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How We Spent $145 Trying to Save $40


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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  • Sarah @bluefroggie says:

    Aw, that’s okay, Crystal! Things like this happen to all of us! Thanks for sharing your mishaps along with your triumphs. By the way, your kiddos are too cute!!

  • Myra says:

    Oh my! Wow. That’s a lot!

    Thanks for being real and sharing even your mistakes! 🙂

    So glad you had a good trip in spite of it all!

  • Tammy Schrader says:

    Same thing happened to use recently coming home from FLA. Our suitcase was 8 lbs. over, yep, 58 lbs. The were going to charge us 95 bucks for that! We took enough stuff out and stuffed into our carry on and my backpack. Thing was, though, when we left our home town in Ga to fly to Fla there was no problem with the weight of the bag, same stuff was in there too! Go figure

  • Last Christmas we used a super large suitcase, too in hopes getting all our presents to and from with out mailing them. That cost us $50 when it was over 50lbs. It weighed around 65. Those big suitcases don’t work well any more with extra fees these days flying.

  • melanie says:

    Thanks for sharing! You’re only human! My husband flies to FL for business often and last we went along he made us only take 1 carry-on each (for an infant too) because he didn’t want to pay the outrageous prices for checked-bags.

  • Sheila says:

    I find it fabulous that you have a section titled frugal failures. It happens to the best of us – thanks for reminding us. 🙂

  • I love that picture of your kids. So cute! It’s nice to hear that even the super savers slip up now and then.

  • Oh dear, I’m sorry! That stinks. For future thought, unless you use cloth diapers, it’s a lot easier to just buy them at your destination than to take up space and pay for the weight of shipping them. Just pack enough for one day.

  • Challice says:

    Its hard to know what to do when rules change so much. I have never flown before but I am sure tucking away the idea to call ahead on ideas and get it in writting.

  • Yasmin says:

    We have 6 children and so we know how much of a hassle traveling with kids can be. My advice for next time:

    Pack no more than three outfits per child. Four if the children are under the age of three. Color coordinate to make washing easier.

    Skip multiple pairs of socks per kid. Two pairs per kid. Hand wash in the hotel bathroom at night and air dry.

    Wash in the hotel’s laundrymat (typically less than $5 for a wash/dry load)

    Pack DRY laundry detergent in snack size ziploc bags and LABEL it. OR buy travel size ones (Tide travel size can be picked up for FREE with coupons at Walmart).

    Pack folding toothbrushes that fold into itself, saves room.

    Skip taking multiple toys to amuse the kids. One coloring book/box of crayons is enough for older kids.

    Skip the PJs, pack a few large t-shirts for the kids (dad’s t-shirts work). My girls love their dad’s old t-shirts and wear shorts under them to sleep. Their PJs are now only worn when they go to a sleep-over.

    One pair of shoes per kid. When we travel in the spring, fall or winter I pack hiking boots, summer – sandals. Tennis shoes have the nasty habit of getting wet with something and dirty.

  • I wanna know what airline?!? That is a RIDICULOUSLY high charge for an overweight bag.

    So sorry you had to spend the extra money!


  • thessa says:

    Oh no! I would have asked for a manager to get a pass on the fee. After all, you had ONE suitcase for 5 people. You could have brought five 50 lb suitcases for a grand total of 250 lbs. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your frugal failures.

  • Jen says:

    It is difficult to travel with children, and now the charges for the bags makes it even harder! We went to Disney World in Aug. with 4 in tow, a 6 yr. old, 4 y.o. twins and a 14 mo. old (and I was 18 weeks pregnant at the time!) It takes serious time and packing skills… we have learned to carry as much on the plane as we can. Since we paid for 5 seats we had many carry ons we could take. We ended up having to pay the $15 for the big seat case which still upsets me! I have so been there! We are planning a vacation with our 5 little ones now… maybe I should rethink that! :o)

  • Jackie Brown says:

    We all make mistakes we could kick ourselves for, but what adorable kids you have to look at and smile to forget the mighty dollar!!!

