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How to beat the airlines’ baggage restrictions

A worldwide traveller's suitcaseTravelling light means you avoid extra charges when you fly. But does this mean you need a new bag for every airline?

Ditching your suitcase to travel light on budget flights can be a savvy move. First up there’s the cash saving which can be as much as £40 and with hand luggage it makes for a speedier exit once you arrive at your destination.

So you’ve been out and bought a new cabin bag: but with airlines imposing different limits on not only size, but weight too, do you need a different bag for every airline?

What size bag can I take?

If you buy a bag that's ok for one flight, next time round, with a different carrier, it could be deemed too big. This is likely to cost you extra if it has got to go in the hold. If you travel a lot it’s worth comparing the airline rules and buying a bag that’s smaller than any company’s maximum limit.

When it comes to size, easyJet is one of the most generous, along with Monarch, letting you take a cabin bag measuring 56 x 45 x 25cm. But if you fly Ryanair or Thomson the limit is only 55 x 40 x 20cm; around 30 per cent smaller. And smaller still is the Flybe limit at only 50 x 35 x 23cm.

While you may not think those extra centimetres matter they do. Turn up with a bag that’s too big you’ll be charged to put it in the hold which can add another £40 to the price of your flight.

Get your bag on the scales

Weight limits vary too. With easyJet there’s no limit, providing you can lift your bag above your head to stick it in the overhead locker. But fly Ryanair or Jet2 and you’re facing a 10kg limit and 50 per cent less at only 5kg with Thomson or Monarch. If weight limits are tight, buy the lightest bag you can as some small cabin friendly cases and bags can weigh as much as 3-4kg when they’re empty.

Baggage checklist

Check both size and weight limits with your airline and remember measurements include wheels, handles and side pockets. Even if your empty bag starts off the right size, if it’s jam packed and bulging at the seams it’s going to boost it’s size and cost you more so do a final check before leaving home.  

Still worried about your bag size once you hit the airport? Check its size and weight with check-in staff. It’s cheaper to pay now to pop it in the hold than wait till the gate when prices can double.

And remember, “one bag” means one bag, so if you want to take your laptop or handbag, they must fit inside your cabin bag until you’re on the flight.

Liquid lowdown

Still confused over the liquid limits with hand luggage? There’s a maximum container limit of 100mls but rather than shelling out on rip-off “travel size” products save money buying travel packs of flight-friendly bottles in Primark or the pound shop and decant your own toiletries at home.  

It’s also worth checking what counts as liquid too, as lipstick, lip balm, toothpaste and deodorant all go towards your limit. And then pop the lot into a clear plastic resealable bag which can be no more than 20 x 20cm and make sure you take this out to show separately to airport security.

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Sue Hayward

Carl Chambers

Sue Hayward is a personal finance broadcaster, journalist and author. Sue talks and writes on money matters including chatting on BBC Radio & TV as well as contributing to magazines, websites and newspapers. Sue's also written two books; the latest of which is 'How To Get The Best Deal'.

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