Worried your carry-on bag is too big or too heavy? Here are a few tricks that can help keep you from having to pay big $$ to check a bag.
Of course the hope is to have your fully packed bag plus personal item (day pack) be within carry-on weight and size, but that's not always the case. Especially with some of the budget airlines like Ryan or Spirit! That last little bottle of body lotion might be the wafer thin mint that throws you over. Then what do you do? You packed so carefully and you need every single item you packed.
Given that the cost of checking a bag is more than an entire day's typical travel budget, you might want to use a few tricks to make sure you can get your bag on the plane without having to spring the extra money to check it.
Not all airlines measure or weigh carry-on bags, and some of them don't do it all of the time. Some weigh them at the check-in counter and put a weight tag on your bag, and some airlines wait until you are entering the boarding area to surprise you with the weigh-in. So even though it may not happen very often, you should be prepared to shove your bag in that little metal rectangle of proper carry-on dimensions to receive the approval of the scrutinizing airline employee.
Wear your heaviest and bulkiest items
Layers are good for flying anyway so wear your long pants, a top, and light jacket/over shirt. Definitely wear your bulkiest shoes! If you're traveling in a modest area, you'll want to cover up anyway. This will save a good bit of weight and space in your bag. You can always keep a quick-change outfit handy and change either on the plane or once you land if your bulky outfit is too warm or uncomfortable for where you're going. But at least get on the plane with the bulky stuff, then once you're in the clear, you can change.
In times of real desperation, wear tons of stuff! You hear stories and even see funny YouTube videos of people wearing pants, a skirt, a few tops, a jacket, scarf, etc. just to get their bag under-weight. LOL You might look ridiculous but it might worth it to save a $40 checked bag fee!
Use your pockets
Still in desperation mode? Put heavy stuff like your phone or camera or liquids in your pockets. If you have a book, carry it in your hand as if you were just in the middle of reading it.
Lift your bag like it's light!
I do think this makes a big difference. If you are lugging your bag across the floor or heaving it up onto your shoulders, you are sending up a big red flag for the airline to weigh your bag. Even it is not light, toss that baby around like it's empty.
Free extra carry-on items
Some airlines allow a 3rd item, outside of your regular carry-on allowance, if it's a bag of food purchased at one of the airport restaurants, something from the duty-free shop, or a pillow. Fake it. Bring a plain white grocery bag and put a few of your boxy things in it so it looks like you are carrying takeout food. Or buy something super cheap at the duty free shop, then use the bag to put more of your own things in it. Or bring an empty zip-up pillowcase and stuff it full. hopefully with soft items so you can actually use it as a pillow.
Carry your water bottle
If you brought your empty water bottle to the airport and filled it at the water fountain (like any good budget traveler would do), don't carry it in your bag on weigh-in. They won't say anything if you are carrying it separately and it will save you 16+ ounces.