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[video] Travel hack: How to pack over 40kg of luggage with you on no-frills airlines

| 39 comments | Category: travel, video

Check out this video that explains everything in this post, with airport footage from an actual trip I made with 40kg:

Ah, no-frills airlines. How we both love and hate you at the same time!

Since quite a lot of us are on a budget nowadays, we try to find ways to pay less as often as possible, and low cost carriers (like Ryanair, Easyjet etc. in Europe) are a great way to do this if you are travelling. They remove all unnecessary luxuries and simply get you to your destination. If you travel just with hand luggage and buy your ticket at the right time, they are by far the cheapest way to travel, and seats can be gotten for just a couple of Euro sometimes.

However, there are those of us that simply can’t travel only with the 10kg hand luggage limit. I don’t have a base anywhere in the world, so I travel with my entire “house” once every 3 or so months. I think I am doing pretty well to have everything important I own in the world weighing only 40kg. When I go on non-low-cost carriers (across oceans for example), it usually means I only have to put a few kilograms in my pockets. But in Europe, flying with them is almost always way too expensive.

So, over the years I’ve learned some travel hacks to allow me to bring way more than the limit with me without paying overweight luggage fees. Best part is – I’m technically not breaking a single rule!

Every rule has a loophole!

The rule with Ryanair for example is 10kg hand luggage and 15kg check-in. As it is, you pay for check-in separately so that will immediately bump up the price of your ticket. So if you are travelling with 20kg or so, you can actually use the hacks discussed here while travelling just with hand luggage and avoid all extra charges. On the trip shown in the above video, I did pay extra to bring check-in luggage (€15 on Ryanair) as well as other random Ryanair extras like credit-card fees etc., but I didn’t pay anything else after that.

So how did I do it? As explained in the video, I stuck to their rules precisely: 10kg hand luggage and 15kg check-in. The remaining 15kg did not go into these bags so I did not break any rules. If it didn’t go in the bags, where’s the only place you can put it? On your person.

You see it all the time; people squeeze that extra little bit into their pockets, or overweight passengers are generally not charged extra. This is a loophole that I take advantage of and put all excess items on me. I made a video about it 2 years ago that got quite a lot of views on Youtube, and if you have combat trousers and lots of pockets, you’d be surprised how much you can squeeze in! But it doesn’t explain my main hack that helps me bring way more with me: my jacket.

The ridiculously large jacket-pocket hack

Even if I’m travelling in August in 42ºC weather, I will put on this jacket. It’s an ugly old unfashionable jacket, but I bring it everywhere with me. It wasn’t particularly special when I got it, but by partially destroying it I have made it suddenly very useful: If you have a double-layered jacket, then tear a pocket open and simply stuff all your things inside! This way your entire jacket suddenly becomes one pick pocket that you can keep filling up! The only limit is the space that can fit in there (quite a lot usually) and the strength of the jacket to support it.

This jacket simply counts as weight on your person so you can be pretty flexible with how much you can stuff in!

It isn’t uncomfortable because you only wear it when passing through checks. It only takes a second to take it off when passing through security and they simply don’t care when they see stuff in it in the x-ray. As long as you have no liquids or weapons they’ll let you pass. Around the terminal, I just put the jacket into a strong plastic bag. With Rynair you have to get checked when getting on the flight too, so I just put the jacket on again for that couple of minutes and then take it off and stuff it overhead with my check-in bag.

Even if it’s really hot and uncomfortable, you only actually wear it for a couple of minutes. For most of the journey to/from airport and on the flight, the jacket is actually in a separate bag.

I also included everyone’s favourite hack from the first video in this new one. How to bring a large towel (or similar). In this case you have to ask yourself what would superman do? I wear my towel as a cape and put my jacket over it so people simply don’t see it. You would be surprised how much you can fit on you when you think about it!

One other useful hack is to bring an empty bottle, since you can’t bring water through security. They always let you pass with an empty bottle (no liquids), and you can fill it up at fountains inside the terminal. This saves heaps of money that you would otherwise spend on buying airport water.

Don’t forget to be nice!

I think the main reason that this has worked for me dozens of times without me being taken aside and asked to pay extra is because I am always nice to workers at the airport. There might be some small-print somewhere that says I can’t do this, but it’s never applied because (no matter how exhausted or annoyed with travel I might be) I always smile and try to go the extra mile to make those working at the airport feel like I appreciate what they are doing.

This time in Paris was the only time that they ever commented on my jacket at security. The security guard just thought it was strange, but didn’t imply that I couldn’t do it. To get attention away from the jacket, when she actually said (in French) “You have a LOT in your jacket pocket! And your laptop is huge!” I immediately jumped on the laptop comment and told her more about it and that for the same price as an Apple laptop I got a much more powerful PC laptop, but installed Ubuntu instead of Windows on it to avoid crashes and viruses. “What’s Ubuntu?” I was asked – I actually spent the next 5 minutes talking to the security guard (as she was checking other passengers) giving my Linux pitch and she requested that I write down the address for her to download Ubuntu! The jacket issue was forgotten entirely.

