Most airlines have strict weight limits for luggage. The most common weight limit for checked luggage is 50 pounds or 22 kg. If your luggage is overweight, you’ll have to pay an additional fee or repack your bag to meet the weight limit. Weighing your luggage before you leave for your trip can help you avoid expensive overweight baggage fees. But what if you don’t have a luggage scale? This guide explains how to weigh luggage without a scale. We’ll outline several methods you can use to help you estimate the weight of your luggage at home to help you determine whether or not your backpack or suitcase is too heavy. Hopefully, this guide makes your next flight a bit smoother.
How to Weigh Luggage Without a Scale
The most common luggage weight limit for checked luggage is 50 pounds or 22 kg. How heavy is 50 pounds? For most people, it’s difficult to guess the weight of something by just picking it up. Most people rarely lift 50 pounds of weight.
To give you an idea of what 50 pounds feels like imagine lifting 6 gallons of water, a large bag of dog food, an average 7-year-old child, or a medium-sized dog. All of these weigh around 50 pounds. Your luggage needs to weigh less to avoid fees. In this section, I’ll outline how to tell if your luggage is over 50 pounds without a scale.
Estimate the Weight of Your Suitcase
The easiest way to estimate luggage weight is to compare it to an item that you know the weight of. You won’t know the exact weight of your luggage but it will be close enough.
If the luggage weight limit is 50 pounds, find an object around your home that weighs around 50 pounds. There are a number of household objects that you could use.
Maybe you have 50 pounds worth of dumbells or exercise weights. A large bag of dog food might weigh 50 pounds. Six gallons of water weigh just over 50 pounds.
Lift the 50 pound item then lift your luggage. If your luggage feels lighter, you still have some room to add some more stuff. If your luggage feels heavier, you’ll have to remove some items to meet the limit.
To get a more accurate measurement, you can divide up your luggage to estimate the weight in sections. Compare each section to the weight of a household item that you know the weight of.
To do this, start by grabbing a couple of plastic bags. Fill one with 10 pounds worth of household items. There are lots of household items that you can use. For example, maybe you have a 10 pound bag of flour. Maybe you have a 1 pound bag of beans or a 5 pound bag of rice. Maybe you have 5 and 10 pound dumbells. Most dry food packages have the weight printed on the package. Remember, there are 16 ounces in a pound. You might have some one-pound cans of food in your pantry. It doesn’t matter what you put in the bag as long as it weighs 10 pounds.
Next, start placing your clothes and travel gear in the other plastic bag. Try to pack 10 pounds worth of gear in the bag.
Compare the weight of the bag of clothing and travel gear to the weight of the 10 pound bag of household items. Continue adding or removing clothing and other travel gear until it feels like the bag weighs the same as the household items.
To get the most accurate measurement, stand up and hold one bag in each hand. Use your shoulders like a scale. It should be pretty easy to feel which bag is heavier.
Try to be conservative with your estimates. Make sure that the 10 pound bag full of household goods is the heavier bag. This way, you can be confident that your luggage won’t be overweight.
Repeat this process until you’ve estimated the weight of everything you plan to pack. Don’t forget to estimate your suitcase weight. An average suitcase weighs 5-10 pounds on its own. Add a few items until it feels like it’s about 10 pounds.
If you’re conservative with your estimates, each load will probably weigh around 9 pounds. If you repeat the process 5 times, your bag will weigh around 45 pounds. That’s pretty close to the limit. It’s better to be under the limit so you have a bit of room for souvenirs or other things you might pick up during your trip.
You can use this same method to estimate luggage weight a hotel room. All you need is a weight. Head to the supermarket and buy something with the weight marked on it. A beverage, such as a large bottle of water or soda, works well. A gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds. A 2 liter bottle of soda weighs 4.4 pounds or 2 kgs.
Hold your clothing and travel gear in one hand and compare them to the weight of the bottle. You don’t need to buy 10 pounds of liquid. You can work with whatever you have. For example, if you have a gallon of water, you can weigh your gear 8 pounds at a time. Add up the weights as you go and you’ll have a reasonable estimate of the total weight of your luggage. If you repeat the process 6 times, your clothing and travel gear will weigh around 48 pounds. This isn’t the easiest way to weigh your luggage without a scale but it does work.
