Checking luggage sucks. Not only for the fees you have to pay – each way! – but for the fact that once you give your luggage to the gate personnel, you stand a fair chance of never seeing those belongings again.

So, what if there was a way to check your luggage in a manner that let you not pay a fee AND greatly increased the chance of you and your clothes arriving at the same destination?

My Checked Luggage Hack

Sadly, I pack for weekend trips like I am scaling Everest. I am often checking luggage. My preference would be to use a piece of luggage that both A) backpack straps and B) fits into the overhead.

When I need extra carrying capacity on a pleasure trip, I will pack my LL Bean internal frame backpacker’s backpack. This gives me the portability I need so long as I am not too picky about wrinkled clothes.

Checking in and printing my boarding pass ahead of time on the carrier’s website is mandatory. I hate waiting in line and for this travel hack, you want to go straight to the line.

Bypassing check in in favor of the on-line variety allows you to walk straight up to the TSA and security agents and attempt the Jedi mind trick of getting all of your luggage past the screeners and walking straight through to the gate. My backpack is obviously bigger than the overhead compartments but I keep going through quietly, politely, and undaunted and see if I can get my backpack on the plane.

Next, you walk to your gate and offer to check your baggage rather than to try and cram it into the overhead. The flight attendants are usually overjoyed that a passenger is trying to be helpful with their turnaround for a change and will go out of their way to assist you.

This luggage hack does several things:

  1. It’s quick. Save time!
  2. No $15-$50 fee at the front – rarely do the gate agent ask for $15 if it doesn’t fit and I need to check it with the strollers. This saves serious $ if you can do it for both the departure and return flights.
  3. I know the @#$ing thing (my luggage) is on the same plane I am. I just saw them check it!
  4. Sometimes they ask for people to volunteer to put their carry ons in the hold (with the strollers, etc). As an incentive they sometimes offer bumps to 1st or 1st boarding. You get a bonus for achieving what you wanted all along!

Note that this does not work everywhere. The TSAs @ CLT let me get away with this but the ones in Philly don’t. If CLT has changed lately I’ll be forced to go check it at the front.

So what travel hacks do you have that save time or $?

Comments (2)

Touche, I do enjoy not having to check luggage, usually I pack very light, easily washable items that can hang-dry if necessary thus allowing me to save time in the reuse of them. Also going through the gates, I use the sandals/nothing but lint in pockets theory. I hate having to empty everything out of my pockets at the security check points. Always wear sandals! easy on easy off, limited amount of time with feet on that nasty floor.

The “Nothing but lint” theory is, stow all lose items you will not immediately need in your bag while in the parking lot. The only thing in your hand should be your wallet and boarding pass. This allows you to quickly grab your bag, put on your sandals, and be on your merry way to the gate! (and stop and get a beer as you wait to board)

I had a really nasty experience wearing sandals in the DC Regan airport. It involved a sharp piece of glass and a bit of field surgery performed with a key ring. I no longer wear sandals at the airport. I do, however, enjoy slip on/slip off closed toe shoes.

An added advantage of sandals and slip ons is the ability to take them off on long international flights and put them back on in the dark when you need to go to the bathroom.

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