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, travelers must
restrict their carry-ons to personal items
that can fit underneath the seat in front of
them or pay a checked-baggage fee.
“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 (
So 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 customers.
Also, though 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. “The best
strategy is to price-shop directly on the
airline website,” says Costco member David
Feldman, a loyalty and rewards program
expert. “This way you’ll be aware of any
restrictions. Often the regular main cabin
fare is only a few dollars extra.”
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 for
free. “If you usually carry a small bag, now
is the time for a big purse,” says Stephanie
Goldberg Glazer, Costco member and travel
agent. “Airlines haven’t started charging
for personal items yet, so if you can stuff
your makeup bag, baggie of liquids and a
change of clothes in your purse, you have
room in your suitcase for something else.”
So lighten up—it’ll pay off in the end. C
Cynthia J. Drake is an Austin-based travel
writer, Costco member and author of Budget
Travel for the Genius (For the Genius Press,
2015; not available at Costco).
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 luggage game
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.
Think small. Costco member, stylist and
former flight attendant Jo Jo Harder advises
that most everything will fit into a small bag
if you pare down to wardrobe bare essen-
tials and keep your color scheme basic.—CJD
Costco members will find a variety of luggage pieces and sets in the warehouses
and on Costco.com.
Some people go to extremes and
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for additional packing tips.