BY CYNTHIA J. DRAKE
FOR THE PAST few years, carry-on luggage
has been a reliable free alternative to paid
baggage on most major air carriers. That
may be starting to change.
Some airlines have announced that
they will begin offering alternative “basic
economy” fares that eliminate complimentary overhead storage of a carry-on
bag and other perks in exchange for
cheaper airfares. After booking these types
of fares, travellers must restrict their carry-ons to personal items that can fit underneath the seat in front of them or pay a
“Some airline prices may look like they
are saving you money, but in actuality that
bottom-line price will go up when you find
out that you have to pay for your carry-on,”
says Colleen Kelly, a Costco member and
host of the PBS show Family Travel with
Colleen Kelly ( familytravelck.com).
What can you do to beat the system?
For starters, understand that there are
still ways to get your carry-on bags (and even
checked bags) on board free. Most of the
major air carriers offer complimentary
checked and carry-on bags to their credit
card members and top-tier reward custom-
ers. Also, although the trend is moving away
from free bags, some airlines still do not
charge for luggage, so take that into consid-
eration when making your decision.
Next, think realistically about how much
you need to pack for your trip and choose
your ticket accordingly. “When booking
flights, it’s worth spending time to tally the
costs of checking baggage or taking different
flight categories,” says Toby Saltzman, a
Costco member and travel writer in Toronto.
“On certain flights, it may be economical—
and easier—to upgrade your category.”
For example, if you need to take your
carry-on with you and it costs ;;; to check
a bag but only ;;; more for a fare that
includes an overhead bag, don’t go for basic
economy. Another tip: Weigh your bags
before you leave home, and pay attention
to the specific weight and size restrictions
your airline enforces, which may have
changed since the last time you flew.
Lighten the load by strategically packing the pieces you can still get on board
free. “I use the lightest-weight checked
and carry-on bags, but I do not skimp on
quality or sturdiness of the case or wheels,”
says Saltzman. “No point wasting hard-earned cash by having to replace poorly
Finally, it pays to make these decisions
in advance. The last thing you want is to be
stuck at the airport with a bag that needs to
be checked. The latest airline pricing strategies penalize travellers for waiting until
the last minute to pay checked-bag fees,
including even more fees if you have to
gate-check a bag.
So lighten up—it’ll pay off in the end. C
Cynthia J. Drake is a travel writer, Costco
member and author of Budget Travel for the
Genius (For the Genius Press, 2015).
PACKING 101: STRATEGIES
TO SAVE YOU MONEY
Buy a lightweight suitcase. Choosing
light, compact, expandable luggage gives
you more room for your items.
Wear—don’t pack—your heaviest
clothes. Some people go to extremes and
purchase “wearable luggage,” with several
deep pockets for stowing clothing and gear,
sacrificing pride in exchange for luggage
savings. If you’re not willing to do that, at
least wear your bulkiest sweater or jacket,
plus your biggest shoes or boots, rather
than packing them.
Ship your bags. Particularly if you are
How to play the
packing bulky equipment, such as skis or
golf gear, consider shipping those items to
your destination. It may end up costing you
less in the long run, and it eliminates a sig-
nificant amount of hassle.
Pare down. Travel writer Toby Saltzman
packs clothes in two-colour combos (like
white or cream paired with black or navy) and
uses colourful scarves to jazz up the look. She
also “brutally edits” her shoe collection.—CJD
Costco members will find a variety of luggage pieces and sets in the warehouses
and on Costco.ca. For more on this topic,
see Informed Debate on page 14.
Some people go to extremes and