My wife and I have been traveling abroad since 2006 when we moved from North American to Asia. Since her mother was a flight attendant, she’s always had a lot of great tips about how to pack while traveling. Every airline has got different rules and regulations, but most of them are similar. These are our tips that helped us save hundreds of dollars in excess baggages fees.
Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame had a nasty surprise when coming through the Philadelphia airport. Most of his very expensive Nikon camera gear was missing from his checked luggage. Here is a list that he posted on his blog:
- Nikon D3
- Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF
- Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
- Leica M8
- Leica 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux
- Cards, cases, etc.
That really sucks. I don’t know what I would do if someone stole my Nikon D200 and my camera gear. Naturally, my gear is worth a lot less than Matt’s. The Nikon D3 alone is worth upwards of 5000$. My camera gear in total is worth about 4000$.
Now, by no means am I a world traveler. I’ve lived in Taiwan, traveled to South East Asia and spent most of my life in Germany, France and Quebec Canada. One thing that I have learned is to never check any valuables in your checked luggage. In fact, my heaviest things, like books, laptops, camera gear, always go into my carry-on luggage. On my last trip back to Taiwan, I had two checked bags filled with clothes and the like for 50lbs each, as per Air Canada regulations. My carry-on luggage was comprised of an Osprey 35L backpack that I use as a camera back. It also had my laptop, a book, some notebooks and some pens.
My other carry-on luggage was filled up to the max with jeans and books. I know that this bag was heavier than my other two bags. It must have weighed at least 50lbs by itself. It seems ludicrous to travel this way, but camera gear and computer gear should never be checked. Most airlines aren’t responsible if they are stolen or lost.
So I arrived in Hong Kong at about 1PM on Saturday. I wasn’t too tired but my next flight to Taipei was at 7:20PM. I wanted to try and get an earlier flight. I was handed a standby ticket stub and told to wait at gate D13 until they called my number. At 2:45PM, they started calling out numbers in Mandarin. It started at around 30 and moved up to 48. At 4:45PM, they called some more numbers. I had made a Taiwanese friend and he suggested that I tried checking in. They might get me on the flight or at least, I would move through customs.
Basically, there was no way in hell that I would make that flight. At least I had a confirmed flight for 7:20PM. I made my way to the line, which was thankfully very short. Immediately, a check-in agent came to see me. She looked at my ticket and I told her my situation. She had me moved to the next awaiting check-in agent. I explained that I had just arrived from Quebec and was going on a connecting flight to Taipei, which explained my excessive baggage. I was actually fearful that I would have to pay an excess baggage fee. I had 2 bags, each weighed 50lbs, almost 30KG over the China Airlines limit.
I have never had to pay excess baggage fees with China Airlines, since they serve as a gateway for international flights leaving form Hong Kong. The check-in agent told me that he would get me on the next flight and checked by baggage. On my way to immigration and customs, they gave me a little stub because of my extra carry-on luggage.
I made my way easily through customs and immigration and made my flight to Taiwan.
I really enjoyed the service I received from China Airlines. Very efficient and professional. Excellent service and great respect from their employees.
Maybe it helped that I was wearing a dress shirt and some cords. I was dressed in business casual. I’m sure that I got better service because of this.