Find out more about Bob Atkinson
Save money on your winter holiday baggage costs
Thousands of us will jet away over the cold winter months of January and February on a well-earned holiday. But whether it’s a long-planned holiday in warmer climes, a last-minute dash to the beach, a trip to one of Europe’s many cities, or a ski or snowboard holiday on the slopes, it’s all too easy to get a nasty shock with your baggage costs when you arrive at the airport for your flight.
Follow our tips to travel for less and avoid unexpected last-minute baggage costs.
Winter beach holidays
OK. You’ve booked, got your holiday wardrobe organised and stocked up on some luxury toiletries with which to pamper yourself during your break in the sun. The countdown has begun and you can’t wait to relax on the beach.
But if you get carried away, pack too much and go over your baggage allowance on your outbound flight, your much-awaited trip could get off to a bad start.
Most holidays to long-haul destinations will be operated on a scheduled airline, such as British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, where, in economy, one piece of checked baggage is free of charge, providing it weighs no more than 23kg, along with one piece of cabin baggage, plus either a laptop case or handbag. Sounds generous eh? Well, with careful packing you can easily travel without going over these limits, but if you’re not careful, you could be facing charges of up to £90 on weight over the 23kg limit on each airline. Second bags will cost even more at the airport.
It’s all too easy to get carried away with the packing for an unfamiliar destination that we haven’t been to before. However, be ruthless and ensure that you take all that you need without packing the kitchen sink and incurring a cost akin to the price of a new kitchen!
Winter city breaks
When we go on city breaks we tend to travel for no more than three or four nights in the main, and often opt to travel hand-luggage only to keep the costs down. We’re smart, we know the rules and we’ve done it before with no problems at all.
And that’s fine if you are up to date on each airline’s policy for hand luggage, or haven’t had a momentary lapse of concentration when packing. I, for one, have been caught out a few times on my return journey by getting carried away in my chosen city, shopping like it’s going out of fashion and forgetting about how I am now going to get those items home.
Hand-luggage rules are strictly adhered to on most airlines, especially the low-cost and charter carriers such as easyJet, Ryanair and Thomas Cook. Each has its own policy of what it will guarantee. For example, easyJet has two cabin bag sizes; one full size which the airline reserves the right to remove from you at the gate and place in the hold if the flight is busy, and one smaller bag which is guaranteed to be allowed on board. Ryanair has a strict bag size and maximum 10kg weight limit, along with the newly introduced one airport shopping bag. Thomas Cook only allows one piece of hand-luggage weighing 5kg.
The key here is to ensure you check with the airline you are flying with before you set off, and if you’re travelling with more than one airline, stick to the rules of the airline with the lower allowance for the items you are taking with you and returning with. Go over the limits and you face boarding gate fines of up to £50 per bag with Ryanair as an example.
Read our hand luggage only article for more advice.
Holidays on the slopes
With the ski season in full swing and the Olympic Winter Games just around the corner, careful packing is key to ensuring you do not go over your allowance. If you are renting your equipment, such as boots, skis and poles, in resort, then it’s straightforward. Travel in your heaviest items such as warm clothing, jackets and salopettes, and pack your remaining items into your checked-in bag and hand-luggage.
However, if you plan on taking your own snowboard, boots or skis, you will need to check these in and pre-book them online to save money. Fees for pre-booking vary by airline. Thomas Cook and Monarch charge £25 and Ryanair charges £50, for example. Fail to pre-book and fees rise to as much as £60 at the airport.
Of the main carriers operating on ski destinations from the UK, only Virgin Atlantic and Germanwings will transport your skis and snowboards free of charge.
Our tip tips
Follow these quick tips to never fall foul of extra baggage costs:
- Always check the baggage rules when you book your flight or flight-based package holiday to know your allowance.
- Never assume that one airline is the same as another.
- Double check the rules before packing and leaving for the airport in case the rules have been updated.
- Make sure you measure and weigh your bags so you are confident they fit the airline rules.
- Invest in lightweight bags if you are a frequent traveller. The money you spend will be saved in the long run.
- If you are going to be over your allowance, pre-book the extra weight online before travelling to the airport. It’s cheaper.
- OR, if travelling with friends or family, see if you can use up any of their unused allowance.
- Don’t assume you can pool allowances to add up to a total weight. Most airlines do not allow this, with the rules being per bag per passenger.
- Be ruthless. Before doing your final packing, remove anything that you are not absolutely sure you will need. You will save weight and make it easier to travel. Less is more.