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30 Days to Packing a Better Bag – Day 3: Research Airlines

day 3: research airlines, baggage restrictions and fees.

Image: It’s true. Some airlines charge up to $70 for a last minute checked bag! Avoid that cost by doing your research.

It’s Day 3 of 30 Days to Packing a Better Bag, and we’re still in the planning stages of our guide. This post is all about researching your airlines.

Before you even think about booking your ticket, there’s the process of researching potential airlines to find yourself the best possible deal. Once you’ve found where you’ll be flying in and out of, you’ll need to be diligent about choosing the airline that can get you there cheapest without the hassle of additional baggage fees.

Everything plays into what you pack, especially what airline you fly.

How to Find a Flight Deal

First, look on sites like Skyscanner or Kayak to get an idea of what you’ll be paying (sometimes you’ll find the same price as on the airline’s site) before searching and comparing on competing sites. Set a price tracker to get alerts by email for when your selected fare will be going up or down. Also try booking in a different currency against your home currency or booking through foreign affiliates (Expedia.co.uk, Kayak.jp), as this could also be cheaper.

Look for Alternatives

Sometimes it may be cheaper to fly into a bigger hub nearby and take a train or bus to your destination. Look at multi-destination tickets instead of flying in and out of the same airport. It may end up costing a little more, but it prevents the hassle of having to get back to your arrival city, wasting precious travel time. In other cases, bypassing the need to transport back to your arrival city could work out the cheapest. Also look at budget and regional carriers to get around the area after arriving in your main hub cities. For example, if flying into Porto, Portugal and out of Berlin, Germany, consider taking a budget carrier flight from Porto to a regional Germany airport to save money.

Check Airline Baggage Policies

Budget carriers like Spirit and Southwest in the United States, Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe and Tiger and Jetstar in Asia have strict rules about how much baggage you can check and carry on board without facing fees. If you’re flying a budget carrier, it’s smart to go carry on only. Measure and weigh in advance because you don’t want to get to the airport and have your bag not fit the specifications.

Why? We’re glad you asked.

Pay in advance if you know you’ll need to check a bag because the price can double, or even triple, when you get to the airport. Jetstar in Australia has a checked bag fee (when buying your ticket) of just $15.50 for 15kg, but if you have to pay when you get to the airport, that same bag will cost you $70. That’s a big difference!

Also print your ticket in advance, as some airlines (Ryanair) will charge for that, too. Bring your own food on board if you can since the snacks tend to be highly overpriced. If you’re checking a bag, check the airline’s lost baggage policy and ensure that your travel insurance covers lost or delayed luggage. You don’t want to arrive at your destination without clothes or other essentials.

airline baggage fees link

Choose Luggage Wisely

Once you know your airline’s baggage policy, decide on how many pieces of luggage you will bring. Will you go carry on only or check multiple bags? If you’re going carry on only, make sure you can lift your bag above your head to put it in the overhead compartment. Backpacks and rolling suitcases tend to work best, but if you’re checking a bag, you may want luggage with a tough outer shell that won’t get destroyed by the baggage handlers and carousel. To protect your backpack when checking, invest in a rain cover or duffel that will help keep it from getting dirty, and keep those straps from getting caught in the carousels.

We’ll be discussing more about choosing the right luggage tomorrow.

Extra Money Saving Tips

We know this post is about researching airlines so you can make better packing and baggage choices, but we have a few more tips that just help you to save some extra cash. Saving money is never bad, and if you are able to save a few extra bucks here then maybe you can afford to bring home some extra souvenirs (and pay for that extra checked bag in the process).

Be Flexible

There are a few steps you can take to make your fare cheaper. Fly during the week instead of on peak days like Fridays, Sundays and Mondays. If you’re looking for fares frequently on your computer, clear the cache because the price may increase if the website knows you are constantly checking back. Also select the “flexible dates” option when booking, which will give you cheaper options at different days of the week surrounding your planned departure.

Travel Hacking

There’s a way to get as much out of your money as possible, known as travel hacking. Many times you can receive enough points to book a free flight for signing up for an airline credit card. Some credit cards, like the Chase United Mileage Plus card, will provide perks, such as airline miles, club passes and discounts on flights.

Take Action: Do Your Research
Start looking for flights as early in advance as you can. Be flexible about where you want to fly in and out of and use travel hacking tips to get the best possible deal. Make a decision on how many pieces of luggage you wish to bring according to the airline baggage guidelines and fees. Think about your trip style, too! If you’re going on a shopping trip, for example, you might want to leave a lot of extra space in your luggage; if you’re going to a very remote destination, you might want to strive for carry-on only to ensure you aren’t left without anything important once you arrive!

Let us know about your luggage goals for your upcoming trip and whether or not airline restrictions are playing a part.

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Paula says

    I just got 4 flights at jetstar and Didnt pay for the checked luggagge, that has been on my mind and when i finally got some peace with this decision i read this post with this exact example! I cant believe it! I think im going to cry 🙁 my trip is only in march so i have time to reduce, but i will send you pictures/ stories if i manage 🙂 i promisse!

  2. Dianne says

    At present Southwest Airlines allows TWO free checked bags. Also, do sign up for airlines’ e-mail notifications about fare sales. Another good site where one can receive alerts is airfarewatchdog.com, for flights originating in the USA.

    • Brooke says

      It’s hard to find airlines that are so generous with their baggage these days – thanks for the tip. However, I wouldn’t want to be the person dealing with all that luggage! 😉 Thanks for the airfare tips!

  3. Tiera says

    I absolutely agree, doing the research beforehand is key. Baggage fees can be pretty ludicrous these days, but I was also surprised to find that a few Asia flights I’m researching include the first checked bag free. I’d be living out of a hotel for a month on business, so it was good to know I had some leeway before unnecessarily trying to squeeze a month’s life into a carry-on.

    And that Jetstar rule is bananas, I’d never heard of that before. So good to know!

  4. Ashley says

    I just booked a direct flight with Norwegian Airlines from Oakland, CA to Stockholm, Sweden for less than $300. From what I’ve seen, a lot of their flights are quite cheap! Their baggage guidelines seem fairly nice as well.


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