Boring practicalities – luggage allowances and the trials of packing…
I can put it off no longer, I leave Sheffield tomorrow, and fly out from London on Wednesday, so today is definitely packing day. The problem is the blooming luggage allowance for the flights. Whilst I want to pack as light as possible, it’s not that easy. This time I’m away for several months, AND working, AND training for a marathon so hence I’ve got to cater for more potential costume changes than a conventional holiday. I thought I’d cracked it, once I twigged I could take with me a carry on bag as well as checked in luggage, and therefore increase my capacity. I can it’s true. The problem is, my flight is split, and the baggage allowances are therefore different but opaque for each leg of my flight. I do part of the trip with British Airways, the next leg with Bangkok Airlines.
It’s taken me several phone calls to my travel agent, endless website browsing, and finally checking out tripadvisor threads on carry on luggage as well as the lonely planet discussion on Bangkok carry on (not the usual carry-on film plot) to make my call, but FYI this seems to be the situation:
British Airways who I’m flying out with, have particularly generous baggage allowances. This amounts to for checked in luggage (economy) 1 bag (max. 23kg / 51lb) PLUS the same again for carry on luggage. Which is way more than I could possibly carry, let alone need. And you can have a handbag and laptop with you as well. This got my hopes up. However there is a problem. The problem is, that the first part of my route takes me to Bangkok, and from there, I have to catch a flight with Bangkok Airways, who have a quite different policy.
Bangkok Airlines specify checked baggage up for economy Class : Maximum weight allowance is 20 kilograms for adult and child / 10 kilograms for infant. However, they only allow one item of carry on hand luggage with a maximum weight of 5kg. From various online sources of wisdom, I have however joined the Bangkok Airlines FlyerBonus scheme. You just have to enter some basic info and you get some privileges use of lounges at certain airports and, importantly, increased luggage allowance – though I have a strong suspicion that will only be an extra 10kg for hold baggage which I dont need. Oh well, maybe I’ll get an upgrade from time to time if I think to put on my most adorable and winning smile!
Whilst 23 kg is a ridiculously huge amount, 5kg really isn’t very much at all once you have your laptop and a few necessary toiletries with you. Even things like my pack of wet wipes pushes me over the limit. Also, I was really hoping to split my luggage into two more evenly weighted parts. Everything I have assembled would easily fit into my two luggage choices (backpack and carry on cabin bag) and even combined are significantly under the 20kg limit for hold luggage. However, maddeningly, I’m having to cram just about everything into my backpack for the hold. Which is a significant squash, and have a half empty cabin case which is bizarrely still over the limit.
Reading the threads from other travelers, the consensus seems to be that if you are not drawing attention to yourself weighed down with clearly excessive clobber, you should be OK. Also, I’m on a bigger plane, an Airbus something or other, so it shouldn’t really be an issue. From discussion threads the overwhelming majority have never had hand luggage weighed (apart from as a collective weigh in on checking in) although those that have, did find the enforcement to be strict. Curses.
So the upshot is, I’ve done my best, I think my carry on will be a bit over maybe 7kg as opposed to 5 kg but my hold luggage is around 15kg tops (I can still hardly lift it) so I’m well within the collective limits. The first leg of my flight is 12 hours plus. But they have a generous allowance, so I’ll take all the wet wipes and toiletries etc for that, and then if I have to jettison what I haven’t used before boarding the onward plane then so be it. It would still be way cheaper than paying an excess. There is a bit of me that thinks I’d probably get away with splitting my luggage as I’d originally planned if it didn’t exceed the size dimensions specified, but it isn’t worth the risk. Very annoying. That’s why I’m keeping the blog really, to learn from this experience. I’m sure a lot of what I’m taking with me I wont need, but the whole point is I wont know until I get there. The heavy things are all medical supplies (sun block, insect repellent), electrical things (torch, travel alarm, travel plugs, laptop lead and laptop) but they are also ‘essential’. In that, if I don’t take them and can’t get them out there it will be a real pain, even though the chances are I can, I don’t wan the risk or hassle. Mind you, I do worry about sunblock and insect repellents bought overseas in case they aren’t properly protective or have skin-whitener in them – you do have to be a bit careful in parts of South East Asia I understand. Anyway, I’ve kept shuffling through my packing choices, but really, the only things I could sacrifice with confidence are a few odd items of clothes, but hardly seems worth it for the difference in weight. Naturally coming home will be a lot easier as I will have lost soooo much weight and I can leave behind unused sun-protection and toiletries which is half my baggage at the moment.
Hey ho. I loathe this bit. Packing is a faff, lugging unnecessary weight around an absolute pain. There had better be a left luggage facility in Phnom Penh as promised. (I’m sure there is I did check). Fortunately, a friend is giving me a lift to the coach station, I don’t think I can carry my back pack unaided at present…
Note to others coming in my wake. Check out the travel baggage allowances for all legs of your flight. You have to go with the limits of the lower offer. Typical dumbing down. Grrrr. Try not to cry.
Oh, and don’t forget to check the return flights too – I have a different carrier there, Cathay Dragon. Which I’m really, really hoping will involve an actual dragon. Would happily forfeit all my worldly goods for a go on that! Might not have to, they allow 7kg in carry on luggage. It makes no sense… I wonder if you get your own dragon, or if you have to share?
Ideally, win the lottery so you can travel with nothing but a smile, your passport and a credit card.
That would work.