  • Angie says:

    The same thing happened with us. We took a trip to Florida in December. We were fine on the way down, but went WAY over on the way back. It was partially due to fact that we didn’t want to lug a bunch in carry-ons and partially because my MIL thinks it is a wonderful idea to buy our kids dozen of books for Christmas. Luckily, our fee was only $50 addition. It still cost us more than if we booked 2 smaller bags. Lesson learned! I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  • Amy Andrews says:

    Ooooohhhh, the overweight bag. Yikes! I will say the airlines don’t always make it obvious that there’s a weight limit. I’m a missionary kid so I have lots and lots of memories of packing the suitcase(s) and standing on the bathroom scale with them the night before departure to make sure we didn’t go over. It became a bit of a game to get as close to the weight limit as possible without going over. Good times.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip to SD despite the minor mishap! We lived in San Diego 2 moves ago (then NY, now TX) and we loved it. It’s my 2nd favorite place in the US to live. 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    Been there! The charge was not that steep, but left me mad for not knowing the policy before traveling. Thanks for sharing to remind us that we all human!

  • Kathleen says:

    That is too bad about having to pay that hefty fee. I don’t understand how they can justify $145 for that. At least you had a good trip! Thanks for sharing your “frugal failure”. I will definitly remember to check the rules on big suitcases and weight limits next time I fly.

  • Kathleen says:

    I just wanted to add that I love the picture of your kiddos! So cute!!

  • Tina says:

    Beautiful picture, Crystal. Thanks for sharing. Ya know, when things like that happen, you just have to say “Oh well” and then worry not. Thanks for sharing with us though. I don’t think I would’ve thought to check on the weight of the suitcase either, so we can all learn from you.

  • UGH! It’s so frustrating when we have to pay stupid tax! I sympathize!

  • man that little boy of your is adorable!! 🙂

  • Sheila says:

    This is why we now fly Soutwest Airlines exclusively. What is really crazy is how many people just accept things like this and don’t worry about it. At least you had a great trip!

  • Sharon says:

    My SIL and her family found that out at Thanksgiving time when they flew here. Luckily they did have time and were able to lighten their suitcase enough to get under the weight limit.

    Dang airlines and their stupid fees!

  • JenniferM says:

    No one is perfect. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

  • Dawn says:

    I’m feeling a little guilty for not mentioning the weight limit when you asked for tips on Facebook! In November our one suitcase was too heavy. We were able to make it work though by putting stuff in our carry-ons. Although it was a little frustrating, because I had strategically packed our carry-ons for the flight and then I didn’t know where anything was.

    I always pack my diapers with me. Most of them all go in the diaper bag. You can pack a carry-on size bag and gate check it for free too.

  • Mary says:

    Crystal, I love following your blog. I love that you share your failures along with your triumphs. You rock!


  • Laura says:

    im sorry you had to go through that we all learn somehow 🙂 i travel at least twice a year with my 2 boys my hubby is in the military so its part of the lifestyle lol i dont travel light but i do have a few tricks when packing put footwear socks and undergarments in the carry on bag when traveling with an infant you can have two carry ons and even a diaper bag stuff the baby diaper bag to the max some airlines let you substitute the stroller for a suitcase for the baby if hes a lap child

  • LueytheHuey says:

    I’m sorry. Yes, the flight regulations are mucky these days. Well, I have a great tip for you on admission to the SD Zoo. If you are going with four individuals (or even three), your best bet is to actually buy an annual family membership. For about $90 ($80 if you’ve previously had a membership), two adults can annual passes to BOTH the SD Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. PLUS, you receive two free guest tickets which can be used at either park with the membership. There are also discounts included for the park buses, shops etc.

  • Tara says:

    At least you caught it on the tail-end and didn’t have to pay it again!

  • Oh, that happened to me too! Luckily, my boyfriend packed light and I transferred stuff to his suitcase. Traveling is a mess. I wish someone would make it easier!

  • Leah W says:

    Ouch! Makes me glad we don’t travel a lot.

  • jillbert says:

    It seems so unfair that you had to pay the fee when you bought several tickets and weren’t checking bags for each one. Glad you had a good trip but it’s a bummer when something like that goes wrong.

  • At least those faces are priceless, right? They are so beautiful, Crystal.

    Lesson learned, mama. Lesson learned.

  • Camille says:

    Yeah, they’ve always charged extra if it is over 50 lbs on domestic flights (I think it is 70 lbs internationally). Even Southwest, who still lets you check in 2 suitcases per ticket for free, charges for over 50 lbs! It is easy to overlook if you don’t travel often especially if you are used to using smaller suitcases!

