You’re about to depart on your long-awaited vacation, but just a few hours before, you suddenly realize that you don’t have a scale nearby. You’re not a weight-watcher, so you don’t have a regular scale, and you don’t travel that frequently, so you don’t have a luggage scale.
I’ve been in that situation, and I know how frustrating it is. But don’t worry, because you still have a few options.
In some places, you can weigh your luggage for free. And if any of those aren’t nearby, you can estimate the weight at your own home using a simple trick. But if none of those work, you and get your luggage weighed for a small fee at several places.
In this article, we’ll explain everything about weighing luggage: where can you weigh your luggage, how can you weigh luggage without a scale, and other essential things you need to know.
Where Can You Weigh Your Luggage?
- At the post office. Guess what. Usually, when you’re sending out a package, you need to know how heavy it is, so you can estimate the fees. That’s why most post offices have weighs available for their customers. Even if they’re not visible at first glance, you should ask the employee if they have any weighs, and usually, they will.
- At some supermarkets. A few decades ago, it was pretty popular for supermarkets to have scales at the front entrance that people could use to weigh themselves. While it’s not too popular in Europe, most stores in the U.S. have weights at the front entrance that you can use for free. For instance, these are available at every Publix store.
- If there’s a gym nearby, usually it will have a weight. If you have a gym somewhere near, you could go in and ask them if you can use their weights for weighing your luggage. Usually, they have them because people want to track their weight-loss.
- At most hotels and hostels. Most hotels realize that sometimes their clients will forget a luggage scale, and need to quickly weigh their luggage before the flight. So they usually will have larger scales available at the lobby or behind the desk that you can use for free or for a small fee.
- At the airport. As a last resort, you could weight your luggage at the airport. There, you’ll find several stands that let you weight your luggage for a small fee. But sometimes, you can do that for free by weighing your luggage at one of the empty check-in desks if it’s allowed.
P.S. If you’re looking for a new suitcase, in this post we’ve compared the 16 most popular luggage brands. We recommend you check it out first before buying anything.
How to Weigh Luggage Without a Scale
If you don’t have a regular scale or a luggage scale available at home, you can use a balancing technique for weighing your luggage.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A plank or a strong sheet;
- A full water bottle for balancing the plank on top;
- Items with known weight, like dumbbells, water bottles full of water (1l – 2.2lbs), dry food packages (flour, rice, e.t.c.)
- Someone to help you balance everything out.
Here’s how you weigh your suitcase with all the items mentioned above.
- Place the plank/sheet on top of a full water bottle. Make sure to center the water bottle in the middle.
- Place your luggage on one end of the plank, and ask the second person to hold it in place.
- Start adding the items with know weights on the second end until you reach equilibrium. Again, make sure that the water bottle is in the middle because both ends have to be equal in length for it to work.
- Add up the weight of all items you placed on the second end, and you’ll end up with the correct weight of your suitcase.
Alternatively, you could use other methods for weighing your luggage without a scale. If you have a strong enough tube or something similar attached somewhere near the ceiling, you could use a small rope around it and try to balance out your luggage on one end, and a bag full of items with known weights on the other end until both items hover at the same height.
Or, you could use your own hands to determine the rough weight, by comparing your luggage weight to something similar that you know the weight of. This won’t be too precise but should get you close enough.
Weighing Your Luggage With a Luggage Scale
If you don’t own one already, I truly encourage you to get a luggage scale. By having one, you’ll never again have to worry about the weight of your luggage.
Essentially, for 10-20$, you can get a really small and light luggage scale that you can take with you on your vacations. In the picture above, I demonstrate how it works. It works by wrapping a strap around the suitcase handle and then picking up the luggage scale with your hand.
Personally, I use the Etekcity Digital Luggage Scale, which is the most popular luggage scale on Amazon, and also one of the cheapest. It works really great, and I haven’t had any issues with it. Although you can get options for 20-50$, I don’t personally think they’re any better than a 10$ option.
Weighing Your Luggage With a Regular Bathroom Scale at Home
If you have a regular bathroom scale at home for tracking your weight, then you can easily weigh your suitcase with it. People who haven’t done it before sometimes don’t understand how, because the suitcase is too large for the small weight, but it’s really easy.
Here’s how you weigh luggage on a regular scale:
- Turn on your scale, and stand on top of it. Read what’s your current weight and remember it.
- Pick up your luggage and again stand on the scale. Now read the new weight with your luggage included.
- Subtract the larger number from the smaller one, and you’ll end up with how much your luggage weighs.
What Are the Weight Limits for Carry-On Luggage?
Some airlines don’t have any weight limits for carry-on luggage, but some do. The rule of thumb is if you’re flying with a cheaper airline, most likely they’ll have a weight limit in place, but if you’re flying with a more expensive airline, usually they won’t.
