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Carry-on and checked luggage

What you need to know before you start packing

Regardless of whether you're flying with low-cost airlines or a traditional carrier, you should consider the best way to pack our luggage. This guide's purpose is answering the vital question: when does it make sense to travel with checked luggage (which is additionally payable in case of low- cost airlines), and when to pack only a carry-on, as well as how to do it mose efficiently.

When does it make sense to pay additionally for checked luggage?

When you're booking a flight with a low-cost airline, you need to consider whether it’s worth paying additionally for the checked luggage, or if you'd be able to manage with just the carry-on.

Checked luggage costs

Currently, additional payments for checked luggage may apply not only to low-cost airlines, but also to some regular airlines fare classes (e.g. promotional booking classes of Air France and KLM). For the low-cost airlines, prices for checked luggage depend heavily on the season and flight route.

  • Checked luggage for Ryanair — 10 or 20 kg (45-80 PLN for 10 kg and 120-200 PLN for 20 kg, depending on the flight duration) for 1 direction
  • Checked luggage for Wizzair — 10, 20 or 32 kg (40–250 PLN for 10 kg, 65-360 PLN for 20 kg, and 92-477 PLN for 32 kg, depending on the season) for 1 direction
  • Checked luggage for Air France — 23 kg, 110 PLN for 1 direction (luggage charged additionally only in some classes)

If you decide that you need to travel with checked luggage, it may be worth your while to compare costs of flying with airlines that already provide it in their ticket's price. It frequently turns out that the price for a flight, combined with an additional cost of checked luggage, is very similar to flying with a traditional airline, with checked luggage already included. And those frequently offer connections to better located airports, provide on-board service included in the price, and a generally higher standard of travel.

Advantages and disadvantages of checked and carry-on luggage

When deciding on whether or not to purchase the checked luggage, you shouldn’t consider only the price. There are several other factors to think about - to help with your choice, we're listing the advantages of both solutions below:

Carry-on luggage Checked luggage
  • ✔ everything is at hand!
  • ✔ saves money (low-cost airlines charge extra for checked luggage)
  • ✔ saves time on checking in and retrieving your luggage (up to 1.5 h!)
  • ✔ no risk of luggage being delayed or lost
  • ✔ usually you can take more than twice as much luggage
  • ✔ free hands at the airport (important particularly with transfers!)
  • ✔ toiletries may be transported without limitations
  • ✔ when you need to take sharp tools (knife, multitool) or metal equipment (e.g. a tent)
  • ✔ when transporting liquid souvenirs or gifts, e.g. a bottle of wine
  • ✔ large size — the restriction on carry-on luggage dimensions are frequently a maximum of 40 cm, when in case of checked luggage the total dimensions (length, width, height) may reach up to 158 cm

FRU.PL advice:

If you’re flying for less than 7 days, and the checked luggage would be charger additionally — try to avoid the extra costs and pack a carry-on using our guide.

1. Size matters!

Start with checking the maximum dimensions of carry-on luggage allowed by the airline you're traveling with. For your convenience, we provide the allowable dimensions for a few popular airlines, where every passenger can take:

Ryanair — 1 piece of free luggage (purse or small backpack with wight of up to 10 kg and maximum dimensions of 40 x 25 x 20 cm), and an additionally payable piece of larger hand luggage (big backpack or trolley with weight of up to 10 kg and maximum dimensions of 55 x 40 x20 cm) available for purchase together with the Priority Boarding service.
Wizzair — 1 piece of free luggage (purse or small backpack with wight of up to 10 kg and maximum dimensions of 40 x 30 x 20 cm), and an additionally payable piece of larger hand luggage (big backpack or trolley with weight of up to 10 kg and maximum dimensions of 55 x 40 x 23 cm) available for purchase together with the Priority Boarding service.
Air France — 2 pieces of free hand luggage with a maximum combined weight of up to 12 kg (1.: maximum size up to 55 x 35 x 25 cm, 2.: purse, small backpack or laptop bag)
LOT — 2 pieces of free hand luggage (1.: weight of up to 8 kg and maximum size 55 x 40 x 23 cm, 2.: purse, small backpack or laptop bag with maximum dimensions of 40 x 35 x 12 cm)

2. Toiletries and liquids

Toiletries are the reason why many decide to pay for checked luggage. Before making that choice, consider if perhaps you'd be able to survive on the amounts allowed in the carry-on luggage limits.

