How to Avoid New Carry-on Luggage Charges


Well, it’s begun. A second airline dipped its proverbial toe in the water of new charges last week. Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will charge passengers up to $35 to use the overhead bin space for stowing carry-on bags. Though frequent travelers and industry-watchers heard rumblings of the new charge months ago, it’s always a bit shocking to see the first couple of slips on any slippery slope. Get ready for this novel charge to become the standard.

The bright side (i.e., the last vestige of sanity) is reserved for travelers who pack light. Fliers who can fit/wedge their carry-on luggage under the seat in front of them will not be charged (at least for now…but we know how these things go). So the great puzzle begins — how do we pack necessities while avoiding the new carry-on fees and still manage to keep our feet somewhere approximately below our waist? Here are a few tips that might help. (See also: The 5 Best Travel Reward Credit Cards)

Pack Light

Obvious, right? But packing light means more than just packing less — it also means packing smart. A small weekend travel bag is about the right size for fitting under a typical airline seat. That bag sets your boundaries and within those limits, you need to get creative. Literally every precious square inch of space has to be maximized. Everything you pack needs to be more compact, pull double-duty, fit inside something else, or be easily washed and worn again.

Avoid Dead Zones

Dead zones are those areas in your luggage that aren’t maximized because of improper packing. The inside of shoes is the most common dead zone. Rolled socks, rolled neckties, belts, underwear, or cell phone chargers can fill these voids and make more space.

Hold It! Don’t Fold It

Larger dead zones in luggage are created by stacking folded clothes instead of rolling them. Stacked clothes always leave peaks and valleys in a bag, and those areas waste valuable space. Rolled clothes wrinkle less, compress better, distribute volume more evenly, and ultimately use space more efficiently.

Choose Versatile Basics

Trips are fun, and we like to have some of our favorite clothes with us when we travel for pleasure. But for budget-conscious travelers, the days of multiple outfit choices may be long gone. Pack for versatility and wearability — jeans, layered cottons or synthetics that can be easily washed, separate pieces that are interchangeable, classic cuts, and neutral colors are all great ways to start.

Go Small

I’m a big fan of trial-size toiletries — at least in theory. The trouble is, they’re expensive, not all products I use come in these smaller quantities, and some trial sizes are still too big for the squeeze-a-thon we call modern air travel. I improvise my own trial-sized containers by reusing smaller bottles, snatching sample makeup containers from friends, or recycling old pill bottles. My travel containers are about half the size of what you can pick up at the department store. And yes, my Ziploc toiletry bag is an engineering marvel — roughly the size of a teacup Chihuahua.

As the airline industry gets more creative in its charges, maybe it’s time for savvy travelers to match that creativity in-kind. I’m not sure what the next wave of charges will be or how consumers will respond and adjust. Maybe we’ll all be traveling with only single small fanny pack in 10 years and reminisce about the glory days when didn’t have to use our tray tables as foot rests. Whatever the future holds, travel safe, pack light….oh, and stay limber.

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Guest's picture

Shame about international travellers who need more than a small backpack for 6 weeks' travel. We will be ultra careful about who we travel with, choosing only those with low or no baggage fees, and travelling by train where air travel is not worth the exorbitant and stupidly rude charges now being imposed.

But once we can't avoid these fees, we will be re-thinking the US as a preferred travel destination - which is a shame, because we usually spend 4-6 weeks there, spending our (not inconsiderable) international dollars in multiple states. We'll simply take our Aussie dollars elsewhere...

Guest's picture

Bringing clothes that can be cleaned and planning to wash them once or twice while on a trip can make a world of difference, not just on reducing the amount of luggage you bring, but also on the amount of time you spend managing it.

Guest's picture

To charge us for putting luggage in overhead bins is BEYOND ridiculous. That being said, my husband has taught me the art of packing light and packing well. I went on vacation for 5 days, and I was able to pack everything I needed into a bag that fit under the seat in front of me. I wear any bottoms (pants/shorts or skirts) at least twice while on vacation, and only pack one pair of shoes in my luggage. It really is all about utilizing all the available space when you pack. If you can put enough thought into it, you can beat the system (for now!). However, if you travel longer than 3 to 5 days, you might eventually be charged for storing your bag on board :(.

Guest's picture

I think carry-on fees are here to stay. I never check my bags anymore because of the baggage fees that they charge. However, since they started charging me on my last two trips for carry on I decided to send it ahead of time. It costs me $39 anywhere in US and it definitely is a bit more than what the airlines charge, however, I can pack all the items I want, have them sent ahead of time, and waiting for me when I arrive.

I definitely would recommend anyone checking this out if they are interested. The company I used on my last two trips is LugLess (

Guest's picture

I haven't flown Allegiant since this new fee, but I have multiple times in the past with my husband and now three year old. Backpack for my husband and I for books, prescriptions, toiletries, and extra shirts. Bag for husband's clothes. Bag for my clothes (which often turned in to extra space for everyone else. I flew to Europe for a month on a carry-on suitcase and a passport neck holder thing. I am not the problem) Diaper bag. Bag for clothes and toys. Car seat. Stroller. Absolutely horrid.

I didn't check anything. For whatever reason, Allegiant will "valet" your bags for free should there be extra space (and perhaps you look as pitiful as my family). We've flown with them multiple times, and we were only stuck carrying all of our stuff once. That once was miserable, but we had saved hundreds in bag checking fees so I can deal with it. Strollers and car seats can be checked for free, of course.

I will need to rethink my strategy. I'm actually considering Greyhound for all of my non-emergency, in North America travel needs. I haven't been stuck on a bus like that since I was a kid in the '90s. Totally miserable, but I'm willing to suck it up.

Guest's picture

Anyone should have seen this coming, with oil prices spinning out of control, and demand way up. Airlines live and die on the price of oil. And so do world economies, hint. I sympathize with frequent fliers, but times have changed.

Taking it personally is a choice. I feel as though this will be a trend with airlines world wide-even those that are state subsidized-wink, wink

Packing a big bag with lots of stuff is old-school, like driving everywhere when you can occasionally walk. So the airlines are taking up the slack.

Next up price of food.

Guest's picture
Guest sissy

Frontier charges everyone for carry on bags $35 one way.