Checked baggage is luggage that goes in the cargo hold under the plane during flight.
Unfortunately, more and more airlines are charging fees to check bags, ranging from a not-so-bad $25 to a budget-busting $60 or more each way, and the price could be even higher, depending on how many bags you’re checking and how much they weigh.
When flying internationally, fees range by airline, but many still offer a first checked bag for free for economy tickets or higher classes (such as business or first class). In basic economy, you’ll have to pay for a checked bag. Out of the major US airlines, Southwest is the only one that allows you a bag—actually, two bags—for free.
Unfortunately, you have to pay the fees for both ways of your trip. And on some low-cost airlines, like Norwegian Air, you pay per leg, so if you have a connection, you’ll pay twice.
You can pay checked baggage fees at the airport, but most airlines do not accept cash, so make sure you have a debit or credit card with you.
You can often save some money—usually $5-10—by paying for your checked bag ahead of time online.
The typical weight limit for a checked bag is 50 pounds/23 kilograms, but weights can vary by airline, route, and travel class.
If you don’t have a luggage scale at home (and let’s be honest, not many of us do), check the weight of your bag by weighing yourself on a regular scale without the bag and then picking up the bag and weighing yourself again. Subtract the difference and you’ll have the weight of your bag.
If your luggage is overweight (or oversize) you may have to pay an extra fee to check it, or you’ll need to lighten the load by moving some items into a carry-on or an additional piece of luggage.
While there are plenty of restrictions for what you can and cannot bring in a carry-on, there are also some restrictions with checked bags. This extensive list from the TSA is a good resource for whether something can go in a carry-on, checked bag, both, or neither. Some things that can be checked: ammunition and guns, alcohol, axes and hatchets, baseball bats, Swiss army knife, snow spikes, ski poles, etc. There are also items that aren’t allowed on the plane at all, such as sparklers or fireworks, spray paint, fuels, etc.
You don’t have access to your checked bag during the flight, so make sure you put anything important, like medications or valuables, in the carry-on that you’re bringing onto the flight with you.
Just like your carry-on, all checked baggage is screened and subject to being searched.
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