3 Packing Tips to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees

The Domestic CEO reveals 3 things you can do to pack everything in just a carry on and avoid costly airline baggage fees.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #11

Airline baggage fees.

That phrase has become a source of dread for most of us. From the time we book our airline tickets, to forking over the credit card at the check-in desk, we are haunted by those silly fees. With the rising prices of air travel, people are getting more and more creative with their carry-on luggage to avoid the fees. I’ll be honest, if I’m traveling for less than a week, and sans the size 12 shoes my husband wears, I will do whatever it takes to not have to check a bag. Most of the time, I am successful at it. “How?” you may ask? By following 3 simple packing rules:

Tip #1: Plan Your Packing

My best friend Becky can attest that since the tender age of 11, I have always created a packing list for my trips. When we were in 6th grade, we would focus all our excitement of going to summer camp into creating our packing lists. We would list out every shirt, every pair of shorts, even every pair of undies we were going to bring. Then, we would even list them in the outfits we were going to wear. While I realize this is a great example of how my OCD manifested itself as a child, it’s something that I still continue to do today because it works!

For example, if I am traveling for 7 days, I can likely get away with packing 7 tank tops or tee shirts, which are super small and take up very little room, 2 sweaters to layer over those light shirts, and 2 pairs of pants or shorts, depending on the weather, a skirt, and maybe a little dress. I aim for 3 pairs of shoes: one casual cute, one dressy, and one that I can walk all day in. Then factor in the socks and undergarments, and I’m set for clothes. The key is to bring versatile clothes that can mix and match to create different looks. That way, no one I see on the trip is going to realize that I wore the same shorts for 3 days. And most times, I don’t see the same people every day of my trip, so I can also recycle an outfit when visiting someone new. A quick trip to a laundromat, or a cheap bottle of fabric freshener, and no one will know.

Also, decide what you are going to wear on your travel days, that is going to the airport and coming back home. If you can wear your bulkiest items like sweaters, tennis shoes, or boots on those days, you won’t have to figure out how to get them into your carry on. Don’t go crazy by piling on the layers, you’ll only annoy everyone at the security checkpoint. Just wear a couple of big items so they don’t have to go into your bag. You can always stuff them in the overhead compartment once you make it on the plane.

Remember to list out which makeup, hair tools, jewelry, and toiletries you are going to bring, too. They will all need to fit into this little bag. It can be done. I promise. Just keep reading.

Tip #2: Less is Always More

While you are making your packing list for a carry on, you need to think “what’s necessary” and avoid “just in case I need it” thinking. You’ve already done this for your clothes while creating your packing list, but you are going to need to do it with every little item you bring.

You can thank the TSA for helping you limit the amount of toiletries you can bring. Those little 3oz. bottles don’t take up a lot of space, but that doesn’t mean you want to go hog wild with them. Find out which items the place where you are staying can provide. If it’s a hotel, do they just have the basics of shampoo, conditioner, and a bar of soap, or do they also have toothpaste, lotion, and hairspray on request? If you are staying with friends of family, ask them what items you should bring. Chances are they will be happy to let you use their stash for a few days knowing that you will return the favor when they come visit you.

The same applies with hair tools. Don’t bring a hair dryer if there is one at your destination. And while hotels aren’t likely to have curling irons or straighteners, if you are staying with a friend, she may have one you can borrow for your visit.

In terms of makeup, bring one, maybe two, of everything. Not 5, not 8. Two. One for daytime, one for the evenings. All the items together should be able to fit in a baggie. No, it won’t be everything you could possibly need, but it might help you realize how much of your makeup case is stuff you wouldn’t use if it was your only option. This decision might just help you clean out your bathroom counter—but that’s another episode.

Tip #3: Use ALL the Space

If you are using one carry-on bag, you will have to get creative with how you use your space. There are a few ways to do this. First, rather than folding each item, roll them into neat, tube-like shapes. This will help them fill the funny spaces your bag’s frame creates. Added bonus: It also makes for less wrinkling.

Use the space inside your shoes to stuff small items. You can probably fit at least a few pairs of rolled socks or even your toiletries into your shoes. Just make sure that anything you put in them is sealed in plastic, otherwise your stuff might come out smelling like feet. That’s why the socks and toiletries are the things I recommend to stuff into shoes (especially if you or your travel companion have those size 12s).

Finally, if you think your bag is completely full, but you have a few more items to fit in, shake it down. Zip all the zippers, tip the bag upright, and shake it again. The items will settle to the bottom and open up a little pocket of space at the very top of the bag. Please be aware, if you use this method, it is VERY difficult to get everything to fit back in at the end of your trip. I recommend using this method only for the return flight. If you have things that won’t fit on the way there, you might have to leave a few more things at home.

Now that you know how to pack in one carry on, you are ready to go! These tips obviously work better with lighter, smaller clothes, so find a beach, book a flight, and get traveling!

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at DomesticCEO@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall or on my Twitter feed.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Baggage image courtesy of Shutterstock.