When you are thousands of miles away from home in another country, the last thing you want to do is drag around multiple suitcases. Not only is it inconvenient, it can also lead to higher baggage fees at the airport. International travelers need to pack smart by including only items they need, such as limited clothing and handy gadgets like step down voltage converters to better enjoy their trip and to avoid being hit with higher fees.
Airline fees, including baggage fees, have been increasing, in recent years, as airlines have raised these fees to maximize profits. Between 2009 and 2014, three airlines increased baggage fees by 67 percent, according to a congressional report cited in Fortune Magazine.
According to Time, in 2015, airlines made more than $40 billion in ancillary fees – fees other than ticket sales charged to customers. United Airlines posted the largest revenues from fees, earning $6.2 billion. Spirit Airlines is the company most dependent on ancillary fees, deriving 43 percent of its 2015 revenue from them. Baggage fees made up a nice chunk of airlines ancillary fees, accounting for nearly $4 billion in revenues in 2015.
Carrying excessive luggage doesn’t just hurt your wallet, it can also be detrimental to your health. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 72,000 people suffered injuries that resulted from handling luggage. Handling heavy luggage puts men and women at high risk of back, neck, and shoulder injuries.
International travelers can avoid excessive baggage fees and injury by packing light. If possible, you want to travel only with your carry-on luggage and one checked bag. For travelers going on an extended trip, this may seem like a challenge, but, with some creativity and adaptability on your part, it’s an achievable goal.
- Start with a list – Begin planning your trip by creating a list of everything you think you need to bring. Once you’ve finished that list, go through it item by item, re-evaluate, and find things to eliminate. By creating a list and winnowing down your packing choices to the bare necessities, you’ll be more organized when you pack and less likely to take along unnecessary items.
- Get a reasonably sized 220 to 110 converter – International travelers need voltage converters to safely charge their American-made electronic devices. International travelers should search for the smallest, lightest-weight converter possible to take up minimal space in their luggage. Converters are very important, as higher voltage electrical outlets are incompatible with most American electronics without them. With a converter, you’ll be able to safely power up your cell phone or laptop.
- Ensure clothes are compatible – You can maximize your wardrobe selections and minimize the number of clothes you must take with you by picking neutral shades. Neutral shaded clothes can be mixed and matched with a variety of other clothes, providing you with greater options. Business travelers should choose white, black, and blue shirts, pants, and blazers that work well together.
- Use packing accessories – There are a number of packing accessories that can help travelers make optimal use of the available space in their luggage. Compression bags allow travelers to shrivel their clothes into tiny, vacuum-sealed bundles that take up minimal space in luggage. Storage cubes can also help travelers better organize their luggage.
- Layer your clothing – If you’re traveling to Norway, Iceland, or another cold climate, you’re going to need layers of clothing to stay warm. You can reduce the number of clothes in your luggage by wearing your bulkiest outerwear item on the plane. If you get hot on the flight, you can always remove your heavy coat and keep it in your lap or in the overhead storage bin.
- Limit your shoes – Shoes can take up a lot of room in your luggage and add significantly to its weight. When traveling abroad, take only two pairs of shoes along – a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of more formal shoes. By following tip No. 3 and packing neutral-toned clothes, you can ensure that your shoes will match your outfit.
- Ditch the wheeled luggage – Wheels make your bags heavier and more awkwardly shaped. Also, if you’re traveling to Europe, they’re entirely impractical because many streets and public spaces are paved with cobblestones. The luxury of wheeled luggage also makes us more likely to pack extra, unnecessary items.
- Take advantage of hotel laundry – Most hotels you visit will have laundry stations or services. Even if they don’t, laundromats are likely nearby. Reduce the number of clothes you take with you by carving a few hours out of your vacation to do laundry in the places you’re visiting. Laundry detergent and other essentials should be easy to buy from the hotel or a nearby store.
- Avoid last-minute packing – Be sure to finish packing a full 24 hours before you leave for your trip. When we pack at the last minute, we tend to throw items willy-nilly into our luggage, resulting in unnecessary items being added. By taking the time to pack early, the process is more orderly, and you make your choices more deliberately.
- Choose multi-functional items – If items can do more than one job, they’re golden because, instead of packing two items, you can get away with just packing one. For example, if you have a towel that can also serve as a blanket, it’s a great item to take along on your trip.
- Pack vertically – You should pack all of your items vertically so that the inside of your luggage looks like a filing cabinet. This will allow you to arrange the items within more logically and also provide you with more convenient access to your items. Packing vertically also makes it easier for you to inspect your luggage to find unneeded items you can take out of the suitcase.
- Pack your lightest items last – When filling your suitcase, save your toiletries and personal care items for last. These items, which typically include liquids such as shampoo and conditioner, need to be packed toward the top of your luggage for easy access during safety inspections at airports. Remember that the Transportation Security Administration restricts travelers to three ounces, and pack accordingly.
- Make sure you know your airline’s baggage policies – Various airlines have differing policies regarding baggage. Some have high fees for checked luggage and may even charge fees for carry-on luggage. For example, Spirit Airlines can charge as much as $100 for carry-on luggage. Knowing your airline’s luggage policy lets you know exactly what to expect and how much space you have to work with when packing.
By packing light and only taking necessary items abroad, you can ensure that your baggage fees are kept to a minimum and that you don’t have to haul ungainly luggage around foreign airports and cities. According to ValuePenguin, the average daily cost of an international trip is $271 per day. By lightening your load while you travel, you can shave off some of the cost of your international vacation or business trip and use the money on more enjoyable expenses like dining and sight-seeing. You can find other great international travel tips by using your smartphone or other device to shop for coupons and deals.
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