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How I avoid low cost airline bag fees

My current 12-day trip from Oakland, California to Barcelona, Warsaw, Gdansk, Krakow, Stockholm and London was an itinerary created with the purchase of five separate one-way airline tickets on Level, Vueling, Ryanair, LOT Polish, Norwegian.

The problem with flying low cost carriers like Level, Vueling, Ryanair and Norwegian are the fees for a checked bag and a self-selected seat assignment can often be more than the price of the airfare ticket itself.

As a frequent traveler, I keep the cost of low cost carrier tickets low by packing light and small. I rarely pay bag fees on my tickets, despite traveling at times with more weight or larger size bags than officially allowed by the stated rules for my ticket type.

Hand baggage

My typical carry-on and hand baggage for low cost airline flights.

Eddie Bauer backpack 17in x 13 in x 6 in. (BUT can expand to 9 inches deep when stuffed). Flight weight this trip 4.6 kg.

Jansport roller bag 20 in x 14 in x 8 in. (Can expand to 11 inches when outer pocket filled). Flight weight this trip 8.3 kg.

Level Airlines (Iberia)

Oakland OAK – Barcelona, Spain BCN

$149.10 one way ticket.

Carry On and Hand Baggage Allowances

You can take one carry-on bag and one personal item.
Maximum size per piece of baggage:

56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm (22 in x 18 in x 10 in).

Personal item:

  • What else can I take on board besides the permitted baggage items?
  • A handbag or small briefcase.
  • A laptop computer or camera.
  • A baby bag with food, drink and materials for the flight.

Jansport roller bag is my carry on and Eddie Bauer backpack is my personal item. I keep my computer and camera in the backpack and it can fit under my seat, when necessary.

I keep clothing and non-fragile items in the roller bag, so it can be checked in baggage hold for free, and on the spot, if necessary.

My wife’s checked bag fee was $85, but I intend to dispute that charge.

Level Airlines $149 one way ticket Oakland to Barcelona trip report


Vueling Airlines

Barcelona, Spain – Warsaw, Poland

$82.14 one way

Carry On and Hand Baggage Allowances

  • You can carry one piece of hand luggage no heavier than 10 kg and no larger than 55x40x20 cm.
  • You can also carry another smaller bag or case measuring no more than 35x20x20 cm and one additional bag containing any purchases made at the airport. They must both fit under the front seat.

My two carry on bags met weight restrictions for Vueling, but technically my Eddie Bauer backpack is quite a bit wider than 20 cm / 8 inches. Still, it fits under a seat easily and no questions asked.

My wife’s checked bag fee was 13 EUR or $14.50 USD.



Warsaw, Poland – Gdansk Poland

$23.60 one way

Carry On and Hand Baggage Allowances

You may carry one cabin bag per passenger (no allowance for infants travelling on their parents lap) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, plus 1 small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 cms.

Ryanair carry on bags

Technically, my Eddie Bauer backpack is larger than 17 in x 8 in x 8 in personal item size allowed, however, I have never had a problem taking two bags on a Ryanair flight. They often ask me if I will check my larger bag for free at check-in. I gladly comply.

Ryanair also states:

What you CAN’T bring on board

  1. Any bag which does not fit in the sizer 
  2. A second bag which does not fit under the seat in front of you

Oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £50/€50 (fee subject to VAT on domestic flights at applicable government rates).

My backpack fits under the seat.

My wife’s checked bag fee was 22.68 zlotys or $5.98 USD.


LOT Polish

Gdansk, Poland – Krakow, Poland

$56.14 one way

I purchased a Standard Fare ticket including one checked bag and seat assignment for this flight rather than a domestic saver fare for $17 less. I carried both of my bags on the flight.

Carry-on baggage

LOT Economy Class – 1 piece up to 8 kg

LOT Economy Simple – 1 piece up to 8 kg

Hand luggage must fit in the overhead shelf on board or under the preceding front passenger’s seat.

Note: In case of exceeding the allowed limit of hand baggage an excess baggage charge will be applied.

In addition to the above cabin baggage allowance, the following items may be carried free of charge:

  • ladies handbag or shoulder-strapped bag or laptop bag (40 cm x 35 cm x 12 cm)
  • food and collapsible baby stroller or push chair for a child


Norwegian Airlines

Krakow, Poland – Stockholm, Sweden ARN

$40.87 one way.

Cabin Baggage

Passengers are permitted to carry one item of hand baggage in addition to one small personal item onboard the aircraft. Personal item (e.g. small handbag or laptopcase) must fit comfortably under the seat in front.

  • Max. dimensions on carry-on bag: 55x40x23 cm
  • Max. dimensions on personal item: 25x33x20 cm
  • Max. combined weight: 10 kg  (Lowfare, Lowfare+, Premium), 15 kg  (Flex, PremiumFlex)

I have flown Norwegian more than a dozen times with two bags without ever needing to pay a checked bag fee.

