Avoid Baggage Fees: How to Pack a Suitcase

The best way to avoid baggage fees is to choose an airline that doesn’t charge them. You can also see yesterday’s tips for avoiding airline fees for more ideas. If you are stuck with an airline that charges fees, and you booked after the fee was imposed, then your next defense is packing wisely.  Here’s how to pack a suitcase.

Plan Carefully
About a week before you plan to leave, start a packing list. Start by listing your necessities, including the following items:

  • Number of pairs of underwear and socks
  • All toiletries
  • Food
  • Gifts
  • Carry-on items
  • Items you’ll wear on the plane
  • Medications
  • All accessories.

Now look at the activities you have scheduled, including tourist destinations. Figure out what you’ll want to wear to those places.

With your list of activities in mind, plan your outfits accordingly. If you plan to visit churches, then you’ll need to pack long pants or a skirt, and a top with sleeves or a light sweater to throw over a tank top.  If you plan to do a lot of hiking, bring thicker socks, hiking shoes, and lightweight t-shirts and shorts. Try to mix and match your outfits so that you can wear 2-3 tops with the same pair of pants, or wear the same top from day to night with only a change in the bottoms. Limit yourself to three pairs of shoes, max: 1 dress, 1 casual walking, 1 for hiking and heavy walking. Wear your heaviest or biggest pair of shoes on the plane.

As you go through the week, whittle down the list until it’s manageable.  Now it’s time to start packing. Never pack a suitcase the same day you leave. Instead, pack at least the night before to avoid overpacking, underpacking, or leaving out necessary items.

Choose the Right Suitcase
When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we packed one big suitcase for the two of us, and then brought a smaller carry-on suitcase to bring home souvenirs wrapped in his t-shirts. We also had a backpack for our reading material and plane food. When my parents travel to Europe, they tend to move around a lot, so they each bring one small rolling suitcase and plan to do laundry once while they’re there.

Wherever you’re going, try to condense your packing as much as possible. Carry-on restrictions are becoming stricter, so measure and weigh yours to make sure it meets the limit. If you’re traveling as a family or couple, you’ll pay fewer baggage fees if you consolidate more than one person’s belongings into a single suitcase.

How to Pack a Suitcase
Lay everything you plan to pack on the bed. You may notice that you’ve listed too much, so trim the list further as you go. Now lay out your suitcase. Does that pile on the bed look like it will fit? If not, trim the list more. If so, will it fit so snugly that you can’t fit souvenirs? Again, trimming may be in order.

There are two methods for packing wisely: rolling and stacking. I prefer a combo of both. Here’s my method.

1. Lay pants, dresses, and long skirts lengthwise in the suitcase so the ends stick out.

2. Lay shirts that tend to wrinkle on top.

3. Roll knits, t-shirts, and other less wrinkly items. Arrange them in a row on top of the pants.

4. Tuck shoes into the sides, along with belts, socks, and underwear, chargers, and a small package of accessories.

5. Fold legs and arms over the top of the bundle.

6. Lay a hand towel on top of the clothes.

7. Lay toiletry bag and other shoes on top of the towel. Liquids inside the toiletry bag should also be encased in a resealable plastic bag if the pressure could force the liquids out of the containers.

8. Close it. Place a list of last-minute items, like your PJs or toothbrush, on top so you remember to add them right before leaving. Now you’ve got a neatly packed, wrinkle-reducing suitcase.

The airlines have declared war on our stuff, but we all know that we can’t reasonably expect to travel without it. Overhead bins aren’t getting any bigger, and I doubt the baggage fees are going anywhere, so learning how to pack is the best to avoid getting slapped with extra fees.

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