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. For most of my travels, I haven't had a base anywhere in the world, so I usually travel with my entire “house” 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 a few 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 or drinks on a no frills flight.
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 say a lot in my book) then they'll appreciate it and make an exception “just for you”.