My wife’s checked bag cost 15 EUR ($16.60).


Oakland – Barcelona – Warsaw – Gdansk – Krakow – Stockholm

My tickets with no bag or seat fees = $310.98.

Kelley’s tickets with checked bag fees = $433.08 or 40% more total ticket price with checked bag fees.

The secret to flying low cost carriers at truly low cost is travel with only carry on cabin bags. Kelley’s limitation are more clothes and weight, primarily due to a couple dozen cosmetic items adding several more kg to her baggage and too large in liquid volume to travel in carry on bags. She says it keeps her looking young and pretty. She has good looking skin for a 58 year old woman.

I simply travel cheap and ugly.

As far as seat assignments, I don’t pay. As two people traveling together, She gets the window or aisle and I am frequently stuck in the middle seat anyway, if there is a 3 seat row. Many flights I end up with an aisle or window too and an empty seat between us.

When I travel solo, I am a quick change seat artist when the announcement is made ‘boarding is complete’.

Low cost airlines are truly inexpensive to fly, as long as you avoid the checked bag and seat assignment fees.

Oneworld Onelove to London and home to California

Today we are leaving Stockholm on British Airways for London LHR with a 22.5 hour layover before flying back to San Jose, California SJC on Saturday.

That ticket cost $557 round trip and puts us back in London for Christmas.

I am American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum elite with Oneworld Sapphire benefits. We will be hanging out in the T-5 British Airways galleries Lounge Saturday.

No need to always fly low cost airlines when the major alliance airlines can be low cost tickets too.


  • Steven June 22, 2017

    What bag do you recommend for a personal item for a domestic flyer who frequently flies Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant?

  • Ric Garrido June 22, 2017

    Size matters.

    I don’t have bag recommendations. I bought the Jansport bag for $25 several years ago at Ross. The Eddie Bauer backpack is one I bought last year at an outlet in Gilroy, California for $50 or $60.

  • Ric Garrido June 23, 2017

    One bag recommendation I do have is buy a waterproof bag like type used by kayakers. They come in all sizes.

    I have 10 L size waterproof bags I keep my laptop and camera inside when traveling. This is protection against being caught out in heavy rain with my backpack. I have had my bags soaked simply walking from an airplane parked on the tarmac to the terminal when flying small regional planes.

    At airport security lines, I pull out my laptop and quickly drop all the stuff in my pockets into the waterproof bag to go through the security bag check. Keeps me from misplacing my stuff in the often hectic airport security line process.

    The 10L waterproof bag also doubles as my personal bag when flying an airline like WOW or Wizz, where airline staff may strictly enforce the personal item bag size. The 10 L bag meets the 35 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm size restriction (14in x 8in x 8in).

  • James June 23, 2017

    Lol. A frequent flyer blogger proudly admitting to cheat regulation on carry on. To save money? Simply too cheap? Proud of cheating?

  • Chris June 23, 2017

    LOL Says James the judge…

  • Ric Garrido June 23, 2017


    I am a seasoned and smart travel packer.

    It is not like I hide my backpack or roller bag when I check in at the airport. My backpack is on my back for agents to see. No airline agents have told me my bags are too large or heavy at airport check-in or the gate.

    If they asked me to pay or check my bag, I would. Never been told I can’t take my carry on bags because they are not regulation (except once, flying United Airlines, several years ago. I repacked my suitcase at the gate, so that my bag was more compact and fit in the sizer).

    The point of this article is sharing how I have traveled with two small bags on many different low cost carriers to Europe and around Europe and do not pay extra bag fees.

    Why give the airlines more money than I need, or you need, to spend?

    Isn’t that the gist and raison d’etre of most BoardingArea blogs? We inform travelers on ways to travel spending less money.

  • RAJARAMAN June 23, 2017

    Very useful information & discussion reg Travel low cost with intelligent luccaging.Thanks.

  • RAJARAMAN June 23, 2017

    Good useful discussion. , for low cost trevellers.

  • James June 24, 2017

    Well, a thief, caught red handed still won’t admit the wrongdoing. Same as cheaters.

    You intentionally broke the rule, using the lazyness of gate agents to measure your carry-on.

    “If they asked me to pay or check my bag, I would.” Only proves that you fully understand what you are doing is wrong. But, as long as you never get caught, let’s just brag about it.

  • Geoff Stuart June 24, 2017

    BA booked us on one of their flights from Rome to Orly but it’s operated by Vueling. Will we be subject to Vueling’s bag fees or BA’s fees (first bag free).

  • Ric Garrido June 25, 2017

    James – There are airline travel rules. That is information learned by reading the rules.

    And there is the application and enforcement of airline travel rules. That is information often only learned through the experience of flying the airline.

    In this article I posted each airline’s rules for cabin baggage.

    In this article I posted my experiences with each airline’s enforcement of airline cabin baggage rules.

    I am not fretting over my cabin bag packing choices.

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