Make a Lever and Fulcrum Scale
If you’re looking for a bit more accurate method to weigh luggage, consider making a simple fulcrum scale at home. To do this, you’ll need a sturdy plank of wood to use as a lever and a sturdy object to use as the fulcrum. A rock or a horizontally placed water bottle can work well. You’ll also need some household items to use as a counterweight.
You need to choose items that add up to the maximum baggage weight limit. If the limit is 50 pounds, try to find 50 pounds worth of household items. For example, you could use dumbells, cinderblocks, or a large bag of dog food.
Your fulcrum scale should look like a seesaw. The plank of wood should sit on top of the fulcrum. The fulcrum should be in the center. Place your packed luggage on one side of the plank of wood. Place the household items on the other.
Your suitcase and weight need to be equidistant from the pivot point to get an accurate measurement. You may need a second set of hands to help you set everything up and hold everything in place.
If both sides of the scale are balanced, your suitcase weighs around 50 pounds. If the scale tips toward your suitcase, it’s overweight. Remove some items to reduce the weight. If the scale tips toward the household items, your suitcase is under the limit.
You can also use this method to weigh individual items in your suitcase. This can help you pick and choose what to pack and what to leave at home. For example, you could weigh a couple of pairs of footwear and choose the lighter one if you’re close to the limit.
Weighing Luggage with a Bathroom Scale
You don’t need a luggage scale to weigh luggage. You can use a regular bathroom scale instead. Bathroom scales are accurate enough. There are a couple of ways to use a typical bathroom scale to weigh your luggage.
The easiest way to weigh your luggage with a bathroom scale is to start by weighing yourself first. Write down your weight. Next, weigh yourself while holding your luggage. To calculate the weight of your luggage, subtract your weight from the weight of you and your luggage together. This will tell you the weight of your luggage.
Of course, you could also try to simply balance your luggage directly on the bathroom scale. This can be a bit of a challenge because bathroom scales are designed to be stood on. You might not get as accurate of a measurement.
Use a Free Scale to Weigh Your Luggage
If you don’t have access to a scale, there are a number of places you can go that have free scales that you may be able to use to weigh luggage.
Pretty much all gyms have a scale. You could visit your local gym to weigh your luggage. Before returning home, head to the hotel gym for weighing luggage.
You could also ask for a scale at your hotel’s reception. Some hotels have a luggage scale that you can use for free. Alternatively, they may have a bathroom scale that you could use. Some higher-end hotel rooms have a bathroom scale in the room.
You may also be able to weigh your luggage at the nearest post office. If the post office isn’t too busy and you ask nicely, the staff may weigh your luggage for you. It depends on who’s working. They may turn you away if the post office is busy.
If your luggage is overweight, you can ship some of your belongings to your destination while you’re at the post office. If you buy souvenirs, you can ship them from the post office before you return home.
You could also try asking a travel agent to weigh your luggage. A travel agent may have a luggage scale in their office. Tourist information centers may also have a scale that you could use.
It might also be possible to weigh your luggage at hardware stores.
Of course, you can also weigh your luggage at the airport. An agent will weigh it when you check in for your flight. The problem with this is that you’ll have to figure out what to do with your luggage if it turns out to be overweight. I’ll list some options later on in this guide.
Look Up the Weights of Everything In Your Luggage and Add Them Up
Another way to calculate the weight of your luggage is to go online and search for each item that you’re packing and look up the weight. Write the weights down then add all of the weights up when you’re done. This would be a hassle but it is an option.
For example, if you’re carrying a Macbook, go on Apple’s website and see how much the laptop weighs. If you’re carrying an Osprey backpack, go to Osprey’s website and see how much the backpack weighs. Once you’ve found the weight of everything you can, add them up.
When you do this, you need to make sure you’re looking at the exact item that you own. Product weights can vary by size and model year.
You probably can’t look up the weight of everything. You’ll still have to estimate the weight of part of your luggage. For example, you probably can’t find the weight of every piece of clothing you’re packing. Place these items into a bag and try to estimate the weight by comparing it to a household item with a known weight, as outlined above. Alternatively, you could use the lever and fulcrum method.
Looking up the weight of your travel gear will give you a slightly more accurate weight than estimating the weight of everything. It won’t be perfectly accurate. Some companies underreport the weight of their gear. This is common in the outdoor gear industry. Try to round up to give yourself some leeway.
Buy a Luggage Scale
If you travel frequently, it’s best to buy a luggage scale. Handheld luggage scales save you the hassle of having to estimate the weight of your bag. It will also save you the stress of worrying about whether or not your luggage is overweight when you arrive at the airport.
