Travel Guide

How That Extra Bag May NOT Cost That Much (Or Anything) When Traveling Internationally!

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Written by Charlie

Here are two tips that may save you some money if you have to check an extra bag on your next international trip!

Baggage fees are huge for airlines. In the 3rd quarter of 2015, US airlines alone pulled in over $1B in baggage fees! Of course, that is never something people want to pay but find themselves in a position to pay depending on the type of trip they are on. There are a couple of ways, without a credit card, that you can make that extra bag not cost as much as you might expect when traveling internationally!

How That Extra Bag May NOT Cost That Much (Or Anything) When Traveling Internationally

Turkish Airlines

That extra bag may not cost you as much as you think! | Courtesy of Shutterstock

If you travel much internationally, you may be used to the cost of extra bags. Since most of my transatlantic flights are with Star Alliance carriers, I am familiar with United charging $100 for the 2nd bag for people that are traveling in economy and do not have status. While packing an additional bag for someone in your party may sound excessive, it really isn’t when you realize that your limit is 50lbs and a suitcase by itself may take up as much as 10-12lbs of that amount. Throw in some shoes and anything else you are used to and the amount piles up quickly.

The Currency The Extra Bag Fee Is Charged In

But, it may make sense to check those bag fees before you travel as it may not be the standard $100 for the second bag. This is from my experiences with United and Star Alliance carriers so I cannot speak to other alliances but imagine it could be similar.

Here is a recent example. My family was booked on a United-ticketed trip with their first transatlantic segment operated by Air Canada with an arrival in Toronto. The return leg was to be out of Washington, DC on United. I flew a separate itinerary that was also United-ticketed and flown by United both ways. In both instances, the extra bag amounts were ringing up 100 – but in different currencies. Probably because my family’s ticket was an open-jaw that terminated the first leg in Canada or maybe because their first major carrier was Air Canada, there 100 fee was actually in Canadian Dollars. That added up to $71 USD for $100 CAD!

On my ticket, likely because it was a simple roundtrip beginning and ending in Europe, the fee was 100 but it was €100 which was coming in at around $111 USD. Even though I was a Star Alliance Gold (and was already taking advantage of my extra free bag), it became cheaper for us to check the bag in under my family’s reservation because of the currency valuations.


If you are going to be charged in CAD, that will help save money!

You can check your trip ahead of time (if booked on or travel is with United) by going to the United Airlines baggage calculator. Once you put in your record locator, it will tell you what the fee will be for extra bags and the currency it will be based on. You can also do a mock reservation by putting in your proposed trip itinerary and marketing carriers to see what it tells you. If you know that you will require extra bags, it may make sense to check a bit to see which options will give you the lower bag fees.

In our case, we saved $40 on the extra bag because of the currency valuation and what the reservation was basing the baggage fee on.

Lap Child = Free Bag

When traveling internationally, you will be paying for your lap child’s ticket but it will likely be the somewhat standard 10% of the ticket and the taxes. I know there is a whole thing about pros and cons when it comes to lap children traveling that way, but if you do travel with a lap child, don’t forget to check with your airline. Some airlines, like United and many others, give your lap child a courtesy bag which is in addition to baby items like a stroller or car seat. That means it is an extra 50lb bag – for free! In some cases, the lap child’s ticket can actually be cheaper than a paid extra bag so make sure you check with your airline to determine if you can take that extra bag for free under the child.


I am one of those people that never checks a bag when I travel, whether it is internationally or domestic, for my personal belongings. When I travel with my family, it is different. When you start to take into account gifts that you may bring back home, souvenirs, extra clothes for varying climates, etc, there are many ways you could exceed the allowed 50lb bag per person. Here are a couple of ways that you may be able to pay less than the standard $100 fee for that 2nd bag and that may be the difference to help you in deciding whether to get that nice big thing on your next trip abroad!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.