How We Spent $145 Trying to Save $40

Trip 

We had a wonderful trip to San Diego last week, but it was not without a few mishaps–one which cost us pretty dearly.

We'd watched the sales, compared lots of prices on many different websites, and ended up getting an excellent travel deal through Travelocity for our trip package. To further sweeten things, we had shopped through ShopAtHome during their double cashback days around Thanksgiving so we also got a nice refund on our travel purchase.

And we were paying with cash we had set aside for this celebratory vacation, so we were feeling pretty happy about how inexpensively we were pulling off this trip to San Diego. We should have known better than to be patting ourselves on the back, though, for we were about ready to make a silly and costly mistake–all in an effort to save more money.

We're not seasoned travellers and we've only flown a few times in the last few years so we haven't done a great job of keeping up with the rules and regulations for air travel. The last time we'd flown, we'd brought in our two smaller hand-me-down suitcases and ended up having to pay $80 ($20 per suitcase per flight) to get our suitcases to our destination and back. That seemed like an awful lot of money to pay and we noticed pretty much everyone else around us checked only one large bag.

This time around, we decided we'd get smart. We'd do what it seemed everyone else did when travelling and we'd only bring one suitcase. This would save us $40 and would be more efficient, right?

We used a gift card to buy the largest suitcase we could find and we packed everything in it.  And I do mean everything. Aside from us each having a small carry-on bag, we had packed every article of clothing, all the diapers, and pretty much every other thing we'd need for five people to be gone for six days. Suffice it to say, it was a lot of stuff, even though we tried our best to only pack essentials.

We could barely lift the stuffed-to-overflowing suitcase to get it in the van when we left, but we'd done it–we'd only used one suitcase!

By the time we got everyone out of the van and into the check-in line at the airport, it was only 40 minutes until our flight was scheduled to leave. (In our podunk Kansas airport, there's usually no need to get there early since the lines are short and move quickly.)

We were feeling happy with how everything was going until we noticed that the folks in front of us had their big suitcases open and were rearranging things. The couple next to them had clothes and miscellaneous items all strewn around the floor in front of the check-in counter and they were quickly dumping more out and angrily talking amongst themselves. 

It was then that we heard the reason behind all this craziness. The lady at the check-in counter bellowed out: "If your suitcase is over 50 pounds, there's a $145 charge!"

Jesse and I instinctively looked at each other, looked at our one gigantic suitcase, and looked back at each other. We were in trouble.

We took our suitcase up to the scale and weighed it. It totaled a whopping 71 pounds. Um, yes, what were we thinking?!

A simple phone call or web search would very likely have let us know days ago that our suitcase was going to be too heavy. But we'd foolishly never taken the time to check.

With about 35 minutes to spare until our flight took off, we quickly surveyed our limited options. There was no way we could lighten up the load in the suitcase by 21 pounds–we'd basically only packed essentials but when you're travelling for six days with three little children, it requires quite a few essentials! And we'd miss our flight and very likely not be able to catch another in the next 24 hours if we waited for someone to bring us another suitcase.

Realizing we didn't really have any other options, we stepped up to the counter, gulped, and paid $145 for that massive suitcase.

Next time we think we're making a "smart" decision based upon what we think we see other people doing, we hope we'll remember our suitcase mistake and stop and do our own research. It just might save us $145–or more!

By the way, we borrowed a carry-on suitcase from FishMama for the way home and we were able to strategically work things so our big suitcase only weighed in at 49.5 pounds!

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Comments

  1. says

    Argh! I feel your pain! We just had the same thing happen to us on our return flight from Albuquerque just a couple days ago. MIL bought our toddler a ton of clothes. We were able to cram everything in to come home. When we saw that it was over 50lbs, we figured they’d charge double since other people taking two lighter bags were getting charged just $20 per bag and their total weights were much higher than our little 67lbs. Well…. imagine our surprise when they said it was an extra $90. We ended up throwing away a lot of those clothes. We learned our lesson.

  2. Katie says

    Awwwwww, well at least you had a nice trip! I am still amazed that you are saved, in a year, full payment for a house, that is truly amazing!! :)
    Your children are adorable! I had my second daughter a few days after your son was born, May 12, 2009, Zyana Jade!
    I love your blog

    Bless you and your family!

  3. Stacy says

    I am surprised you didn’t appeal to them with the point that there were two adults and three children for that *1* bag, and that you were actually saving them the work. I do understand the extra fees, though, not just for the weight/fuel issue, but for the safety of their employees who have to handle those bags. Too bad that info isn’t plain as day on your ticket info.

    Thank you so much for being humble enough to share your failings. That is truly priceless.

  4. Allison V. says

    Oh no! I flew with my two toddlers when I was pregnant, and I only packed one suitcase because I knew I couldn’t manage more AND push a stroller with 2 kids in it! I even packed the toddler potty seat! I did not pack diapers but bought them when we arrived. I seem to remember standing on the scale just to be safe. There’s no way we could afford $145, or any extra fees, for that matter. But then again, we have no reason to fly now that we’ve moved back here where family is.

  5. Lana says

    It’s crazy what the airlines can get away with now. Our son flew to boot camp and back this past summer and he was charged $40 to check his duffel bag. Then as we sat with him waiting for his flight an employee of the airline approached us and asked if he had miliyary orders. He did so they refunded the fee for which we were very grateful.

  6. Kristy Mack says

    Been there!! Only our fee was only $50 for anything over 50lbs. I balled my eyes out! I had my 1 year old and was about 5 months pregnant traveling w/ my 80 year old grandma! I tried to talk to the manager, but they would not relent. Needless to say, I have not made that mistake again!