Luggage scales are cheap. You can buy a decent one for around $20. This is a tenth of the price of a single overweight luggage fee. Chances are, you’ll save yourself money in the long run by buying a luggage scale.
Handheld luggage scales are easy to use. You simply hook the scale onto your suitcase handle or backpack handle and lift the whole thing up by the scale. You’ll quickly get an accurate reading of the weight of your luggage. On most models, you only have to lift for a moment for the scale to take an accurate reading.
You can easily pack a luggage scale with you in your bag. Most models are portable and operate on batteries. Just slip it in your suitcase. You’ll never have to worry about overweight luggage again.
Having a luggage scale is nice if you like to buy lots of souvenirs when you travel. Your luggage may be much heavier on the return trip. Luggage scales allow you to easily weigh your luggage at home and again in your hotel room before your flight. If it’s overweight, you can ship some souvenirs back home or repack your bags.
I use the Samsonite Manual Luggage Scale. The beauty of this scale is that it does not require batteries. The scale measures up to 80 pounds. It also features a built-in tape measure to help you measure your luggage to ensure that it’s not oversized. This is a fairly large and heavy scale but it works well.
If you’re looking for a lighter-weight option, consider the Freetoo Portable Luggage Scale. This battery-operated digital scale features a large LED display and 110 pound weight limit. It’s accurate down to 0.1 pounds. The scale weighs just 90 grams. It also features weight hold. You only need to lift your luggage for an instant to get an accurate reading.
What If My Luggage is Overweight?
If your luggage is over the weight limit, you have two options. You can pay an overweight luggage fee or you can repack your luggage so it meets the limit.
Most airlines give you a pound or two of leeway. They aren’t too strict about the weight. If the weight limit is 50 pounds and your luggage weighs 50.5 pounds, the agent checking you in will probably let it slide, if you treat them nicely. When you’re rude, they will probably hold you to the 50 pound limit. If your luggage weighs 55 pounds, they will probably ask you to pay an overweight fee or repack your bags.
How Much Do Overweight Luggage Fees Cost?
Overweight luggage fees are expensive. The fee varies from airline to airline. Most airlines charge $100-$200 if your luggage is overweight.
Delta and American Airlines charge $100 if your bag weighs 51-70 pounds and $200 if your bag weighs 71-100 pounds. United airlines charges up to $400 for overweight bags depending on the weight and destination. Alaska airlines charges $100 for overweight bags that weigh 51-100 pounds.
Most airlines do not accept luggage that weighs over 100 pounds. If your luggage is over 100 pounds and you can’t reduce it, you’ll have to ship it instead.
Repacking to Reduce the Weight of Your Luggage
If your luggage weighed too much on the airport scale, you can often avoid an overweight luggage fee by repacking at the airport. A few ways to reduce the weight of your luggage to meet the weight limit include:
Transfer some items from your checked luggage to your carry-on- If your carry-on is under the limit, you can transfer some items from your overweight checked bag to your carry-on. Some airlines don’t even weigh carry-on bags.
Transfer some items to another piece of checked luggage- If you’re checking two pieces of luggage and one piece of luggage weighed less than the weight limit and one weighed more than the limit, you could transfer some items from the overweight bag to the other bag.
Wear some of your clothing- If you have a heavy jacket or pair of boots in your suitcase, you can wear them. The clothing you’re wearing isn’t weighed.
Put some items in your pockets- If you’re wearing a jacket, you can stuff some heavier items, such as electronics or books, into your pockets. You could easily carry a few pounds of gear in the pockets of a bulky jacket. After you’re checked in, you can transfer the stuff from your pockets to your carry-on bag.
Carry on a personal item- Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on and one personal item with you onto the plane. If your checked bag is overweight and your carry-on bag is full, you could carry a heavy jacket, a laptop bag, a handbag, or a small duffel bag as a personal item. Usually, your personal item isn’t weighed at check-in.
Check a second bag- You can divide your overweight checked bag into two checked bags. It is usually cheaper to check a second bag than to pay an overweight bag fee. For example, an airline might charge $100 for an overweight bag but $50 for a second checked bag. In this case, you’ll save money by paying for a second checked bag.
Ship some stuff- Some airports have shipping facilities. If your bag is overweight and you can’t repack it, you can ship some belongings home or to your destination. Shipping may be cheaper than paying an overweight fee.
