Holiday travel: 5 tips to packing light to avoid paying to check baggage

It’s getting tougher to avoid checking a bag on an airline — and possibly paying more to do so — for flights within the United States.

United Airline’s new “Basic Economy” fare doesn’t allow a full-size carry-on bag. The carry-on size limit is 9 x 10 x 17 inches (about the size of a gym bag), and it must fit under the seat in front of you.

United passengers who bring a full-size carry-on bag to the airport gate must check it there, paying a checked bag fee (typically $25 for the first bag or $35 for a second bag) plus a $25 gate-handling charge. There are exceptions to the rule, including if you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or a Star Alliance Gold member.

Only Southwest Airlines lets you fly with two checked bags for free. If you’re not flying on Southwest for the holidays, pack light.

Last year, I wrote a blog post on how to pack smarter. Those tips still stand, but I’m downsizing them to five for a shorter holiday trip:

    • Take one carry-on bag. Carry-on size limits differ by carrier, so check first.
    • Take one pair of versatile shoes, such as boots.
    • Wear your heaviest, bulkiest items, such as boots and a sweater, on the plane. Consider wearing extra layers, which will free up room in your luggage and keep you warm on chilly airplanes.
    • Don’t pack soap, shampoo or other items that a hotel or your hosts will have.
    • Think European: Wear the same clothes more than once. Borrow clothes from family or friends if you’re the same size or when size doesn’t matter (scarf).
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Southwest Airlines livens flights with live music

Southwest Airlines is taking in-flight entertainment to new heights.

A deal with Warner Music Nashville will let the airline continue to offer mile-high music  featuring artists from Warner Music Nashville, according to Billboard magazine.

Who doesn’t appreciate a little fun to break up the strain and dullness of air travel or meeting a rising country star like Devin Dawson? And studies show that listening to music helps reduce stress and anxiety, such as fear of flying.

Dawson recently performed, including songs from his Dark Horse album due out on Jan. 19, onboard a Southwest flight from Nashville to Philadelphia. The video below was featured in a tweet from Dawson’s Twitter account.

Dallas-based Southwest is a big supporter of music. It has been hosting pop-up Live at 35 concerts where artists perform on a flight at 35,000 feet since 2011. It also hosts the Opry at the Southwest Porch at Bryant Park summer concert series.

In addition to Dawson, other onboard performers have included the Barenaked Ladies band, Drake White, Gavin DeGraw and King & Country.

“Music provides our employees an avenue to drive an emotional, human connection with our customers, straight from the heart,” Southwest spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Southwest launched its Destination: Red Rocks music series with a contest between six bands to see who would open for The Fray band at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. The Atlanta-based band Pony League won. At the same time, the airline also started the Southwest.fm website to showcase its music events.

Southwest supports artists in other ways, too. It lets passengers carry smaller musical instruments on board if they fit in an overhead bin or under a seat. It also lets musical instruments count as one of a passenger’s two free checked bags.

Below is a YouTube video from Southwest of the Barenaked Ladies before, during and after their in-flight performance in 2015.