Principle rules:

  • put your toiletries in a transparent (e.g. plastic) bag, with maximum dimensions of 20 x 20 cm
  • pour all liquids into small, transparent containers, max. 100 ml each. You can take even up to 10 vials like this – a total of 1 liter of toiletries per person
  • When flying around Europe, take only the essentials. If you really need something, you can buy it. Compare the price of an additional shampoo to the cost of checked luggage…

FRU.PL advice:

If you have sufficient time before the departure, we recommend purchasing or ordering a toiletry bag prepared specifically for transporting toiletries in accordance to the recommended carry-on luggage standards. They can be found for a really low price in every drug store, or ordered online, for example here.

3. Clothing

Obviously everything depends on the season and destination, but there is a few simple rules to follow. Wear the heaviest boots (if you need more than one pair) to the airplane. Same applies to the outerwear, even if you have two pieces of it. This way it won't count towards the luggage limits.

If the problem lays not in weight, but the clothes volume, and you're planning active vacations, the use of compression bags may prove priceless. They are usually water and stain resistant, and are capable of significantly reducing the space occupied by the clothes. Such bags can be found for example here.

Another idea is using vacuum bags – resealable plastic bags, which allow for sucking the air out of them with a vacuum cleaner. Such bags are able to compress your clothes by up to half their volume. You can order them for a few PLN, for example here.

4. Food and drinks

When can you take your own food on the plane? The rule of thumb is that any solid state foods can be transported in your hand luggage, but all liquids, as well as semi-liquid foods (jelly, yogurt, soups) fall under the same regulations as toiletries. The only exception is baby food.

How does it work in practice? You can transport a traditional sausage as a gift for your relatives in London, especially if it's tightly sealed and its amount won't raise a suspicion that it's not for personal use. You can bring back hard cheeses from France or Italy without any issue, but the soft ones are treated as semi liquid. Which Polish delicacies can you bring with you to the US? Unfortunately almost none. Baking goods and sweets are usually not a problem, but this really depends on the customs officer's mood. Meat products and fresh fruit is something you can forget about when traveling outside EU.

What about alcohol? Originally bottled beverages containing up to 70% alcohol fall under the same regulations as any other liquids. It's safest to wrap them in something soft (like a towel or even your t-shirt) and pack into your checked luggage. Even then, they still fall under the customs and phytosanitary regulations. Limit's won't count for alcohol purchased at the duty free stores at the airport. The most complete source of knowledge on that you can transport in your luggage is the Civil Aviation Authority's white list.

5. Electronics and reading materials

Nowadays it’s rare to find someone traveling without a smartphone, laptop or tablet and a photo or video camera. We often also take power banks, or even drones with us. Each of those items has it's own weight, and also needs a separate charger and frequently a case. If we add books to it (if you prefer reading traditional, paper ones) and magazines, those items could occupy the entire carry-on. The only solution is to examine our conscience and decide which of those things are really necessary, and which ones we can cope without for a few days.

Remember that most airlines do not allow transporting electronics in the checked luggage, but if we do it regardless and it gets damaged or lost, the airline will not take responsibility and we will not be reimbursed.

FRU.PL advice:

Remember to pack electronics last. When going through check-in and security at the airport, you will be asked to place the laptops, tablets and other gadgets into separate containers. If they’re easily accessible, this will be fast and easy.

If you're considering taking a drone with you, make sure to learn what are the drone regulations in the country you're traveling to. It may turn out that the local law is highly restrictive in this area or forbids droning at all. In such case it doesn't make much sense to pack up the extra kilograms, which you won't be able to use anyways.

Luggage — bag or suitcase?

Travellers frequently ask which is better: bag or a suitcase? This dilemma occurs both in case of checked and carry-on luggage. Let’s leave the issue of style for a moment, and consider various scenarios of travel after arrival.

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both solutions:

Travel bag Suitcase
Advantages:
  • ✔ it's light (usually up to 0,5kg)
  • ✔ the bag shape allows packing more
  • ✔ easily compressed
Advantages:
  • ✔ if it has wheels — you can easily pull it, does not require carrying
  • ✔ stiffens and protects its contents
  • ✔ belts and compartments protect clothing against creasing
Disadvantages:
  • ✗ has to be carried
  • ✗ provides less protection
  • ✗clothes crease more
Disadvantages:
  • ✗ heavier – an empty carry-on sized suitcase usually weighs approx. 2 kg.
  • ✗ occupies more space
  • ✗ fits less things within the same size and weight limit