The fees for overweight luggage can be quite shockingly expensive, so it’s important that you weigh your bags prior to leaving home.
The most common limit for checked luggage is 50 lbs but Spirit and Allegiant have a 40 lb limit. Carry on luggage can also sometimes have weight restrictions particularly with budget airlines or international airlines.
But what do you do if you don’t have a luggage scale handy? How do you estimate the weight? What does 50 pounds feel like?
How to tell if your luggage is over 50 pounds without a scale?
Don’t worry, this post has some great tips on how to weigh luggage without a scale for you!
Firstly, Dude… Why Don’t You Have A Luggage Scale?
You might not have realized but a luggage scale doesn’t need to be large and bulky like a bathroom scale.
You can pick a small portable luggage scales without spending a lot of money. You just hook it on to the suitcase handle, then you lift the whole thing up holding only the luggage scale. They give you an accurate reading all for the price of a cup of coffee and a sandwich.
You could roughly buy 10 handheld scales for the price of 1 American Airlines overweight luggage fee.
They don’t take up much room in your suitcase, so the best practice is to get one and then keep it with the case at all times. Then you won’t have this problem next time!
Sometimes our case is light enough when we leave home and we’ve checked it on the bathroom scales but then we buy some souvenirs or gifts to take home and we start to worry if our baggage is overweight.
You can most likely buy a luggage scale at the airport but then that leaves you with the problem of what to do with any excess baggage if you are overweight. Hint, put things in your jacket pockets and your purse or personal item!
The bottom line is that handheld luggage scales are a sensible investment and can save you a lot of hassle and guesswork. This one is a good example from Amazon if you’ve been living under a rock and never heard of such a thing:
But you didn’t come here for a lecture so let’s get on with the tips.
Weighing Luggage Without A Scale
People often ask…. “how heavy is a 50 lb suitcase?”.
Well… it’s 50 lbs of course.
But I understand the intent of the question. Passengers want to know what 50 lbs feels like compared to something they are familiar with.
It’s a hard one to explain in words because we actually rarely pick up things that weigh 50 lbs.
If you have a 7-year-old boy around statistically he weighs around 50 lbs.
Or maybe you regularly carry 6 gallon size jugs of milk home when you walk back from the shops…
A 50 lb suitcase feels quite heavy to lift, in fact, it feels exactly liking picking up 6 gallons.
That’s why your suitcase has wheels and why we are always encouraging readers to travel light and consider flying carry on only.
How To Weigh A Bag With A Bathroom Scale
If you are away from home sometimes hotels will have a luggage scale at reception, it can’t hurt or they might even have a bathroom scale somewhere.
If you do have access to a bathroom scale the best way to weigh your luggage is to first weigh yourself and write down your weight.
Then weigh yourself holding the suitcase.
Subtract your weight from the weight of you and the suitcase and you’ll have the weight of the bag.
Bathroom scales work best this way and you won’t need to try to balance a large checked bag on a tiny scale that’s made for 2 feet.
The Way To Estimate Luggage Weight
Let’s be honest. Without a scale, it’s going to be guesswork. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make some good judgment calls with a little bit of thought and effort.
Here is the secret to making a ‘good enough’ estimate with basic tools.
Rather than trying to compare your entire filled suitcase with a weight you are familiar with it’s better to split your belongings into portions.
Your checked luggage when empty will weigh around 8 to 10 lbs. So just count your empty checked luggage as 10 lbs to be on the safe side, or google the brand to find out the real weight.
It will help if you have 2 plastic bags.
Fill the first bag with household items until the plastic bag weighs 10 lbs. Remember there are 16 ounces in 1 lb. Search your cupboard and throw anything you can find with weight printed in the package. Don’t worry about the weight of packaging it’s usually negligible.
Then fill the second plastic bag with your clothes or the other belongings that you want to pack in your suitcase.
Stop when the clothes bag weighs the same at the 10 lb bag.
If you stand with the 1 bag in each hand you should easily be able to tell which one is heavier. Add clothes items gradually. Stop when you are not sure. You need to be able to confidently say that the 10 lb bag with household goods is heavier.
You can then do that 4 times. You are probably weighing out 9 lbs worth of clothes per bag since you are erring on the side of caution.
This will mean that you don’t get too close to the 50 lb limit.
10 lbs suitcase and four 9 lbs bags of clothes and items will come to 46 lbs.
If you are in a hotel room it’s going to be harder. If you have a kettle 1 liter = 1 kg = 2.2 lbs but don’t fill a plastic bag with 4 or 5 liters of water. It’s probably best to try to find a large bottle of water or soda in the store. Then compare the weight of your bag of clothes in 1 hand to the large bottle in the other.
You don’t need to do it in 10 lb increments. You can do it 5 lbs at a time.
Some people recommend constructing a fulcrum using a pivot point and a piece of wood. I much prefer just using 2 plastic bags and weighing them in either hand.
If all this sounds too difficult, hey it’s you that got yourself into this mess!
Anyway here are some places that you might be able to find a scale before you head to the airport.
Where Can I Weigh My Luggage Before Going To The Airport?
One best place to consider your luggage for free is in the post office.
But to be honest the post office staff might not be too pleased if you turn up wanting to use their equipment for free.
It will depend, who you meet and how busy they are.
Your checked bag is a large item and smaller post offices might not have scales large enough to handle it.
On the other hand, if you do find that your suitcase is overweight then the post office is the right place to be. You can ship some of your things back home to reduce the weight in your case.
The airport itself is probably the best place for weighing your luggage.
The problem with this is what to do with excess baggage.
The answer is usually to use your carry on allowance or your personal item allowance.
To do this you’ll need a 2nd bag. So if you have a carry on size holdall or duffel bag around then grab than and head to the airport, weigh your case at check-in and if it’s over weight move some of your items into the carry on bag.
Take the carry on with you on the plane and store it in the overhead bin!
You should have bought a portable hanging luggage scale and you wouldn’t be in this mess! Make sure you do it at the next available opportunity!
The 50 lb weight limit is quite generous. You are unlikely to hit it if you just have clothes in your suitcase, not unless you have compressed them excessively.
It’s only when you start adding heavier items like laptops, souvenirs, gifts or liquor that you need to start worrying about limits.
It’s always sensible to bring a large personal item bag. This can be a folding daypack that packs away to almost next to nothing. Even a plastic bag can be carried on to the plane with you and put under the seat. An emergency bag is great to have if you find your luggage weighs more than the limit.
You can’t accurately measure luggage without a scale unless you effectively build a DIY scale. I think that if you measure your clothes in 10 lb bundles using the plastic bag method you’ll be able to estimate accurately enough to achieve peace of mind.
And if you want to take a suitcase that is 49.9 lbs then get a scale!
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