Give some stuff to a friend or family member- If someone dropped you off at the airport, you could ask them to wait until after you check in for your flight. If your luggage weighs too much, you could give them some of your stuff to hold on to for you. They could mail it to you or you could pick it up when you return.
Throw something away- As a last resort, you could throw some of your belongings out to meet the weight limit. This isn’t ideal but it is an option. In most cases, it’s cheaper to throw out and replace a few items than it is to pay an overweight bag fee. For example, maybe you throw out a heavy book to make your bag 2 pounds lighter. You might pay $25 to replace the book instead of paying a $100 overweight fee.
Pack light to begin with- Most people overpack and bring things they don’t need. If you pack light, your luggage will never be overweight. To help you reduce the weight of your luggage, check out my guide to ultralight travel.
Why Do Luggage Weight Limits Exist?
There are a few reasons that weight limits for luggage exist. Most importantly, extra weight can lead to manual handling issues for staff members who need to load and unload bags. Every bag is loaded and unloaded by a human. If a piece of luggage is too heavy, the baggage handlers could injure themselves. Having a weight limit saves the backs of the baggage handlers.
The weight of luggage also has an impact on the airplane’s fuel consumption and emissions. Heavier bags require more fuel to lift them into the air. An airplane burns more fuel to stay in the air when it’s heavier. If your luggage weighs too much, it can affect a plane’s takeoff performance. Next time you’re packing your bag, remember that those weight limits are there for a reason.
What is the Weight Limit for Checked Luggage?
The most common weight limit for checked luggage is 50 pounds or 23 kg. Some airlines have a 40 pound or 18 kg limit. If your bag is over the limit, it is considered overweight. Before your flight, you should check the checked bag weight limit with your airline.
Most airlines also have a maximum acceptable weight for overweight luggage. This is usually 80-100 lbs. If your luggage is over the maximum weight, they simply won’t accept it. You’ll have to find a way to reduce the weight or ship your luggage.
The weight limit for checked luggage varies. Some airlines accept heavier bags than others. The limit can also depend on the destination. Sometimes there is a higher baggage limit on international flights or long haul flights than on domestic flights. Sometimes different passenger classes have different weight limits for luggage. For example, first-class and business-class passengers may be allowed more luggage than economy-class passengers.
What is the Weight Limit for Carry On Luggage?
Some airlines weigh carry-on bags and others do not. If you’re planning to pack carry-on luggage for your next flight, it’s important to know the limit, if there is one.
These days, most airlines have strict weight restrictions. If you exceed the limit, you may be required to check your carry-on bag. To avoid any problems at the airport, make sure to weigh your carry-on before you leave for your trip.
The carry-on limit varies depending on the airline and destination. The average carry-on weight limits are 15 lb (6.8 kg), 18 lb (8 kg), and 22 lb (10 kg). Some airlines allow your carry-on to weigh up to 35 pounds (15 kg).
Some airlines don’t have weight restrictions or carry-on luggage. Carry-on bags are only limited by size. To be safe, always check the weight and size limit for carry-on luggage with your airline before you travel.
If your carry-on is too heavy, you may be able to rearrange your items so that they fit within the weight limit. For example, you can put heavier items, such as books or electronics, in your personal item, such as a purse or laptop case. By doing this, you’ll be able to keep your carry-on within the limit and avoid having to check it. Most airlines don’t weigh your personal item but some do.
Luggage Size Limits
Airlines also limit luggage size. Both checked and carry-on luggage sizes are subject to the luggage limit. If your luggage is over the size limit, you can be charged an oversized luggage fee. The oversized luggage fee is usually the same as the overweight fee. On most airlines, the excess baggage fee is $100-$200.
Most airlines limit the size of checked luggage to 62 linear inches. This measurement consists of the length, width, and depth of a bag added together. The most common carry-on size limit is 9″ x 14″ x 22″ (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm). This is the maximum size that will fit in the overhead bin of most aircraft.
Final Thoughts About Weighing Luggage Without a Scale
No matter where your travels take, be sure to save yourself the extra fee at the airport by weighing your luggage before your flight. Even if you don’t have a luggage scale available, you can still make a pretty accurate estimation of the weight of your luggage by comparing it to household items or making a lever and fulcrum scale. You can also weigh your luggage with a bathroom scale. With a little bit of planning ahead, you can weigh your luggage and avoid those pesky overweight baggage fees.
Do you have any other tips for packing light and avoiding overweight baggage fees? Share them with us in the comments below!
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