Sometimes airlines have weight limits for carry-ons separately, and sometimes they’ll have weight limits for the total sum of your carry-on and personal items. The exact limits differ from airline to airline and usually range between 15 lbs to 50lbs.
Here are the carry-on weight limits for the most common airlines:
- American Airlines: No weight limit.
- Delta Airlines: 15 lbs to Singapore flights, and 22 lbs to Bejing and Shanghai flights.
- Southwest Airlines: No weight limit.
- United Airlines: No weight limit.
- Air Canada: No weight limit.
- Alaska Airlines: No weight limit.
- JetBlue Airlines: No weight limit.
- Spirit Airlines: 40 lbs.
- Lufthansa: 17.6 lbs.
- Air France: No weight limit.
- Ryanair: 22 lbs.
- British Airways: 50 lbs.
- Wizz Air: 22 lbs.
- Turkish Airlines: 17.6 lbs.
If you go over the weight limit, your carry-on will have to be checked-in for a 30-100$ fee. Also, while some airlines allow two carry-ons, others allow none, so make sure to check how many carry-ons are allowed before.
What Are the Weight Limits for Checked Luggage?
Most commonly, Airlines have 50-70 lbs weight limits set in place for checked luggage. Anything over that is usually priced with an additional 50-200$ fee, depending on the weight.
Here are the checked luggage weight limits for the most common airlines:
- American Airlines: 50 lbs for Economy and 70 lbs for First and Business class.
- Delta Airlines: 50 lbs.
- Southwest Airlines: 50 lbs.
- United Airlines: 50 lbs for Economy and 70 lbs for First, Business, Polaris Business class passengers, and Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1k, and Star Alliance members
- Air Canada: 50 lbs.
- Alaska Airlines: 50 lbs.
- JetBlue Airlines: 50 lbs for regular passengers and 70 lbs for Mint passengers.
- Spirit Airlines: 40 lbs.
- Lufthansa: 50 lbs for Economy and Premium Economy and 70 lbs for Business and First Class.
- Air France: 50.7 lbs for Economy and Premium Economy and 70.5 lbs for Business and La Premiere Class.
- Ryanair: 44 lbs.
- British Airways: 50 lbs for Economy and 70 lbs for First and Business class.
Airlines will also charge additional fees if your checked luggage is oversized, so make sure to measure your luggage first!
What Are the Fees for Overweight Luggage?
The fees for overweight luggage can get pretty pricy, especially on some premium airlines and on long-haul flights. So weighing your checked luggage before your flight is absolutely necessary to avoid those nasty fees.
On average, Airlines charge around 50$-200$ for each overweight bag. However, some go as far as 400$ per bag, which is basically stealing.
The actual amount differs between airlines and is based on your class, the actual weight, and the region where you’re flying to. Additionally, no airlines will usually accept luggage over 100 lbs, no matter how much you’re willing to pay.
Here are the fees for overweight baggage for the most common airlines:
- American Airlines: 51-70 lbs: 100$, and 71-100 lbs: 200$-450$, depending on the region.
- Delta Airlines: 51-70 lbs: 100$+, and 71-100 lbs: 200$+, depending on the region.
- Southwest Airlines: 51-100 lbs: 75$.
- United Airlines: 51-70 lbs: 100$+, and 71-100 lbs: 200$+, depending on the region.
- Air Canada: 51-70 lbs: 100$+, depending on the region.
- Alaska Airlines: 51-70 lbs: 100$.
- JetBlue Airlines: 51-100 lbs: 150$.
- Spirit Airlines: 41-50 lbs: 30$, 51-70 lbs: 50$, 71-100: 100$.
- Lufthansa: 51-70 lbs: 46$-400$, depending on the region.
- Air France: 51-70 lbs: 75$-120$, depending on the region.
- Ryanair: 51-70 lbs: 11 EUR per kg. (Around 5.50$ per lbs.)
- British Airways: 51-70 lbs: 100$.
Fees for overweight luggage are really expensive and sometimes can go up to 400$ per bag. So having your luggage weighed before your flight is not only essential but necessary if you don’t have stacks of cash lying around.
If at the heat of the moment, you’ve forgotten your luggage scale, or don’t have a regular scale nearby, you can attempt weighing the luggage without a scale, or go to the nearest post office, supermarket, hotel, gym, or airport.
But for any future flights, I would instead recommend getting a cheap luggage scale. They’re really light, and you can just pack one inside one of the smaller compartments of your suitcase and forget about it. If you purchase too many souvenirs, alcohol, or snacks on the way back, you’ll be able to make sure that your bag isn’t overweight.
Personally, I use the Etekcity Digital Luggage Scale from Amazon, and I don’t think that any pricier ones are worth it. I’d recommend it for anyone who doesn’t have a luggage scale yet because it makes life so much easier.