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Top 9 Flying with Luggage Tips

Info on Airline Baggage Allowances and More

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Planning on a honeymoon or romantic vacation that involves flying? If so, knowing and abiding by the latest airline baggage rules, regulations, and fees can help to make your journey go more smoothly. Check out these tips on flying with luggage to find out what you need to know to travel like a pro.

1. Know the Size and Weight Limits for Carry-on Bags

Variables such as the aircraft used and passenger load may affect the size of carry-on bags allowed on an airplane. For instance, the overhead bins on a small commuter plane may simply not be able to accommodate the same size carry-on luggage as a jet. Check with the individual airline you are flying regarding the permissible dimensions of carry-on luggage for your particular flight.

If your carry-on bag is rejected as too big when you approach the door of the airplane, do not argue with the flight attendant if you hope to board the plane. Remove only essential items and relinquish the bag. The carry-on may or may not be tagged but will fly separately from you. You can reclaim it either at the gate or with the regular checked luggage.

2. Carefully Edit Your Carry-on Baggage

Pack valuable items and things you cannot live without in a small carry-on bag. The basics include your passport and travel documents, medications, jewelry, and extra eyeglasses if needed. Once those are secured, ask yourself what you would need to get by for a day if your luggage didn't arrive. An extra set of underwear, birth control, and cosmetics might make your list.

Third, consider what food, entertainment, and other items would help you to make it through a flight comfortably, especially if it spans several hours. If traveling economy class, bring a sandwich or snack. Magazines, a book, and an iPod can help the hours fly by. Splurging on noise-cancelling earphones may help you sleep easier onboard and muffle screaming babies.

3. Limit Liquids that You Carry

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules about bringing liquids aboard a plane remain in effect:
  • A maximum of one, quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag is allowed in carry-on per person
  • This plastic bag can contain containers of liquid or gel three ounces or less
  • Don’t expect to bring your own bottled water to drink -- you’ll have to dispose of it to pass through security

4. Watch Your Weight

Most airlines permit passengers to check one piece of luggage. However, there are weight limits to the standard free baggage allowance. For instance, American Airlines on all of its domestic and most of its international flights restricts checked bags to 50 pounds.

In most cases, passengers whose luggage exceeds the airline's weight allowance are charged a fee. Check with your individual airline to determine how heavy your baggage can be without paying more for it to fly with you. Luggage in excess of 70 pounds may not be permitted at all.

Balanzza Digital Luggage Scale (check price)

5. Know the Cost of a Checked Bag

Starting in 2008, many major and smaller airlines changed their checked-luggage policy to charge passengers for checking a second piece of luggage. Initial fees ran as low as $10 on AirTran and $20 on JetBlue to $25 on larger airlines. If you are traveling heavy but on a budget, check with your airline to determine the fee for a second bag and whether you will be charged for overweight luggage.

Note: On some airlines, including American, you may even be charged to check a single piece of luggage. Aer Lingus, for example, charges a fee to check baggage on shorthaul flights within the UK, Ireland, and Europe. You can pay the fee at the airport or online, which is cheaper.

6. Use TSA-recognized Luggage Locks

The TSA claims to screen every passenger's baggage before it is placed on an airplane. If their security inspectors decide to physically open a piece of luggage, they may break the lock unless it is a TSA-approved one that officers can open using a universal master key. TSA locks have a flame or sideways diamond logo that identify them.
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7. Choose Colorful Luggage

Black may be timelessly fashionable in clothing but it's a bad choice for luggage. That's because black is the color of luggage most often mistakenly claimed. (It also shows dirt more than neutral colors.) Do yourselves a favor: Choose a more distinctive color of luggage. Or use colored tape in a neat pattern, affix an outsize luggage tag, or apply another identifier so that you can easily pick out your luggage on an airport baggage carousel.

8. Roll It Nice and Easy

It seems as if 99% of travelers already know that rolling luggage, as opposed to bags without wheels, will help them transport more weight more easily. But if two of you are traveling together, with a purse or backpack, two carry-ons, and two or more pieces of checked luggage, it gets unwieldy.

Make use of the rolling luggage carts provided at airports. At many overseas airports, these conveyances are free and can be taken as far as security upon departure and the curb on arrival. At USA airports there is often a charge to use these carts. Recently a cart at JFK Airport cost $3, payable by dipping a credit card into the machine that releases the lock on the cart. Free or not, it's a nominal amount compared to a visit to a chiropractor.

9. Send Luggage Ahead

There are any number of companies, from all-purpose FedEx and DHL to specialists such as Luggage Forward and Luggage Free that will guarantee that your luggage arrives to your destination before you do and then returns to your home in advance of your arrival. The drawback: These services are very expensive, and you will need to be fully packed and arrange pickup several days in advance of leaving on your trip.
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