Monday 19 March 2018

Join the light brigade - packing light for your holidays

Pol O Conghaile

So another summer has come to an end, and with it another barrage of baggage gripes, extra charges and check-in confusion. Our love-hate relationships with no-frills airlines continues.

But how much hassle could we save ourselves by packing properly in the first place?

With excess luggage charged at up to €20 a kilo, it's too expensive not to pack lightly -- something to which we're finally cottoning on.

In a survey, some 75pc of respondents say they're now considering smaller cases or travelling with hand luggage only.

Packing starts with your bag (a case can weigh 3-4kg before you throw in the first pair of socks). If you're a frequent traveller, or need to carry heavy items on board, consider upgrading your luggage to newer, lightweight materials. They could repay the investment over the course of several trips.

Next, make a list. Yes, lists are a pain, but they serve a purpose. They reduce the chance of forgetting something, and they protect you from last-minute attacks of "I might need this!"

When drafting your list, don't leave it to the eve of your trip. Do it when you are unpacking or returning home -- when you can see exactly what you did and didn't need on your holiday.

The most basic way to lighten your load, of course, is by not packing heavy or bulky items such as hairdryers, beach towels, large toiletries and books in the first place. This is more of a problem for women than men, but many of these items can be bought overseas or found in your hotel room.

If you must carry heavy items, then you must pay baggage charges, simple as that.

Or perhaps it's time for you to start flying with a different airline? SAS and bmi allow one free hold bag up to 20kg, for instance, and bmi has no weight limit on cabin baggage -- it requires simply that you be able to lift it into the overhead bins unaided.

Before leaving the house, weigh your bags. Aim to come in at least 1-2kg under the cabin and hold allowances to allow for discrepancies at the airport, and any shopping en route.

Still overweight? There are several scrimping tricks. One is to wear as many clothes as possible -- particularly heavy coats and hiking boots -- layering up to save weight and bulk.

Another is to wear a jacket with multiple 'poacher' pockets, which you can stuff with personal effects and stow in the overhead bins like a second carry-on bag. Bear in mind, however, that wearing your luggage may not make for the most comfortable transfer or security experiences.

Ryanair permits only one piece of cabin baggage for each passenger, and this rule is strictly enforced. If you have a handbag, laptop or nappy bag, it needs to fit into your cabin baggage (without pushing the weight over 10kg) -- otherwise you'll incur a €30 fine.

Aer Lingus does allow a second, smaller piece of cabin luggage. Like Ryanair, however, the airline treats families as frills. Infants (aged 0-2) are charged a €20 fee despite getting no seat or cabin-baggage allowance -- their provisions must be incorporated into mum or dad's bags.

And remember, you still have to fly home. Any shopping or duty-free items you pick up on holidays must fit into your cabin baggage (in Ryanair's case), and will add to your overall weight. In some cases, it may be cheaper simply to ship a valuable or heavy item home.

Excess baggage is expensive. And if you think €20 per kilo is tough, spare a thought for the US family who recently took 50kg of excess on to Egyptair. Their bill? A cool $4,250 (€3,290).

Pól Ó Conghaile

Irish Independent

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