    Sorry that happened!

  • Lora says:

    That’s too bad, Crystal! I’m sorry that happened to you. My family flies often and the 50 lb. limit has been in strict effect for quite a long time now. And now, of course, they have the extra charges for extra bags. And no decent snacks on long flights anymore either:) Air travel just isn’t that much fun anymore, is it?

  • Monica says:

    Right before they changed the rule about luggage weight my DH and I went out and bought two huge suitcases. They are still in our attic, unused. 🙁 He travels all the time for work and divides his stuff to a carryon and small suitcase. When we traveled this summer with three children we took one small suitcase per person plus carryones. Seems crazy huh? Sorry about your costly mistake, it just shows your human right? One tip is if you take your own carseats most airlines don’t charge and you can sneak some clothes/shoes/diapers in the bag with the carseat. I’ve done that before. 🙂

  • Liz says:

    Thank you for being so candid and sharing this with us! I used to travel a lot for business (before becoming a mom! :-), and I remember how frustrating it was to comply with all the different luggage weight/size/number requirements! I’m so sorry you had to pay so much. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip though – we have family in San Diego and I agree, it’s absolutely lovely there!!

  • Thanks for sharing your story. Your kids are so stinkin’ cute. I think I would have had a heart attack, I can’t believe that they charge $145! I guess even the best couponer out there has times where something just doesn’t work out.

  • Blue says:

    i’m a flight attendant, so i’m all about baggage. at my airline our CEO has instructed the gate agents to be realistic about the luggage restrictions. when a 300 pound man checks his 49 pound suitcase for free, and then the little tiny 110-pound-if-she’s-sopping-wet granny steps up to the counter with her 56 pound bag…take into consideration the spirit of the policy and do the right thing.

    it’s a tough issue…airlines DO need to cover their expenses, and more weight=more fuel burned. but these days if you have the biggest carry-on sized luggage for each person in your party, PLUS their one “personal item”, it is usually possible to get away with not checking luggage at all.

    my husband is interviewing for residency all over the country right now, and as i’ve been booking his flights, i check each airline’s luggage policy because you have to factor that into the cost of a ticket. happily, he’s managed to pack for up to 12-days away at a time (including dress suits and shoes and exercise wear and “regular clothes”) in his ONE allowable carry on.

    we watched some really amusing online videos about how to pack (did you know there are still “butler training schools” today?! you can google for more info on packing) and learned a trick or two about packing to minimize wrinkles etc.

    if you MUST check a bag, add the price of doing so to your fare, because it may make a difference in choosing which flight to book. and finally, DO make sure your carry on bag is within the allowable carry on size limits. i hate it when people board with their monsterbags and try to convince me that “i measured and it says it’s within the size”. honey, if we could have bags THAT big, all the flight attendants would have them too. we know!

    hope you bought a cheap duffel for the return trip. you can even use a cardboard box you know. it doesn’t have to be a proper suitcase! i’m sorry this happened to you.

  • Sonia McNeely says:

    You should fly Southwest Airlines, they have a great baggage policy. Each ticket holder can bring 2 carry on’s & check 2 bags up to 50 LB each. You can also substitute one checked bag for two baby items (car seat, crib, swing, etc) Then you can also gate check a stroller on top of everything else! We recently went to Disney World and then to a beach resort for two weeks, I have a baby & a 3 year old so we had a lot of stuff 🙂

    Money Saving Mom here: If only Southwest flew out of our little airport! I’ve heard it’s an excellent airline to fly with!

  • Ruth says:

    We flew on the same airline from LAX to GA, but they only measured the big suitcase in GA, on our return flight. They charged a whooping $75 dollars extra on top of the baggage fee because the suitcase was 1/2 inch too fat! It was a mistake to get the biggest suitcase I could find. I am a lot older than you, so don’t feel bad.

  • Bethany says:

    Our bag was WAY over on our trip home from Christmas, but since my husband was military….they waived the fee! Just wanted to let you all know!

