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Save on Airline Baggage Fees: Carry Heavy Items in a Fishing Vest

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I really hate airlines and the ever decreasing baggage allowances. If I’m on a plane with my family, it’s usually because we are moving. That means we have most of our worldly possessions in our bags. I’m also a cheap vagabond and I’m not going to pay more to move something than what it’s worth. No way. You won’t believe the number of arguments that this had lead to with the family. The inevitable result is that we take much more than we should to the airport and I spend too much time trying not to pay excess baggage.

I remember back in 2004 flying on Air Asia for the first time. We were going on an epic move back from Thailand to the Philippines. It included a taxi from Hat Yai, Thailand to Alor Setar, Malaysia and then a plane from Alor Setar to Sandakan via Kuala Lumpur. From Sandakan, we’d board a ferry to Zamboanga City, Philippines, my wife’s hometown. We knew we only had 20 kilos of luggage each plus a carry-on of 7.5 kilos. I always thought that carry-on weight limits were merely a suggestion until we got the boarding area and they were weighing each carry-on. I quickly took out the heaviest things from our carry-on bags and stuffed them in my cargo pants pockets. We made it just under weight. The obsessive compulsive person that I am, I was always thinking about how to do this better.

That “how to do it better” came about 6 months later when I was visiting my mom in Washington state. I was out shopping at a thrift store for some cheap but decent clothes when I came across an Eddie Bauer safari vest in my size for just $3. It looked to be in pretty good shape and had lots of pockets. I started calculating just how much stuff I could put in the pockets and decided that it was a must buy. A month later I got to try it out when I arrived at the China Airlines counter in Seattle and was overweight on several boxes. My carry-on bags were already stuffed so I started stuffing the excess weight from my checked baggage into my fishing vest pockets. It worked.

I’ve since used it on many different trips in Asia where a 15 to 20 kilo checked baggage limit is commonplace. I’ve never experienced a problem with having a loaded up safari vest. When I get to the security checkpoint, I just take it off and let it pass through the xray. I’ve had my carryon bags weighed countless times, but never had my jacket. About the only regret I get from using it is all the weight I have to admit I’m carrying on a trip. After making a jaunt, I always resolve to travel lighter the next time, but it never really works out that way. The last minute additions always add up.

It’s usually pretty simple to pack the fishing vest. I set aside heavy and compact travel items for my travel vest since I know that weight is not an issue there. I stuff in as much as I can. If I still have weight left in other bags, I’ll transfer stuff out of my vest to those bags because the biggest downside of the vest is just how heavy it can become, and that weight falls onto my shoulders.

The vest has a lot of pockets. Of course there are the ones on the front of the vest, but there are also two large Velcro pockets on the inside too. The largest pocket exists on the backside that is just big enough to store a full size laptop. This is a list of all the things I often carry in my vest when flying:

  • Kindle Ebook Reader
  • Android Tablet with Keyboard
  • Canon Point and Shoot Camera
  • AlphaSmart Pro
  • Tecsun PL660 Shortwave Radio
  • External Power Brick
  • Power Supplies for everything electronic I own.
  • Batteries
  • Journal
  • Large Book
  • 3 Children Books

The goal is to have my compact and heavy gear not count towards my carry-on or checked baggage allowance, so I do mix it up quite a bit based on the needs of a particular trip.

One warning about using a safari vest for travel: the thing can get freaking heavy and the stuff is truly easier to carry in a backpack. Since it’s heavy you’ll want to take it off and if you forget it, but if you do it probably won’t be there when you finally remember that you left it.

If this can help make your vagabonding a bit easier in the future, then I’m glad to help.

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Filed under: Budget Travel, Clothing, Travel Gear, Travel Tips

About the Author:

Jack Woods is an Engineer turned Science Teacher who has been travelling abroad since the late 1990’s. He is also the man behind Get Pesos and The Musing of a Lost American. Follow @jackq7a. has written 3 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.