Juggling your carry-on and saving $ on your check-in…but is it worth it?

We’ve all been there….up all night finishing your packing and trying to negotiate with your hand-held luggage scale trying to figure out where you can skimp and save on the extra pounds.

Several airlines have increased their check-in baggage fees and many other airlines may follow suit.  So many of us savvy travelers are trying to beat the system.  Is your carry-on brimming with personal effects?  Are you wearing all of your heaviest items (i.e., coat, boots, etc)?   There may be a principle to uphold here, and I’m all for saving money, but you know what….maybe it’s worth paying the extra $10 or $15.

Depending on how you pack, the extra juggle may not be a big deal.  But for most of us, it may be a small price to pay in the scheme of things so you don’t have to muscle all your stuff and keep an eye on it all throughout your journey.  Last time I checked, planes are crowded, narrow, and personal space is at a premium.

I would recommend taking a moment to find out your airline’s maximum luggage weights and fees.  There is some variation.  Here is a sampling for an economy ticket:

*1st Class, Business, and Frequent Flyer programs will be more generous, if not free. 


1st Bag

2nd Bag

Virgin America $20 (weighing up to 70 lbs) Bag 2 through 10 –  $20 (weighing up to 50 lbs)
Virgin Atlantic Free (weighing up to 50 lbs) Bag 2 – 10: $48 on-line or $60 at airport (weighing up to 50 lbs)
American Airlines Flights within the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico $25 (weighing up to 50 lbs) Bag 2: $35  (weighing up to 50 lbs)Bag 3,4, & 5: $100 (weighing up to 50 lbs)

Bag 6 – 10: $200 (weighing up to 50 lbs)

American Airlines Travel to/through/from Europe and India Free (weighing up to 50 lbs) 

Over 50 lbs but less than 70 lbs is subject to a $50 USD overweight baggage charge.


Over 70 lbs – will not be accepted

Bag 2: $50 (weighing up to 50 lbs)
Jet Blue Free (weighing up to 50 lbs) 

Overweight Bags:

51 – 70 pounds: $50 per bag

71 – 99 pounds: $100 per bag

Bag 2: $30 (weighing up to 50 lbs)Bag 3 – 10: $75 (weighing up to 50 lbs)
United Airlines US & Canada $25 (weighing up to 50 lbs) $35 (weighing up to 50 lbs)
United Airlines International Free (weighing up to 50 lbs) $45 pay on-line (weighing up to 50 lbs)$50 pay at airport (weighing up to 50 lbs)
BMI Free (weighing up to 44 lbs) Free (weighing up to 44 lbs)

Also, keep in mind that once you’re abroad and continue your travel on international carriers (i.e. RyanAir, easyJet, BMI, etc) they have their own maximum weights and charges per bag.  I have found that the max weights are even less than in the US.  So, if you’ve packed 50 lbs on a US carrier, get to your foreign destination, and continue on a foreign carrier, your luggage is already too heavy and the additional fees are astronomical!  Many of these airlines will charge your overage per kilogram and it gets very pricey very fast.

So, depending on your itinerary, you may need room to juggle.  I highly recommend buying a hand-held luggage scale with built-in tape measure and pack a mid-size foldable zip bag in your main luggage so that you can reshuffle items before your next flight and avoid the penalties…along with the currency exchange rate!  Loophole: Use the mid-sized bag as your carry-on.

The New York Times Travel Section has a great article, Gaming the Luggage System.” 

Published: January 31, 2010

By Michelle Higgins

As airlines continue to raise fees for checked luggage, more travelers are coming up with creative ways to dodge them — through meticulous packing of carry-on bags, by stuffing coat pockets with items they’d normally put in a bag, or by hanging back and boarding last so they can check their bags at the gate for free.

What do you think?


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One thought on “Juggling your carry-on and saving $ on your check-in…but is it worth it?

  1. Clifton Bergesen February 25, 2010 at 10:25 am Reply

    If you have purchased a luggage cart with big six-inch wheels you can easily roll your load up and down a staircase, but don’t try this on bags with tiny built-in wheels. You might scratch the cover on a wheeled bag which will scrape the edge of the curb or stairs, so it would probably be best to do the traditional “lift it up and carry it” on a bag with tiny wheels.

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