If you’re desperate to scratch that travel itch now that Covid has finally retreated, and a majority of countries have reopened, you probably noticed that the current travel landscape is looking dramatically different from the pre-pandemic years – and we’re not talking about health regulations or reinforced personal hygiene inside the aircraft.
All around the globe, airlines have been hit with a wave of flight delays, cancellations, and other logistical problems that are shaking the aviation industry to its core. As we have seen in a number of cases over the last couple of weeks, checking in days in advance, or even showing up has long ceased being a protective measure against disruption.
Now, travelers are being advised to travel prepared for the worst, and that includes arriving to their final destination without their bags:
Not Checking In Bags Is The Secret To A Stress-Free Vacation
Now that airlines are delaying more flights than ever before, and the situation on the ground is not much better, with handlers making a mess out of luggage shipping, any attempt to reduce disruption is valid. That means packing just enough clothes for a trip or, in other words, carrying cabin luggage only.
By avoiding the chaotic check in counters and heading straight to security instead, with only their carry-on in hand, travelers are able to reduce their own wait times significantly, both during departure and after arrival, and eliminate the risks of being deprived of personal items when they are most needed.
Luckily, some airlines allow you to bring a reasonable amount of items on board, without paying an extra fee. Expressly, it is possible for most non-Basic fare customers to bring a complimentary carry-on, along with a small backpack or purse, at no extra cost, though size rules still apply and they may vary – even if only slightly:
Full Service Airlines
- United Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Air Canada
- British Airways
- Air France
As a general rule among full service airlines, the carry-on bag must be 22” x 13” x 9”, or 45 linear inches including wheels and handle. An additional personal item (e.g. a laptop case, a purse or a small backpack) can also be carried, as long as it fits underneath the seat in front or, in some cases, the overhead compartment.
Having said this, select carriers may have specific rules, such as:
When booking a Basic Economy fare ticket, United customers are not allowed to bring a carry-on on board, being restricted to traveling with a personal item only unless they add extra bags. The personal item must be sized 9” x 10” x 17” or less. This rule does not apply to Economy, Economy Plus, or Business Class passengers.
Air France has a much more generous bag policy. Those flying Economy may take one hand luggage and one personal item free of charge, while other Premium Economy, Business or First Class ticket holders can bring two carry-on bags, as well as a personal item. Air France’s hand bag dimensions are 21.6” x 13.7” x 9.8”.
While all JetBlue fares include a personal item, only the Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Extra and Mint fares allow passengers to bring a carry-on bag on board. Those flying on the Blue Basic fare will need to pay $65 extra when approaching the gate with more luggage. More information can be found on the airline’s website.
WestJet permits every guest with a ‘confirmed seat’ to travel with both a carry-on and a personal item at no additional costs, though their baggage dimensions are somewhat different from other airlines: carry-on bags must be sized 21” x 9” x 15” and personal items 16” x 6” x 13”. Varying fees apply at the gate when this size limit isn’t respected.
These airlines normally include a checked in bag for free, but then again, that is not the point here. When booking flights with these airlines, travelers are advised to double check their ticket fare and baggage allowance. In any case, you will also be allowed to bring duty free purchases in the cabin, in a separate bag, regardless of fare.
Low Cost Airlines
- Ryan Air
Low cost airlines are a bit trickier to navigate when you’re looking to bring a carry-on with you on a journey. As their main goal is to maximize profit by selling as many tickets at the lowest possible fare, checked bags and in-flight services are either limited or come at a cost. Even then, carry-on bags are either free, or can be added for a small fee:
Here are some examples:
Each passenger flying with Sunwing is permitted one carry-on item and another personal item on board. The former cannot exceed 5 kg, or 11 lbs, and a 9” x 16” x 20” dimension must be observed, and the latter must be sized 9” x 11” x 5” or smaller. Unless included in the ticket fare additional checked bags must be purchased.
Frontier, on the other hand, charges a fee for carry-on luggage, starting at $35 for those who pre-book it, and $60 at the check in counter. The maximum weight is 35 lbs and the following dimensions, or smaller, are required: 10” depth x 16” width x 24” height. A comprehensive list of Frontier baggage fees can be found here.
Indisputably the most popular European low cost carrier, Ryanair allows carry-on bags on board sized 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm from only 6 euros (or $6.16 at the current rate). Customers are allowed to pack up to 10 kg when adding a bag. On top of that, the Priority & 2 Cabin Bags offer allows both a carry-on, a personal item, and a further 10 kg check in bag.
With EasyJet, everyone can bring one small cabin bag on board sized 45 cm x 36 cm x 20 cm weighing up to 15 kg. However, it is important that passengers are able to fit it under the seat in front. Those booked on Up Front or Extra Legroom seats can bring a second, large cabin bag that fits in the overhead compartment (56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm).
A majority of these carriers have pretty decent luggage policies in place, even at the lowest possible fare level, including small fees for additional bags and other add-ons. The most obvious exception here is Sunwing, which only allows a 11 lb carry-on when most carry-on bags already weigh between 5 lbs to 8 lbs completely empty.
Some Packing Tips For Traveling Light
We know that downsizing is not always easy, particularly when it comes to packing for a week-long trip abroad. Whether it’s unpredictable weather or accidental spills, it’s always best to carry an extra pair of shirts for emergencies. While bringing a 23 kg bag may feel like the safer bet here, more isn’t always better.
Believe it or not, you can actually fit a lot into a carry-on, especially when following these simple, but extremely effective packing tips:
- Rolling clothes instead of folding them
- Picking items that can be used interchangeably for more outfit options*
- Using space-saving vacuum storage bags
- Putting socks, underwear, and other smaller objects inside shoes
*Planning daily outfits in advance, as opposed to deciding what to wear on the spot, also helps you pack smarter when traveling light.
The Liquid Issue
According to TSA guidelines for carry-on luggage, liquids must be transported in travel-size containers that contain no more than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters of any substance. Furthermore, each passenger is limited to ‘one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols‘, such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, other beauty products in liquid form etc.
Europe has similar restrictions, where a maximum capacity of 1 liter, in containers of up to 100 ml each per passenger has been established – though some airports in the continent have even scrapped liquid rules following the introduction of a new screening technology. Despite the good news, this is yet to be replicated in most international hubs.
While other airports don’t catch up, the best tips for ensuring your liquids fall within the accepted limit are:
- Opting for travel-sized liquid cosmetics, such as foundation
- Packing bar soap and shampoo whenever possible
- Considering what full size products can be purchased at your final destination instead
As baggage handlers are overwhelmed with an influx of air traffic, especially now that the U.S. has lifted its inbound testing rule for Americans, opening the travel ‘floodgates’, passengers are facing a veiled, but very real threat of losing their bags during an international trip. In sum, checking bags is the last thing you want to do traveling this year.
According to Paul Stewart, the managing director of shipping company My Baggage, hundreds of passengers across the UK are being separated from their baggage for hours (sometimes days), due to some airlines’ inability to manage higher passenger numbers. It goes without saying that a missed bag is no minor inconvenience.
Many travelers carefully select outfits they plan on using while on vacation, and although that is not advisable, even carry valuable personal belongings in their hold luggage. Unfortunately, retrieving a luggage that’s been lost in the mail is no easy feat either: as Stewart claims, it may take weeks before an airlines sends the customer’s belongings via courier.
By the time the luggage finally finds its way to the owner, it is likely vacation plans will have been ruined. When traveling, we may often plan for emergency expenses, but shopping for a whole new rack of clothes for the entire time you’ll be abroad for will not cost a negligible 100 dollars extra – it will have a debilitating impact on travel savings.
Besides the most obvious – getting insured for lost luggage – dropping the excess weight is a simple solution for dodging these major travel woes. Now that cancellations are rampant and numerous airlines are experiencing delays or re-routing flights, downsizing bags and keeping all your belongings within reach is truly the best option moving forward.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories