Travelling with baggage!

Picture the scene: you are off on your holidays. After waiting in check-in for about ten years, the passenger agent sat you in front of a child who happily kicked the back of your seat for the duration of the flight. Now you are milling around in a baggage reclaim area which is as hot as an oven and hopelessly under-equipped for any aircraft that carries more passengers than a microlight. Your fellow passengers are squabbling over the three luggage trolleys that the airport possesses and struggling to get suitcases the size of Birmingham off the carousel. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have taken hand luggage only, and therefore used the online or express check-in, and breezed through customs at the other end?

Or perhaps you have just arrived at your departure airport and been told that the cost of carrying your skis on the flight actually costs more than the flight itself, or maybe you have contemplated ditching your suitcase just so you can bring vital baby equipment. Are you nodding your head knowingly? Then this blog is especially for you!

New rules on hand luggage
You may have seen suitcases advertised at being “hand luggage sized”. But what exactly is that? The Department of Transport guidelines state it is 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. But Lufthansa’s requirements are 50cm x 40cm x 20cm*. Ryanair and Easyjet are different again**. The weight limits also vary. The obvious advice here is to check with your airline.

The good news is that as of 7th January 2008, Britain’s stringent cabin baggage rules are due to be relaxed. Passengers will be able to carry a handbag or briefcase on board as well as their small case or holdall*. This should also go some way to improving the irritating scenario of having to extract mp3 players, books and lip balm from bags before placing them in the overhead locker.

Not All Airports Are Equal!
The new hand luggage rules only apply to airports that have 3D scanners so this could rule out some of the smaller regional airports who cannot afford this equipment (this could be your local airport) from allowing you to take two bags onto the plane. At the time of writing, BAA are unable to say which airports would be affected. To add further to the confusion, airlines still have the final say on whether their passengers can take one or two bags into the cabin. As before, the advice is to check with your airline – and your airport!†

Travelling Light

It is quite possible to go away for a week or more and travel without checking in any baggage. Decant liquids into 100ml bottles (any larger than that cannot be taken as hand luggage*), or even better, buy toiletries and books after you have cleared security (items purchased airside can be taken as a separate bag). If you are prepared to do laundry on your holiday and make your packing go further, take a small bottle of travel wash.

If you are a skier travelling light, wear your ski jacket for the flight and take advantage of the many pockets they have! When packing ski trousers and salopettes, roll them up as tight as possible and put elastic bands around them to make the most of the room in your case.

Travelling Heavy
If you thought the hand-luggage size guidelines between airlines were confusing, the variations in policies on carrying ski equipment are immense and would fill ten blogs if they were listed here. The advice is to do your homework before you book. Some airlines will carry sports equipment for free (subject to certain restrictions), others slap on a hefty fee, particularly if you do not book it in advance**. It may be worth paying a bit more for your seat to travel with an airline that has a flexible attitude to large items of luggage. If you are flying on a popular route, this opens up a greater choice of airlines that fly there, so explore all the options.

If you have ever travelled with an infant, you will be well aware of the paraphernalia that has to go with them. Consider choosing an airline that allows infants their own baggage allowance rather than having to carry their items as part of the parents’ allowance. A scout around the airline’s websites revealed that charter airlines, and some scheduled airlines, now do this. If you are going on a package holiday, ask your tour operator about the availability of items such as travel cots and sterilisers.

Of course, the one item you should pack is travel insurance. Take a copy of your policy documents with you (they are flat and only weight about 20g!). Standard cover from 24/7 Travel Insurance offers cover for your personal possessions up to £1500 (up to £500 on ski equipment if winter sports cover option is purchased), and both our Standard and Premier policies offer cover for delayed baggage in transit. You can buy travel insurance for you and your ski equipment from under £10***. So whether you are taking just a briefcase or a collection of designer luggage, don’t leave home without it!

*Source: Telegraph Travel, 24th November 2007

**Source: airline’s individual websites

†Source: BBC News, 15th December 2007

*** Premium £9.53 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on a Standard Single Trip Policy for an adult aged under 55 travelling to Europe for 3 days.