximum study potential for your long airplane ride. 😉
  6. If you are traveling in a group, one of your friends may be willing to trade bulk for weight. It takes a village to get all your books home.
  7. Make sure your bags are leaning/hanging over/touching as much of the check-in counter as possible when you place them on the scale. (Actually, it looks like the scales are now designed to compensate for this.)
  8. If one check-in attendant is being extremely strict with a few extra kilos. Pull your bags back out of line to “think about what you will get rid of”. Move things around a bit, then try to look for a more sympathetic check-in attendant (or hope that the current attendant gets replaced in the meantime.) This actually happened to a few of us on this last trip.
  9. Wear your big snow boots and heavy wool coat for check in (see #2 above if it is summer). Nobody who initially made sure your carry-on passed the “does it fit in this square” is going to follow you to the other end of the airport to ask why you are suddenly wearing a T-shirt and slippers or sneakers.
  10. Okay, so my conscience is starting to bug me. The best option might simply be to do without; see you luggage limit as a way to help you live more simply.

I’d love to hear tricks that other people have tried or thought of. . .

3 thoughts on “Travel tips for limited luggage allowances

  1. Simon says:

    The number one way to move weight through the airports is carry-on luggage. Aside from flirting with the check-in girls (this does work), almost none of the companies I’ve flown with weighed carry on bags. Show up early at the airport and watch the attendants check people in. When you see (like Kenya Airways, Alitalia, or Air India) how they did not weigh checkin bags, walk a ways away and load your carry-on with your heaviest items. Massive backpacks work great, because its bulk is innocently hidden behind you.

    Now the trick to avoid suspicion is to carry the bag gingerly – as if your now 200pound backpack is filled with cotton balls. Try to whisk through fast enough so as to not sweat profusely from the brow, not knocking over the metal lane stands or moving your bags heavily to your other shoulder. At all costs, do not grunt in pain. Think of beaches, stand relaxed, and talk like you’re out for an evening stroll. Tell a lighthearted joke. Soon enough, she’ll be handing you those beautiful boarding passes and you’ll be on your way.

    And while collecting those passes, do not accidently rest your bags on the scale or you’ll ruin everything.

  2. Ben says:

    I guess that works with many airlines, but some are starting to crack down. Emirates weighed my carry one going both ways. They did let me go over both times – a kilo or so.

    Want to write another guest post on travel tips? Or are you going to start another blog?

  3. Simon says:

    That’s why you wait and watch the attendants check a few people in, so you can see if they’re weighing carryons and option for heavy carry-on or not.

    I’m trying to start up my blog again. The new template is Its just hard to get back into the swing of things.

    What do you want me to write on? I can give some good advice for collecting and using travel miles.

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