5 ways to prevent being caught out by hefty baggage charges

January 16, 2018

If you’re anything like the average British holidaymaker, packing for your annual summer break will prove to be a huge test of patience, ingenuity and skill as you gather your belongings together for your big trip.

Yet while you may be concentrating on which items to take and which to leave at home, mastering the correct packing technique of rolling, folding or layering, or even how on earth you’ll keep the kids happy with toys and distractions during the trip, it’s all too easy to ignore the basics of your luggage allowance. And the cost of that ignorance is a large hit to your holiday wallet as airlines increasingly penalise those who fail to play by the rules.

In order to avoid forking out on unwanted baggage fines this summer, follow our advice and prevent any unwanted costs.

1. Check and double-check your allowances

Your luggage allowances are made up of two items – your checked-in luggage and your hand baggage. Every airline’s limits vary and if you are lucky enough to be flying in a premium cabin, they will be different again. Never assume that an airline has the same luggage policy as the last time you travelled as they can change regularly.

Hold luggage

Your hold luggage usually consists of one item, with a typical weight limit of 20kg and with maximum set dimensions. Your airline’s website will detail these limits, or if you have booked through a travel agent they can check them for you. With many carriers, you have to add this checked-in bag for a fee and this is usually done when you make your booking. However, all airlines will let you add a checked-in bag after the booking has been made if it is not complimentary.

Do note that if you are travelling with Ryanair, a higher baggage fee of €40 (approx £35.50) per person (for a one way flight) applies if you purchase a bag after the initial booking. To avoid paying more than you have to, plan ahead and book your case on with you when you make your reservation.

Hand luggage

Your hand luggage usually consists of one item with a much lower weight limit and smaller dimensions than hold baggage. Some airlines will allow a separate handbag and laptop bag, such as British Airways, however many of the big holiday brands have a strict one-piece rule. Again, check with your airline before going to the airport.

If you get the allowance wrong and arrive with too many bags, you could be faced with paying to check in an extra bag. This can cost as much as £160 for a second bag in high season with Ryanair. Sticking to your allowance is the only guaranteed way to avoid additional bag charges at the airport.

Finally, if you are planning to travel hand luggage only, don’t be tempted push the limits. It can cost you dear as I found out last summer with Ryanair. My €21 ticket from France to Manchester suddenly became €71 when I arrived at the gate with 2kg of extra weight in my hand luggage. A €50 fine was enforced, the bag was taken off me and placed in the hold and I was embarrassed in front of my fellow passengers.

If I had decided to check the bag in online it would have only cost me €20 – a costly mistake I won’t make again.

2. Get organised

In order to make sure that you take everything you need away with you, and to rationalise what is essential, we have a handy checklist to help you to remember all the items you may need to pack. A great idea is to gather items together over a few days and lay them out so you can start to see everything you plan to take. I admit to being one of those people who thinks they will need everything and I tend to over-pack. However, being really ruthless and thinking clearly about what you will actually use, whether you can get clothes cleaned while you’re away and decanting things like toiletries can help to easily cut back on what you’ll pack.

3. Pack smartly

If you struggle with packing, following our advice will make things a whole lot easier for you. For example, we have a handy video you can watch on how to pack for a trip as well as an excellent article on some of the techniques of packing here.

4. Re-check the weight of your bags

Before going to the airport, try to weigh your bag using bathroom scales or specially-designed bag scales. If you know you are going to be over the limit and can’t leave anything at home, get online to pre-book additional weight as leaving this to the airport can cost far more than doing it online before you travel. easyJet, for example, will charge you £21 for three extra kilos of checked luggage weight online. However, paying for the same extra weight at check-in will cost you £33.

If you want to avoid paying extra costs, take out any heavier items such as books or chargers and put them into coat pockets or your hand luggage if you have spare capacity there.

5. Don’t make mistakes at the airport

You’ve checked in and dropped any bags off that you have booked into the hold, and have stuck to your hand luggage allowance – so you can relax, can’t you? Not quite as there’s one more thing to be aware of – the duty free trap.

Several airlines insist that any duty free goods you buy in the airport MUST fit inside your hand luggage and not take you over your allowed luggage weight. This can be a real problem as certain airlines, such as Ryanair, are very strict at monitoring this at the gate. So, again, check what your airline allows and then stick to it.

Many UK airports offer the opportunity to buy duty free goods and collect them on your return to the UK for flights taken with the EU. So this may be a way of doing some shopping without the hassle of taking it on-board and then packing it again for the return trip.

Additionally, when you pack to return home, be cautious of holiday gifts and shopping which can add to your bag’s weight. Again, if you know you have gone over your allowance, book the additional weight online before flying back. It will save you money.

Have a great summer holiday!


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