I always try to get to the check-in early and change my customer-is-always-right attitude to relate to airport staff as much as I can, and they always give me some leeway, even if I am over the actual check-in luggage limit by a several kilograms. A bit of Irish charm has gotten me quite far! With no-frills airlines, flexibility on check-in limits is way less likely so the actual hacks mentioned here do make a big difference :)

I always try to chat to those at the airport like this. They are human too, and if you think outside of the system and focus on the human-aspect (something I said a lot in my language hacking guide) then they’ll appreciate it and make an exception “just for you”.

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Has anyone else tried these travel hacks? Do you have other ones that I didn’t mention here or in the video? Make sure to leave a comment to share it with us :) And share this post & video with your friends on facebook if any of them are travelling this summer! :D

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  • ielanguages

    That's one reason why I prefer Easyjet. They don't have any weight restrictions on carry-on luggage. The only problem is if you are tiny like me and can't physically carry much.

    I ran into a problem with the empty bottle thing recently though. When I was at Copenhagen airport, I could not find a sink that had cold water. Every single bathroom I checked only had hot water. I decided to give up and throw the bottle away, and then of course the last bathroom right before getting on the plane did have hot and cold water.

  • http://www.nunomad.com/blog Carmen Bolanos

    I love this idea! I imagine you might get some looks walking around looking like the Michelin man but who cares. We once had a Brazilian friend come to visit and he got off the plan wearing four hats on his head. I thought that was pretty great too. I remember you mentioned this idea in a comment on my blog, 9 Ways to Save Money when Taking Airflights http://su.pr/286ElO but I have to confess I didnt' watch the video at that point. Now I'm glad I did!

  • http://www.nunomad.com/blog Carmen Bolanos

    That is so weird that all the Copenhagen sinks had hot water. I've never heard of such a thing. I'm religious about taking the empty bottles. Traveling with 3 kids, 4 bottles of airport water gets expensive.

  • http://www.nunomad.com/blog Carmen Bolanos

    That is so weird that all the Copenhagen sinks had hot water. I've never heard of such a thing. I'm religious about taking the empty bottles. Traveling with 3 kids, 4 bottles of airport water gets expensive.

  • ielanguages

    I know, it was bizarre. Most of their sinks are automated with no temperature control so only hot water comes out when you put your hands in the sink. I had never been in an airport like that before either. It was very unexpected!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Oh yeah, I forgot where I had heard about the empty bottle trick. It was from YOU! :D
    Yeah last summer I somehow got almost twice as much as I did but I had more in my pockets then. This time it was all in the jacket :P
    Glad you enjoyed the video! Michelin man, I love it :D

  • TedHessing

    I've never weighed the carryons but in the states on short hops where carry on is free and checked baggage costs extra I usually just bring it right with me into the terminal and check it at the gate. Saves $25 each way.

  • Quokka

    I have only carried about 20 kilos for 6 month. Most of the time I was deft at splitting my luggage. But I was only travelling domestic flights. Isn't it quite annoying to pass through the customs carrying such a jacket ?

  • http://jetsetcitizen.com John Bardos – JetSetCitizen

    Great travel hack!

    My wife and I do the jacket hack also. On our big trip from Japan this spring we actually brought two extra carry on bags but just hid them under our jackets behind us on the opposite side the flight attendants were standing.

    We had three connecting flights and made it on all planes with a total of about 20 extra kilograms.

  • Chris

    That really is quite clever–I'm from the US, so I don't see that quite as often(there aren't carry-on limits by weight).

    I just started reading this blog, because I would really like to learn a bunch of languages also, but do you have any tips for people who have already had some formal training in a language? I've taken two semesters of German–but my speaking skills are awful. I know a lot of grammar, but I mostly need practice. What ways do you use to practice your languages when you're not actively immersed in their culture?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Customs? You mean security? It's not annoying, I just put on then take off the jacket :) Only takes a second!
    20kg is good for 6 months! But I still think 40kg isn't bad for 7 years :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Excellent! Glad to hear other people hide stuff in their jacket! Although I'm still the only one I know who intentionally destroyed the jacket to do this :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I also took formal level of German. I think the social approach should be the same whether you have studied it already or not. If you already have a background that will give you an edge and you'll get through it a bit quicker, but getting used to speaking is not dealt with in most courses and all the grammar in the world won't let you do that!
    You can practice German on lots of sites, via Skype, reading material and listening to podcasts (lingq.com is good for that – see my review a few posts back for more info).
    I also included more resources in the Language Hacking Guide, but you can otherwise look through some older posts to get some inspiration. I'll add more info soon enough, for example for my favourite sites for finding conversation partners.
    Thanks for your comment :)

  • http://www.adventurerob.com AdventureRob

    Haha, I can see this post inspiring travellers to go out buying trench coats now for every trip through customs.

