Luggage Fees – The Rookie Traveler Tax

Much to my surprise I have decided that my opinion has changed about those luggage fees that airlines have been charging for checked luggage. I find that I am now in favor of them. What?! You heard me. I like the idea of the airlines charging more for people who travel with more than carry-on luggage (vs SpiritAir who wants to charge for carry-on luggage). Airlines need more money than they have made over the last few decades and they can either raise ticket prices for everyone or charge these luggage fees. The reason that I prefer the luggage fees is that traveling with too much luggage is a rookie move so these are basically a rookie traveler taxes.


We taught my kids early on that they could not travel with more than they could personally carry. So while they were still in elementary school they got used to hitting the road with no more than a backpack and a carry-on bag. We stay in out of the way places where we may have to pick up our suitcases and walk up a flight of stairs or two. If you are willing to give up an elevator in a hotel in Europe, for instance, you can often save significant money. And even if your hotel has an elevator, have you seen how small some of those elevators are in old buildings overseas?

Next time you are at the airport try this. Look at how much luggage people are bringing with them. Odds are that, if they are on vacation or business, the more luggage they are bringing they less they travel. If you need a luggage cart then you are bringing too much. Most rookie travelers carry more than they will need and end up paying more, taking more time, and limiting their transportation options by just bringing too much stuff.

Seasoned Travelers:

1. know that they sell things wherever they are going. You don’t need to bring a week’s worth of disposable diapers, or more than a week’s worth of shampoo. Shopping in another country can be part of the experience. I have a friend that takes this to the extreme. Beth Whitman of Wanderlust and Lipstick will travel to India with the clothes on her back and one change of clothes. The first thing she does when she arrives is buy new clothes.
2. know that if they did not use it last time then they don’t need to bring it next time. They pack using lists that are honed over time. They know what clothes go together so that they can minimize what they bring. They can get by with at most two pairs of shoes.
3. know that people wash their clothes everywhere. I traveled for 5 weeks last year with only a week’s worth of clothes. When I am at home I do laundry. It is not that hard to do a load every week on the road either. And if you travel someplace inexpensive like Oaxaca, Mexico you can pay very little to get your clothes washed, ironed and packaged.
4. travel light, carry-on and can change flights if need be. They are ready to hop in a taxi, but aren’t afraid to take a bus or public transportation because they don’t need sherpas to get around.

My wife and I traveled on December 23rd in 2009 flying out of JFK. When we got to the airport I was stunned by the lines of people waiting to check their bags at the front counter. I would guess that the line was an hour long. We had printed out boarding passes the night before. We had each a carry-on and a backpack so we simply skipped that line and headed for the surprisingly shorter line at security. If we had been traveling with more luggage, we might not have made it home that day.

They say you can’t take it with you. Do you try?