  • valerie says:

    we have this problem every time someone comes to our house from england or we go there 8 years ago you could take as many bag on the plane as u could carry and check in 2 suitcases at 75lbs internationally each. but now it has changed and it depends on who u fly with to. when we last flew to england from usa we only had 2 kids with us we where aloud to check in 2 suitcases each so we tock 4 then as u have a baby you can have a nappie bag for them your bag and a pushchair i gave our 3 year old then a back pack with change of cloths wash stuff and toys the kids wear there pjs on the plane gave the baby a backpack with the same stuff in it but hubby carried that the hubby had a bag to. u can pack alot of suff in to yr carry on but remember u have to carry that all with u that where a good pushchair come in handy. last time my brother came here for 3 months i told him to pack light as he was only aloud one carry on and check in for 50lbs he used my hubbys clothes when he was here i sent all the gifts back with him and the wieght was 51.5 lbs and they didnt change us but my was over like that when she went back and the man told us to sort it out there and then so just all check the air line who u go with

  • Mackenzie says:

    If you are up to 1 lb overweight, they won’t charge you for the extra weight. 🙂

    I take full advantage of the one carry on plus one personal item. My personal item is a very large purse (sometimes I put heavy shoes or books in it) and the carry on can be a small suitcase.

    Also, for this reason I only fly Southwest because they don’t charge for baggage!

    Have you had any experiences with getting bumped? This is a great way to get free flights and extras. I have some strategies if you’d like to email me about them.

  • Jaycie says:

    Oh, what a bummer way to start off your vacation, Crystal! But glad to hear you had a good time there and that FishMama helped you avoid charges on the way back. What a great friend! I’m glad I’m flying through SW to Blissdom now that I’ve read up on their baggage policies. Not that I’d have a big suitcase, but it’s good to know!


  • He’s gotten so big and is so darling! Thanks for sharing your experiences so that we can avoid doing this is we ever take the family on an airplane someday!

  • Melissa says:

    This is one mistake I bet you will never make again!

    We only travel with carryons, no matter where we are going. We went to Poland for 2 weeks – carryons only! We’re headed to Germany later this spring, and again we’ll only be using carryons. It’s cheaper to pay to do a load or 2 of laundry a week than it is to pay for 3 checked bags there and back.

  • Ha- this cracked me up. Those fees are getting to be outrageous!!

    Instead of tacking on 10 new fees I wish they could just raise the prices to an appropriate amount- but I know is all physiological- and people may not travel as much if they think their trip is going to cost more. When it is broken up they just forget what they are actually paying.

    Thanks for sharing- in the scheme of things $140 is not going to make or break your overall budget- so in the end you can chalk it up to living and learning and a funny story to remember.

  • Karen says:

    Oh my word, that is crazy! I used to travel a lot for work and found that if I carried one of those bags that you can make smaller or bigger with a zipper, I could put some things from my checked bag into my carry on if it went over the weight limit, but I never heard of it being so expensive! Sorry that happened!

  • Michele says:

    OH, that stinks. Sorry about that, but we all go through these life lessons….and some are harder to swallow than others. 🙂 I’m glad you had a great trip though….and it was worth that extra $145, wasn’t it?? 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    It can’t hurt to give the airline a call and ask for a refund! We just flew to Florida and we were supposed to have 1 checked bag free for all 4 of us, and they ended up charging us $90. I called, had to talk to 4 different people, but finally got it refunded. Worth 30 minutes of my time, for sure!

    The kids are too cute! Congrats on achieving your huge financial goals!!

  • Momma Mindy says:

    OUCH! What a painful mistake. In flying this Christmas, I learned if you check your bags in online, it was $5 cheaper per bag with our airline. Also, you can bring a carry-on suitcase for free and they don’t weigh those. So, each of our kids packed one roller suitcase and one purse and we only had to check in one bag for shoes and liquids and an 18 gallon Rubbermaid of presents, that we left there.

    I bet in the end, you STILL saved money on your trip, so the mistake wasn’t nearly as costly as it feels. I feel your pain! 🙂

  • Need A Nap2 says:

    I LOVE your application – following along with what someone else does is NOT always our best choice! 🙂 (And that you share your failures.)

  • The carryon maniacs can be frustrating too. I recently traveled to Atlanta and back from Ohio, in one day for work. I packed an emergency pair of undies and a shirt, along with a toothbrush, toothpaste, notebook and pen, two books to read and a ball of yarn and crochet hook. So, a very small totebag. I could barely get in my one tiny bag because people were stuffing multiple, large carryons into the bins!