    What makes up the 40Kg though? I've travelled for over a year now with a 13kg bag and 4kg carry on. (I always wear my heaviest clothes on a flight – jeans, shoes, jumper, etc) I've only met one person carrying 40kg and that was made up of scuba diving equipment mostly.

    I've noticed a lot of airlines seem to constantly be reducing their carry on limit (7kg seems the new one) and also a size restriction.

    I'll remember this though if I feel the need to carry more in the future.

  • Tom Simpson

    For once Benny I may be able to add something of help here. Namely the link below:

    http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/beat-bu

    This site is excellent and be sure to check out the flight checker to quickly find the cheapest budget flights. In the past I have travelled (to Valencia for example) for 2p return (no taxes paid, no card charges etc). I know its not strictly language related but it is definitely of help to people on the move in their quest to learn more languages.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Tom! Moneysavingexpert is an excellent site – I've subscribed to them to get any useful info ;) It's a bit UK biased, but some things are international and I jump on them if they sound interesting!
    Yeah this post and video isn't strictly language related either, but as far as I'm concerned getting to the country is way more important than buying the right grammar book if you ultimately want to speak it ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Great job Rob on travelling so minimalist :D

    I'm not quite “on the road” in the same way a lot of travellers are. I don't stay at hostels and go to many countries over a few weeks/months. I travel to a city and stay put for 3 months, so my living style is a lot less minimalist because of that! I end up living like a local, and locals have stuff :P Smart travellers need to avoid having stuff because it hinders their flexibility.

    My laptop for example is SIX kilos (it's the biggest most powerful one I could get from Dell – installed Ubuntu on it) plus stand, fan cooler, mouse, wires, heavy power adaptor etc. whereas many people may travel with tiny macbooks. That's practical on the road, when you want to swipe it out anywhere to quickly check your e-mails, but my laptop sits on my desk for 3 months without moving even to a café. As far as I'm concerned it's a portable desktop.

    After that the weight comes from books (language books, a thick vegetarian cook book) more electronics and wires and then some random items that are not essential to travel but I like to bring with me. It would be stressful and unpractical to travel like I do regularly (once a week for example), but I only do it once every 3 months or so, so it isn't that big a deal for me to use the jacket-hack etc. :)

    Although the best thing someone can do is to simply not bring so much crap with them!! I'd never suggest people travel the world with 40kg. I moved around Thailand for a few weeks and it was mega annoying. Very very slow travel is the only way I like to do it :P

    Ryanair were 10kg just a few weeks ago, but it's possible they reduced it to 7. If this video gets popular enough, maybe they'll add jacket rules too :P

  • jaagii_b

    I'm happy I found your blog.

  • http://languagebubble.com/ Andee

    I've exploited the fine print a few times. Especially with most airlines' “plus laptop” note.. and I carry my camera on my shoulder, etc ..Garment bags are another nice one since it's kind of like the jacket and doesn't seem to count toward the handluggage on most carriers I've been with. …If all else fails, I use the “I only weigh X kg but _that person_ looks huge”… why don't we have a 'total per person' instead of 'hand luggage' system?”

    The closest I came to paying excess was when I left Korea after studying at university there. I bought so many Korean books; texts, novels, etc. Plus my ordinary university texts and 6 months of life. I had around 60kg in total.. 45kg to be checked. She commented on it in English and I tried explaining in Korean about how they were all books for “learning the beautiful Korean language”. She let it slide with a smile and a not-so-serious sounding “try not to be do it next time”.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I'm happy to have you here! Hope you enjoy future and past posts :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yes! The “… but I need all this to enjoy your beautiful culture” charm has worked wonders for me :P
    They know I'm serious when I say it in their language ;) Glad to see lots of others are using the more human be nice hack. :)

  • http://travelerahoy.wordpress.comq Alouise

    I've never traveled with an airline that has such strict limits. But I'm sure these tips will come in handy one day. I used to work for airport security so being relatable and nice I'm sure has come in handy. And really there isn't anything wrong with putting extra items in a jacket so long as your not trying to sneak through contraband.

  • Abby

    This is one of the benefits to travelling with small children (if there are benefits!). They usually see that you are more frazzled than they are and let you slide with a little more than normal. We had an oversized bag, and all they did was put a sticker on it, letting us slide on the extra kilogram. I think it was because our other bag was under. And we must have had 7 carry-ons items, but as long as they all fit, no one cared.
    We travelled last summer with a 15 month old and a 4 year old, and the baby didn't have his own seat, but we were still allowed the 4 bags, and only took 2. Granted, that was for 2 weeks, not 3 months (or 7 years), but we are going for 3 1/2 weeks in Sept, and I think we're going to take even less than before. At least this time, both kids will have their own seats.
    I've heard of the water bottle suggestion and also stuffing jacket pockets, too. Both are great, especially the jacket for someone traveling solo.

