Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Travel light and cheap

Leisure travelers pack way too much and inevitably they run across the excess baggage fees. Then they look at me and get mad and ask..."When did you start charging for baggage?"..."How much?!"..."That's ridiculous! I paid so much for this ticket!"...then you take your huge bags off the scale and start taking pieces out to keep the bag under 50 pounds and muttering under your breath. Understand, that it is not my fault, I'm following our baggage policy, be glad that I gave you a chance to take the stuff out so that you don't have to pay the overweight baggage fee.

You only travel once a year, but seriously, if you are traveling for a week or two weeks you don't need to pack your entire wardrobe. There are things called laundromats and hotels do have laundry services. The rest of your wardrobe is probably wishfully thinking about an experience that you hope will happen. You're thinking you'll meet Handsome Rich Dude or Cute Rich Girl who'll grab you by the hand and bring you to his/her yacht/mansion with pool/beachside house and dance until dawn at a hip club and you'll want to impress with your CLOTHES(?).

Now I hate to tell you this but the chances of meeting Handsome Rich Dude or Cute Rich Girl in coach is somewhat nil. They'll be hanging out at the First Class Lounge. And no they won't let you in exchange for some frequent flyer miles.

Or perhaps you are packing for any kind of emergency or situation. Let's say you're headed to Cancun but you're afraid that your plane might have to crash land in the Yucatan jungle. In that case you definitely want to make sure that you're not without the safari suit you bought from Banana Republic. Well, chances are if you do crash land in the Yucatan, everybody's suitcases are going to be flung every which way and your chances of finding your own suitcase is the same as...crash landing in the Yucatan. Besides, knowing Banana Republic they probably do have a store in the jungles of the Yucatan and you can buy there.

Checking-in luggage of unusual size can create a hassle for you and might delay your flight or even cause a change in your travel itinerary. This usually happens when passengers check in with things like cross-country skis or pole vaults. Checking in with something too big or too long may mean that you can't get it on the plane because the baggage bins are too small and may cause you to be rerouted and go through a connection because the checked-in item needs to be stowed on a bigger airplane.

Also, don't pack anything fragile in your suitcase. The underbelly of a plane is like a football field. Taking off and landing, and any turbulence during a flight makes the baggage area inside a plane similar to an electric mixer. The fine wine that you packed with your clothes will only be enjoyed by sucking it through your shirt.

The other thing that I see when I check people in for their flight is that their carry-on bag is heavy. Try to keep the weight of your carry-on bag manageable. You might hurt yourself or the passenger sitting underneath when you lift your bag and can't quite reach the overhead bin. Now you might be thinking to yourself that the flight attendant should do this and they could; but don't forget that the flight attendant is there for safety reasons and is not supposed to be your porter, in addition the flight attendant will not want to take the risk of hurting him/herself and go on disability because you packed a very heavy bag. Most airlines have a maximum weight of 40 pounds for carry-on and believe me, that's heavy.

In all seriousness, it would probably be easier for your to pack less and choose your travel clothes wisely. But here are some tips for you so that checking in and air travel will be a much smoother process.

1. Pack light. If you check in more than two bags, the excess bag charges will be very costly.
2. It costs less to check in two bags each under 50 pounds than one overweight bag. Be sure to carry an extra duffel bag or large tote bag so that you have something to put your excess clothes in.
3. Keep your carry-on bag light so that you don't strain anything when you lift the bag on or off the overhead bin. If it's over 20 pounds put it in under the seat in front of you.
4. If you bought a lot of stuff during your vacation, check and see if it's cheaper to send your clothes home and pack your new stuff instead of paying the excess baggage fee. If you are traveling with more than one person coordinate so that each traveler is using their baggage allowance effectively.
5. Don't check in an expensive or fragile item as baggage. You run the very real risk of having it broken or the baggage lost and the compensation that you are entitled to might not be as much as the value of the item.
6. Don't check in something that is irreplaceable because you run the risk of losing the bag. If you were shopping and found the perfect wedding dress for your wedding, don't pack it in your check-in bag, pack it with your carry-on. It saves a lot of heartache.
7. The day before you leave, check your airline website and check whether the stuff you are checking in is allowed on your plane.
8. Your carry-on bag shouldn't be too big, again check with your airline website to make sure that your carry-on bag dimensions are allowed as carry-on.
9. Pack your liquids over 3 ounces with your check-in bags.
10. Prepay your bag on your airline website it might be cheaper.

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