  • Lynn says:

    Ouch! What a costly lesson. I have to admit that I got a good chuckle. Mind you I wasn’t laughing at you but at the things we do in the name of frugality. Gotta love it! Thanks, for keeping it real.

    Money Saving Mom here: Glad you got a good chuckle. We hope to be able to laugh at ourselves someday, too. 🙂

  • Helen says:

    Doh! Lesson learned! Thanks for sharing your mistake in a humorous way 🙂

  • trinity says:

    They have been charging fees for over the wieght limit suitcases for years now that I know of. Last time I flew was about 8 years ago and I had a huge suitcase that was over 50 lbs. I was only charged $1 per pound over so it was only like $25. It is much better to have smaller sized suitcases especially if you are paying for all the tickets. I think you are allowed at least 1 check-in and 1 carry on per person. I would contact the airlines now after the fact and let them know about your dissatisfaction. You had one 71 pound suitcase for 5 people so they should have factored that in and not charged you I think. Even if they only considered the tow adults that would have even been fine. Honestly if you voice to them the problem you never know. You may not get a refund but maybe you will get some coupons or vouchers or something for another trip. I always buy a few inexpensive flat fold up duffel bags and bring them with me on trips and put them in a zipper part of luggage and then fill them with any other items we get while we are on a trip. I think it is a lot easier to carry a few lighter bags than one huge heavy bag. You are only human and guess this is definitely a lesson learned that you can pass on to others.

    BTW…you kids are absolutely adorable!!! They could be models honestly really beautiful pic!

  • Laura says:

    When we travel, we have each of our children (ages 12, 9, and 4) carry a backpack. Besides books and other items to entertain them on the plane, they take a few of their clothes or personal care items. Obviously babies can’t wear backpacks, though!

  • Courtney says:

    Seems like it would make more sense to make a baggage weight allowance per person of a party traveling together. So if you were traveling as a family of 5 and each person got a 50lb weight allowance, you could check a 250lb suitcase (yikes!). Then one family could pack in one or two (heavier) bags and still take less luggage than 5 or 6 adults each packing 50 lbs.

  • Melissa says:

    I think I know which airline you took 😛

    That *almost* happened to me this summer. My giant suitcase was about 6 lbs too heavy, and I was NOT about to pay that much for a measly six pounds. I was coming home from visiting my family, and my mom took a bunch of random stuff out of my suitcase (mostly toiletries that I had more of at home) and ended up mailing them to me. It’s crazy that they charge that much for a heavy suitcase!

  • Oh bummer!! I HATE learning things the hard way like that. Don’t feel bad. You didn’t know to call and ask about that! At least you were fortunate enough to find a way around it on the return flight. That STINKS!!

  • supreme says:

    i don’t know how flights work within the US but any flights going TO the US (like from Canada) now have crazy restrictions on the carry on luggage. I have two littles and was looking forward to packing a bunch of stuff in carry on bags for our flight to San Diego… Will have to rethink my packing strategy…

  • Oh, man. Aren’t those regulations just crazy??!!So hard to travel nowadays!

  • Lea says:

    My folks are seasoned world travelers and have always brought a small-ish size suitcase and a designed for travel carry-on. The designed for travel carry ons are about the size of a large boot box and hold really everything (they gave us their old ones!). They roll their clothes rather than folding to pack more in and only take the bare essentials. It really is easier to do washing – even just the ‘necessities’ in the sink. And you really can wear most of your clothes more than once before washing. Also bring some things you can toss when you’re there – travel size toiletries, almost-worn out socks, etc. My folks also pack a structured bag that folds flat in case they have some extra things on the way home. Since it doesn’t lock, they stick their dirty clothes in it on the way home, close it with a zip or twist tie and pack the special stuff in their suitcase. 🙂

    If we’re going somewhere where I know we can do the wash for free (my in-laws, my folks, etc.),I only pack for 3 days no matter how long we’ll be there. Makes the load a lot lighter!

    Sorry this happened to you Crystal. Those fees really are outragious! 😛

  • Aimee says:

    We have found that our large suitcase completely full is about 50 lbs so we try to put everything into that suitcase, weight it at home to double check, and then we still take a second suitcase and put very little if anything in it so we have room for anything extra we come home with. Another tip – if you know in advance you will have to pay to check a bag, check Fedex rates to have it shipped to your destination/home. The company I work for lets me use their acct and discounted shipping rates, sometimes it works out cheaper and you don’t have to hassle with checking it at all.

  • Sarah H says:

    I typically travel Delta. They allow one carry on and one personal item per ticket. Last time I traveled..I got the largest carry on packed all clothes in it, my son who was 3 also had his own carry on w/ his clothes. His entertainment was in his personal bag. Because I travel to my parents house, we leave a stash of personal items including diapers, shampoo, etc there so we don’t even have to worry about the liquids mess.

    Love the pic of your kids! Adorable!!!

  • Paula says:

    I have not flown in almost 5 years, but we flying out for a funeral in Nov. While I was waiting to load, two women were talking. One was saying how she bought a scale to weight her luggage and it was the best investment she had ever made, because she can get her suitcase packed up to 49.9lbs and not have to pay the extra money for the heavy suitcase. I had no idea the extra charge was so much though. WOW. When we flew out 5 years ago, we had each child with their carry on suitcase and a small bag (with girls, they have to have their purses, right?). We were able, with my husband and I each having a small carry on suitcase and my humungo purse, to avoid any check in luggage. Something to think of in the future as the kiddos get older and can carry a rolling child’s suitcase behind them. 😀

  • melissa says:

    i sympathize also. that is such a huge amount of money to shell out unexpectedly for a fee. i also appreciate you sharing your mistakes. i make a ton and it’s nice to know i’m not alone in making some while trying to save money

  • Rachel S says:

    These Airlines can just drive you nuts! ARGH! 🙂
    Southwest doesn’t charge for bags- just a heads up!

    🙂 We all run into these snaffoos at some point! 🙂

  • Becky says:

    So sorry to hear about this but thanks for sharing. All of us have these types of moments. We traveled over the holidays and learned that if you check in online, print your boarding passes and pay online for your luggage, you can save $5 per suitcase from some airlines (we flew United). This not only saved us money in checked bagged but saved us heaps of time once we arrived at the airport as we just had to drop off our bags and not wait in the super long check in line. Even time is valuable when traveling with little people 🙂

  • Sara says:

    Haha. We have a suitcase nicknamed Big Red. She’s huge and holds everything. She’s perfect for roadtrips, but terrible for flights. We’ve actually banned ourselves from using her for flights because she’s too easy to overstuff. And the last time we used her, we also learned – the the tune of $50+ – that she’s oversize too. So next time you fly, be sure to not only weigh your suitcases but measure them too! 🙂

    Also, be sure to check with your airlines to learn what their particulars are regarding checked bag allowances. And make sure you’re actually flying the same carrier the whole trip. Some carriers are dropping flights and contracting with other carriers for some of their flights. Some carriers are now charging for any checked bags. We learned this the hard way on a different trip. The carrier there allowed 1 checked bag each. They’d contracted with a different carrier for the return flights. That carrier charged for each checked bags – sneaky, sneaky. (And frustrating too!)

  • Noah says:

    The weight limit used to be 70 or 75 pounds when was in college.

    I really hate the checked baggage fees. When traveling with kids you can’t do just carry ons. It’s hard enough to get the kids and diaper bag and car seats through teh airport as it is. Hauling one or two carryons per person just isn’t going to happen.

    JetBlue is also a no baggage fee (one bag per person) airline. But you have to be careful with some of the no fee airlines, sometimes the ticket is still more then if you just travel another and pay for luggage.

    Oh, the other trick we use is pack 2 small duffles for the boys and then put them together in a large duffle bag to check. That way we have smaller bags to fit in the rental car, but don’t have to pay to check bags.

  • Marie says:

    I’m so sorry! That just flat out stinks.

  • hautesavings says:

    That happened to me a few years back and I refused to pay the additional amount and so I layered about 5 pieces of clothes on! It was a sight to see, but they didn’t say a peep,lol. Since then I check the requirements and use my trusty travelon hand held scale at home, at the airport & before I fly home from my trip. No problems since 🙂

  • Mary in Toledo says:

    This is why we ship everything not necessary ahead of time when we visit family or friends (the shipping is cheaper than the extra baggage fees)

  • Sara H says:

    Thanks for sharing your mishap. It is nice to know that you are human too:)

  • Dolli-Mama says:

    That is too funny! I have been there, well almost. I knew about the 50lb weight limit, but didn’t have a scale at home to check. So when I tried to check in, my bag came to 54 lbs! I pulled some stuff out, and got it down to 50.7, so they didn’t charge me because it was still under 51lbs. That 50 lb limit is tricky when you have a big suitcase and are trying to put everyones stuff in one bag!
    Your post made me giggle!

  • Stacy says:

    You have 3 beautiful children, Crystal!!!

    That charge is plain silly! How do they come up with these figures? It sounds like you had a great trip though.

  • Kristen says:

    Sometimes I think airlines don’t have any common sense! As others have pointed out – your family of five was packed in ONE suitcase.

    If we lived closer to our family (we’re in California, they’re all in Texas) I would never use airlines again, and only drive!

  • Melinda says:

    We have a carry-on for everyone who has a ticket. I found some small suitcases for our 3 and 5 year old and paid nothing for our bags. It’s a hassle getting on and off the plane but well worth it for the price. Plus strollers and carseats are free with most airlines.

  • Heather says:

    I was 2 pounds over on the way back from NY last fall and had to remove several items, including a pair of boots into my purse and carry on. The fee would have “only” been $85 for me though. I cannot believe that an airline is charging $145 for overweight luggage!! That is crazy! Thanks for sharing though. I am sure you have helped countless people be more careful in the future!!

  • Sak says:

    I usually fly SW whenever possibly because they don’t charge for 2 bags. The other thing I do now is only buy the middle size suitcases. I’ve found that those add up to about 50 pounds when they are packed full. I’m sorry that you had to pay so much! Another suggestion is to pack a zippered totebag (empty of course) into the front pocket of your suitcase incase something like this happens, then you could pull it out and take a few things out to lighten the load. This happened to me in Va, but the TSA was really nice and let me try and balance the 2 suitcases I had for the four of us to avoid a fee.

  • heather grice says:

    Thanks for sharing! Your babies are sooo cute! 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    I think you should write the airline a polite letter of complaint. Point out that you were travelling with 3 small children and only checked one suitcase for 5 individuals. Maybe they will at least send you a coupon!! Worth a shot.

  • Rae says:

    What I do is take as much on board as possible. On almost every airline, you can have one carry on (small suitcase) that can go in overhead compartment and one personal item (diaper bag, purse, or small backpack) that has to fit by your feet per person. We take advantage of this. In fact, the small suitcases hold all of my kids clothes and diapers. The personal items hold my diaper bag stuff, purse stuff, and our gps and/or laptop. Carseats don’t count towards this. Then we only have one medium size check in that has my husband’s and my clothes. We still have enough carry on “spots” available but we can only lug so much through the airport lol. I also have a trick for transporting it. The small suitcases on wheels hold our carseats (the convertible kind) on top when the pull handle is up. I use the LATCH straps to secure it. Then our personal items (and coats if applicable) get buckled in to the seat. It only takes one hand to wheel each contraption lol so I’ll have that and the baby in a soft carrier and my husband will do the same with another set plus having one more personal item and my oldest sucks it up and walks carrying his kids backpack.

  • Jennifer Kaiser says:

    Oh yikes! Sorry about that!

  • I recently read an article on about the scales used to weigh bags. Some of them are not correct- thus, you can have one bag weighing 48lbs one time and the same bag with the same items weighing in at 51 or 52 the next time. Always, always weigh your bag at home first if you are unsure about the weight. Then if the airline scale is off, you can dispute it, tell them you weighed it at home, and ask for it to be weighed again on another scale.

    We are going on a trip with an airline that charges us bag fees soon- so we’re trying to go light with one bag instead of two. Thanks for sharing your story, we all mess up and make mistakes in the effort to be frugal at one point or another!

  • Kimi says:

    That was an expensive lesson to learn. My son flew home after being gone for 6 months, and I knew he had a ton of stuff.

    I researched the airline site and printed it all out. I sent it to him, with all the important stuff highlighted.

    You know why I did this?

    Because you taught me to do my homework! But we win some and sometimes we loose some. Try not to beat your self up too hard.

  • Allison says:

    As a math teacher, I really hate this rule. You could have taken one 50 lb suitcase and one 21 lb suitcase for FREE, and that would be the same fuel cost to them as one 71 lb suitcase, but noooooo, airlines would rather charge you money than do some simple math. We took four 50 lb half-empty suitcases to visit my husband’s family in Ecuador for Christmas. It was so much trouble to cart all of those around along with a toddler, especially going through customs and trying to fit it all into his brother’s tiny car. Grrrr.

  • KJ says:

    One thing that would help and eliminate one or two bags is to pack using the space saver bags. It saves alot of room and your clothes aren’t wrinked either.

  • Lisa says:

    Sometimes things just happen. Live and learn, right?

  • Sophia says:

    Oh, I feel your pain!! Though on a smaller scale. I took a vacation over new years and accompanied a friend to her college (12 hours from where I live). I planned to fly back, though I haven’t flown in several years. I bought the ticket early, used Shop-At-Home, and asked more frequent flyers for their money-saving tips. I was set.

    Much to my dismay, when I went to check my luggage I discovered that awful $20 per suitcase charge. I was pretty disappointed to have to pay that in addition to the ticket fee–particularly when I found out that the other airline I could have flown with DIDN’T charge the $20 fee!!

    I’ll know for next time, I guess–but I learned my lesson!

  • Beth B says:

    I bought a used suitcase from a Salvation Army type store to get my extra stuff home from my vacation to my sister’s in San Diego. The suitcase was a fairly nice one but had a broken wheel on it. I spent $7 on it because I was going to use it for a carry on only. It still rolled well enough. I spent $20, I think, to check the bag.

    My sister came and visited me the next month and I sent the suitcase home with her. I know that the next time I go to visit her,

  • Theresa says:

    Chalk it up to a lesson learned! Thanks for sharing…and your kiddos are adorable!!!

  • Lauren says:

    Well, put me down as another person who nearly made this same mistake. I packed 2 (very large) suitcases instead of our usual 4. Mind you, I packed not only essentials, but also lots of food & bottled water (we were heading to a FL theme park, wanted to save $ on food, & were not going to have a car while there, so no option for a grocery stop once we got there).

    I have no idea how much over weight our suitcases were, but we ended up having to take out quite a bit & stuff it into our carry-on’s. I think my son’s carry-on probably ended up weighing more than he did! The good news – we didn’t have to pay an additional fee.

    On our next trip we only packed carry-on’s & think that’s what we’ll do in the future ~ at least as long as they continue to charge for each piece of checked baggage – no matter what the weight (no SW airlines in our area).

  • Jessica says:

    We’re flying with baby for the first time at the end of the month. Thanks for all the hints everyone. I could totally see us making this mistake!! We’ll check with our Airline before flying 🙂 Love to here about the best-intention stories from Money-Saving Mom!

  • Sarah says:

    This about happened to us when we went to Napa. We bought several bottles of wine and put them in our suitcases on the way home and we were over the weight limit. We were able to end up putting several things in our carry ons to get just under the weight limit. We dodged a bullet on that one but had no idea about the limit until we were heading home. We flew Frontier.

  • Heather says:

    When traveling next time keep in mind that everybody that has a seat gets a carry on and a small item (purse, bookbag) that can fit under the seat. My family of three traveled to FL our daughters carry on was her Barbie suitcase. It fit nicely in the overhead bins and my daughter felt like a seasoned traveler rolling her suitcase around the airport. Better yet their was no extra charge, yippee.

  • berkeley says:

    Just my opinion and I know the airlines don’t care, but they should have taken in to consideration the fact that your whole family were all using ONE suitcase. :-}

  • Audra 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Broke Girl says:

    Love that happy new BABY!

  • Too bad Southwest doesn’t fly out of your airport! You can check two bags for free when you fly with them. I LOVE Southwest. I try not to fly on anyone else!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • mandi Harris says:

    Sorry!!! Thanks for sharing. It has been fun reading posts about you and your family.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Amanda says:

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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 🙂

  • Gina 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!

  • Ouch!

    But the real reason I’m commenting is because your kids are just so gosh-darn cute!

  • Grammy Blick 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.

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