  7. Teresa Schilling says

    Oh yes, the thrill of flying. It is amazing what is allowed and what is not. And every airline if diffrent. My husband refuses to check anything, so when we fly (6 of us) we only get to take what we are each able to carry-on. He once had a small pocket knife which was smaller than what was not allowed on the list, but they made him throw that away. He was so mad, but it was either that our stand to argue and miss the flight. Then one time he was flying to pick up a car and drive it 700 plus miles home. HE wanted to take some tools in case he had problems. So I researched what he could take and found he could take a 6″ screw driver but not a nail clipper. Now how dumb is that.

  8. Jennifer says

    Oh no! I flew to a conference in Canada just after they started charging for luggage, but they weren’t supposed to charge me because it was considered an “international” flight and also because I bought the ticket before they announced the charge or something. So of course they tried to charge me when I got there, so I had to argue and show them all the proof I had printed out from their airline website. I checked TSA guidelines to make sure I could take my tiny scissors online to cut yarn on my knitting. It was fine, and I carried it on. Forgot to check the Canadian guidelines, and they confiscated my favorite folding scissors. Oh well.

  9. Amanda says

    You are allowed one carry on and one persnal item. The carry on can be the small sized suitcase and your personal item can be a back pack, briefcase or purse. I take my small suitcase and put my purse items in a small travel sized purse and put it into my LL Bean Boat tote as my personal item. My husband takes a backpack as his personal bag. We never pay checked bag fees because it is a waste of money. The two items you can carry on have been enough for us for a week vacation. I did pay $50 for an overweight checked bag once at Christmas several years ago. We never check bags since the new fees and it is nice not to have problems with lost luggage anymore. I have had them lose too many bags and learned from that as well! Your children can also have one small suitcase & personal item, so unless you going away for a month you shouldn’t have to check bags!

  10. Amanda says

    Also, always check TSA regulations before you fly, so there are no surprises with your carry on baggage!

  11. Keith Sayles says

    Now it is time to write to the airline. Maybe in the interest of customer service if you explain what you did and why you did it they might refund you the difference. I understand why you didn’t have time to talk to a manager before your flight. Anyway God gives and takes away and all we have are because he allows us to have it. Be glad God has blessed you with a great family and the ability to provide for them. I am sure all of your readers could give you stories on how God provides and then takes away. I would still write a nice letter to the airline requesting a refund.

  12. Debbie says

    It stinks for this to happen, but some lessons are more expensive than others. Look how many people are probably benefitting from your “failure.”
    Yesterday my daughter bought a large rolling duffle. SHe’s studying abroad in Australia for two semesters, so a lot of thought has gone into what she will and won’t bring. We decided that bedding, towels, etc would be purchased “down under” and probably left with a roommate. Lots of fun decisions.
    One tidbit we’ve learned along the way – wear your heaviest things (shoes, jeans, jacket) on the plane. You can take the heavy coat off onboard, and it frees a lot of weight.

  13. cassie says

    I travel quite a bit with my two children and I too try my hardest to only fly Southwest. With two children and all that they require it is very difficult to only pack carry ons. If I am able to only pack carry ons it then becomes very difficult to board with three carry ons and a four and two year old. I usually fly with one large bag and pack an extra empty duffle bag that is carry on size within it, that way if I’m over weight I just pull out the duffle bag and start filling up my second bag. On our last trip the gate agent told me that liquids and shoes usually weigh the most. I removed my makeup, children’s medications and face lotions and that saved me 8 lbs.

  14. Ann says

    Thanks for sharing your story – I guess we’re all human and we all have our frugal failure moments! Glad you had a good trip anyway!!

  15. Ramona says

    Actually, you will save the money you all spent this time in the future because God has taught you a lesson for the future and you learned from it. Only God is perfect. At least you all had the money from your saving smart throughout the years to pay for this unexpected expense, which happens to the best of us. Your children are precious, love the picture!

  16. heidh says

    I recommend going to a web site christoper Elliott – he’s a travel advice guy writes all over in newspapers across the U.S. – read him in the S. F. Chronicle and he directed me to the e-mails of vip airline people and I got a refund for a problem my elderly parents had. Research what other airlines charge for overage and yours seems ridiculous – I have never heard it is ever that high – write them an e-mail with your total weight of luggage for 5 people and see what they do. I always write letters – I get good responses usually.

  17. says

    That’s hysterical. I traveled so much in my “pre-stay-at-home-mom” years, I knew where this was going. Been there, done that :)

    Your son is absolutely adorable (your daughters too). Maybe it’s just me, but it’s so different! My first boy is 5 months old and he’s 100 times more work than both of my girl ever were… he’s lucky he’s so cute :)

  18. says

    I also try to only fly SW airlines (much friendlier than the rest and I fly a lot for my job). I had a similar bad experience-I was able to fly to LA with my bag for free (GOV work), but on the way home 2 T-shirts I added to the bag apparently took the bag to the 100lb mark (I questioned the accuracy of the scale and received some really sorry customer service). I ended up buying a cheapo duffel bag from them for $25 and divided up the items to make each one 50 lbs and then they charged me an $20 per bag. This was American Airlines, BTW, and they have REALLY, REALLY unfriendly people working for them at LAX!

  19. says

    There are other traveling pitfalls. We were going to Las Vegas to visit two brothers and a granddaughter. Decided (along with third brother) to live it up a bit and reserved rooms through Travelocity at Circus Circus, prepaying to get a great rate. Not until we went to check in did we find out that PFV TV and Wifi were not only available, but even though we knew we would not be using them we were assessed an access charge (daily!) for the privilege having them whether used or not. Bummer!! The travel industry is in pain and eases it through our pocket books.