There are so many rules and restrictions regarding baggage on airlines, it can be tricky to sift through them all to the bottom line for your specific flight. My hope is that this article breaks it down and makes it much simpler for you.
Let’s start with carry-on bags. In general, you are allowed one carry-on with a maximum of 45 linear inches (total of height, width and depth of bag) plus a purse or briefcase. TSA has put together a 3 – 1 – 1 system to sort out which liquids, aerosols and gels are allowed to be brought in a carry-on bag: 3.4 ounce (100 ml) bottle or less; 1 quart-sized, clear plastic, zip top bag. X-ray your liquids bag separately from your carry-on to speed up the security line. You may ask, “What constitutes a liquid or gel?” A very visual answer is, if you can pour it, pump it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, spray it or spill it, it needs to be in your zip top bag or checked bag. If in doubt, put your liquids in checked luggage.
Staff at Compass USA get a chuckle out of last minute luggage rearrangement and creativity when our students are trying to fit a month’s worth of shopping and memorabilia in their bags to go home. Items are shifted to other carry-on bags, to other students’ bags or left behind to ship. For checked baggage the weight limit is usually 50 pounds per bag and size limit is 62 linear inches.
Many airlines charge for even the first checked bag if you are traveling domestically in the U.S., so look for airlines that do not. Southwest Airlines allows up to 2 free and JetBlue allows 1. For international flights, most airlines allow one free checked, and will charge for additional bags. Check with your airline ahead of time on specific limitations because it often costs less to pay for an additional bag versus paying $75-$200 for one that is oversize or overweight. Some airlines even offer a discount for paying for your bags online.
Here a few additional tips to avoid paying hefty baggage fees:
1. Besides checking which airlines offer free checked bags, many do not charge the normal fees to their “Elite” or “Premier” members. Sign up for frequent flyer programs for any airlines you travel with frequently to get to that level of membership.
2. Large items that you will only use once (golf clubs, skis, bikes, etc.), so it can easily be less expensive to rent them when you arrive at your destination. If you really need to bring your heavy items with you, consider shipping them to your destination. Also, if you ship them in advance, shipping rates will be lower.
3. Pack a lightweight fold-up bag into your suitcase. This can serve as your extra checked bag if your original is over the limit.
4. Wear or Carry the Heavy Stuff. Instead of checking your heaviest items like winter coats, heavy boots or hardback books, wear them or carry them with you. E-readers are a wonderful alternative to hardcover or paperback books, so think about buying or borrowing one if you don’t already own one. Some libraries even have e-reader lending programs and are even willing to show you how to use them.
I hope this helps! Check out the following websites for more details on prohibited items, specific baggage weights and sizes and additional bag fees: