7 Ways to Avoid Paying Overweight Luggage Fees

The trend for airlines to charge additional fees for everything they can think of doesn't seem to be changing. If anything, there are more ways to charge you extra dollars than ever before. One thing that can skyrocket your cost for air travel is paying for overweight luggage.

For example, if you're flying Delta and have a suitcase that weighs 51 pounds, you'll pay $90 each way, adding $180 to the cost of your trip. Heaven forbid that it weighs over 70 lbs - that would cost $175 each way, or an additional $350 for the trip!

Here are 7 ways to avoid paying overweight luggage fees.

Heavy tag on overweight luggage If your luggage is overweight, you could pay a bundle

1) Know the rules and limits

This is the most basic of all - you need to know what the fees and limits are on your specific flights. Different airlines have different rules, and sometimes the rules also vary depending on the routes you're flying.

With most airlines in the US, the overweight luggage fee kicks in if your bag is over 50 lbs, but Spirit Airlines adds an extra $25 when you hit only 40 lbs. If you're flying in Argentina, you could find a limit of 15 kgs, which is about 33 lbs.

The point is that you need to find out the rules for your flights. You can't control keeping your weight under the limit unless you know whether that limit is 50 lbs, 40 lbs, 33 lbs, or some other amount.

  • This Worldwide Baggage Fee Chart is a good starting point, but double check for your flights since rules and fees do change (generally in a more expensive direction)!

2) Buy ultralight luggage

Ultra-lightweight suitcase from Atlantic Luggage Ultra-light suitcase

A standard rolling suitcase could weigh 14 pounds when it's totally empty. If your limit is 50 lbs, that uses up 28% of your allowed weight before you even pack a thing. If you were trying to stay under 33 lbs, that only allows you a little more weight for your stuff than the suitcase itself uses.

Ultra-lightweight luggage lets you pack more of your own clothing and gear, while still staying under the limit. If you save 7 pounds on your suitcase, that means 7 pounds of souvenirs you can buy.

3) Take two smaller bags instead

You pay extra for each bag you check, but it may cost less to take two separate bags than one large one. For instance, if you're flying within the United States on US Airways, here's what the fees are currently:

  • First checked bag = $25
  • Second checked bag = $35
  • Overweight bag 51-70 pounds = $90

As you can see, the cost for adding a second bag is less than you'd pay for a single overweight suitcase. It's easier on your back, too, than lugging around one enormous bag.

4) Get luggage that warns you if it's overweight

An innovative design idea from Delsey incorporates an overweight indicator directly into the suitcase. If you see the red light after packing your bag, then you know you're in the danger zone, and need to move or remove something, or you'll be paying through the nose.

This is super simple, because there's nothing extra for you to pack, and you can't forget it. Just look at the suitcase when it's packed, and you'll see in an instant if you have a problem.


Helium Fusion suitcase from Delsey has built-in overweight indicator Suitcase with indicator

5) Use a portable luggage scale

Micro Digital Travel Luggage Scale from Travelon Micro luggage scale

Adding one more item to your packing list isn't as convenient as having a suitcase that does it for you, but there are advantages to using a separate luggage scale. If you travel internationally, you'll probably run into airlines with a variety of different luggage rules. Using your own portable luggage scale gives you more flexibility than the built-in indicator, so you can work with a variety of different limits.

Since you're adding one more item to your suitcase, it's important to get a scale that's as tiny and light as possible, while being functional and durable enough to handle large, heavy luggage. Travelon currently makes the lightest scale on the market, weighing less than 3 ounces.

6) Wear or carry on the heavy stuff

Shifting some heavy items to your carry-on bag or your body can help keep your large suitcase under the weight limit.

  • Have a bunch of guidebooks? Pack them in your carry-on bag. It may be harder on your shoulders, but it could be easier on your wallet. Easier still, buy a Kindle, and then you can carry an entire library of books in one tiny e-reader.
  • Going on a hiking trip? Wear your hiking boots on the plane. This could slow you down at the airport security line, but it will save both weight and space in your suitcase.
  • Avoid doing this at the airport. Don't wait until you get to the airport and they weigh your luggage to start shuffling things around. Repacking on the floor of the airport terminal is no fun at all. (Believe me - been there, done that!) Check everything out using your luggage scale before you head to the airport. If you need to repack, it's a lot easier to do in your hotel room.

7) Take less stuff

Of course, you could always go for the obvious! :-)

Comments? Questions?

Have you ever gotten hit with overweight baggage fees? Have any favorite travel tips on how to avoid them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

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Travel is one of the great joys in life, but can sometimes involve difficulties or frustrations. This is the first in a regular series of Travel Tips for this blog, to help make your travel adventures as smooth and easy as possible. Stay tuned for more!
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Hi! I'm Deanna, founder of Winning the Timeshare Game, and author of the books. After years of running an international tour company, I'm now into the fascinating world of timeshares. I'd love to see everyone have as much fun with their timeshares as we do, and I enjoy sharing all the cool tips I discover! You can find me on Google+

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