  • http://www.adventurerob.com AdventureRob

    Ah that's fair enough :-)

    Virgin Blue which fly around Oz are now 7kg, as is Air Asia, which is probably the most popular airline for asia. You're only supposed to take one bag per person carry on too, although I saw a few people take 2 on.

    Fair enough on the big laptop, I use a 1kg netbook, even the power pack for it is small. My main luxury is my dSLR which is 2kg, most people don't have a camera that heavy.

    Books certainly do weigh you down though, I have a novel and local guidebook at most usually, and tend to swap ones I've read at hostels.

  • http://www.getintoenglish.com David

    The title of this post should be: “Why studying never helped ME speak a language”

    Fact is, there are different ways of studying, and there's going to be at least one way which suits each person on this planet.

    Musical types can learn the words to their favourite songs on Youtube; academic types can pick up vocabulary which will help them speak and communicate better at work by reading the Economist.

    EFFECTIVE studying is what matters.

    So instead of just saying that studying is limited, EFFECTIVE studying + speaking will greatly enhance your communication skills more than either alone.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Um… this post is about packing, not about studying :)

  • http://www.getintoenglish.com David

    whoops ;)

    I was sent this link thinking it was the post about studying v. speaking

    Oh well, thanks for the quick reply!

  • http://www.sharingtravelexperiences.com Andy Hayes

    Fantastic ninja tips! Ha. And hysterical on the chat with the security guard – it pays to have some trivia-like knowledge after all :-)

  • http://Livingintransit.com Jen

    What awesome ideas! So do you think this method works with just a ruined jacket? Have you ever tried something with lots of pockets like a vest or military-style jacket?

  • http://twitter.com/jevelme Jevelme

    I completely understood how hard it is to pack and get ready for a big trip. But it will all be worth it cause after all I'll have a wonderful vacation.

    Thanks,
    http://www.SojournVacationRentals.com

  • http://twitter.com/thromby Thromby Air

    There are other ways. For example, check out the new “Weekend At Bernie’s” range of travel luggage at Thromby Air… ideal for minimum cost travel on low cost airlines:
    http://www.thrombyair.com/2011/06/avoiding-baggage-fees/

  • http://twitter.com/thromby Thromby Air

    There are other ways. For example, check out the new “Weekend At Bernie’s” range of travel luggage at Thromby Air… ideal for minimum cost travel on low cost airlines:
    http://www.thrombyair.com/2011/06/avoiding-baggage-fees/

  • Chris

    I have a safari jacket – the kind of thing with a row of packets down each side at the front, big enough for camera lenses etc, and two huge packets down the back. When returning from India I carried about 25kg of books and other clutter in it. I had another jacket over the top of it so, for the time in the airport queue, I was sweating, but we got all our plunder home without paying any extra.

  • http://www.facebook.com/quentin.busstop Quentin Bus-stop PtangPtang Ol

    There is one trick you haven’t got – the outsize baggage transfer trick.
    It is quite involved and has 3 stages – works best with an assistant:

    1. Separate your most heavy items into a plastic bag or something.

    2. Go to check in with a bag that gets sent to the “outsize baggage”
    area, leaving enough room in the “outsize” bag for your heavy items, but
    making sure it is, at this stage, within the weight limit . Most
    rucksacks are sent to this area – it doesn’t have to be big, just oddly
    shaped. At this stage, make sure to keep your separated heavy items out
    of sight of the checkin assistant (e.g. on the hook behind your trolley,
    under a coat, with your assistant etc…).

    3. (Now comes the clever bit). Between the check-in and the outsize
    baggage area, stuff the heavy things back into your outsized bag and
    wave goodbye to your bag as it goes down the shute.

    The trick relies on the fact that the outsize baggage people are not
    bothered about weight limits. They either don’t check at all or will
    wave you through with a knowing chuckle, because they don’t work for the
    cheapo airlines.

  • Charlie Terrell

    I use the empty water bottle trick all the time! Even for land based local travel where nobody cares. It’s simply smaller and lighter. If you can’t bring an old bottle, just buy a new bottle of coca-cola on the other side of the security checkpoint. Enjoy the coke – and then refill it with plain water about 20 times.

    The only time I’ve had trouble with this plan was when I carried 2 glass beer bottles home in my carry on bag, intending to refill them with homebrew months later. I had washed them out and stuffed them with paper towels to dry them out, so of course they looked like Molotov cocktails in the X-ray. This was pre-9/11 though so I just got funny looks. No hassle.

  • barb rhoton

    …and now we know who to thank when the airplane drops out off the sky like a lead balloon…