Pack Light to Avoid Checked Baggage Fees at the Airport

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Traveling isn’t what it used to be. Airlines seem to charge for everything these days, including amenities that were free just a few years ago.

Shelling out when checking in used to be required only when an overpacked bag exceeded the airline’s weight limit. Now, however, fliers can still get slammed with a fee ranging from $15 to a whopping $600 each way, if they choose to check rather than carry on.

Here are some tips for packing smarter to eliminate extra fees and to pocket more money to enjoy on vacation.

Plan Before Packing

Whether the trip is for a weekend or a week, it never hurts to get organized beforehand to avoid bringing extra things you won’t use. A few days before leaving, sit down with a pen and paper to map out which clothing, toiletries and gadgets you’ll need.

Make three columns: “Essential”, “Maybe” and “Only if there’s room”, and list the items you’re thinking of bringing accordingly. If you are traveling for a specific event like a wedding, a beach vacation or a work conference, get the essential items – tuxedo, swimsuits, laptop, for example – squared away first to determine how much space will be left over for the “Maybe” and “Only if there’s room” items. Pack a little at a time each day to avoid feeling overwhelmed, which can lead to overpacking.

Pack Systematically

Once the planning list is complete, begin packing heavier items like jeans and jackets on the bottom, followed by shirts, dresses, ties and underwear. Save the sides and front inches for souvenirs and shoes, which can be wrapped in plastic bags to avoid soiling clothes. Place all the 3.3-oz. toiletry bottles in a quart-size plastic bag and place it on top of everything else for easy access during the security check. Because most airlines allow one personal item in addition to a carry-on bag, use your purse, messenger bag, briefcase or laptop bag wisely to store things like keys, glasses, gadget chargers, makeup, books, magazines and other items that could take up needed space inside the suitcase.

Prescription drugs deserve special attention. Some people carry a week’s supply in their hand luggage and another week’s supply in their checked baggage, or in a second piece of carry-on luggage.

Carrying luggage onto a plane doesn’t have to mean doing without. If anything, packing smarter saves time (no more baggage claim carousels) and money (no checked baggage fees), meaning you’ll get to and from your destination more relaxed and a little richer.