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Baggage fees are rising. Here’s how to pack carry-on only for your whole family

The recent announcement that both WestJet and Air Canada are raising checked-luggage fees means the privilege of being indecisive about exactly which shoes you’ll wear to dinner could now cost you even more: The fee for one checked bag is increasing to $30 from $25. Decide to bring your entire wardrobe and you can expect to pay $50 (up from $30) for a second bag.

And if you’re checking luggage for each of your kids as well, it may be time to reconsider.

Truth be told, in deterring checked luggage, the airlines might be doing you a favour.

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Lost bags and a lack of dexterity when you hit the ground (not to mention endlessly schlepping gym clothes that never actually leave the bag and serve only to make you feel guilty), are reason enough to stop the insanity of a checked-luggage mentality.

My family of four has been pretty much carry-on only for years. Whether it’s a quick trip to the Caribbean or a month in China, we’ve found it’s fairly easy to keep our luggage tight.

The trickiest issue, of course, is that kids bring out the overpacker in all of us. What if it rains? What if there’s a sudden invitation to a formal dinner? What if they run out of cute outfits and *horror* have to wear something …errrr…less cute?

Fear not. You, too, can be that family that zips past the check-in queues at the airport and flies through security. All it takes is a little planning.

1. Invest in luggage that is the right size: Don’t be the person trying to pass off their 27-inch case as 21.5 inches. Seriously, just don’t. Flight attendants can spot you a mile away, it’s only going to hold up the boarding process and you will have to endure the angry glares of all the other passengers. Plus, having the right size bag will make overpacking harder. You’ll know as soon as you load that bad boy that you’ve over done it and can reassess quickly. (Hint: start with the gym shoes.)

2. Carry-on prowess takes planning: Last-minute packer? I feel your pain but it’s time to reform your ways. Those who start late, pack most. The key to a carry-on that works is taking the time to choose your outfits early. It helps if you’ve got a basic itinerary in mind for the trip. If you’re headed to the beach, a couple of swimsuits is realistic, but chances are you’re not redressing the kids every day for lunch in-between, so don’t pack as if you are. If choosing among your favourites is a struggle, seeing them all laid out a week ahead of time might help you whittle it down.

3. Be a boarding-time hero: Just because you’re bringing a carry-on doesn’t mean you’ve got to carry it the whole way. Give that baby up like they’re beads at Mardi Gras the moment the request is made for people to check their luggage at the gate. There’s never a charge and often you’ll get it back as soon as you exit the plane on the other end. Meanwhile, you get to enjoy the flight without the struggle of wrestling all the family’s luggage into ever-shrinking overhead bins.

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4. If you can buy it there, buy it there: I’m not saying that you should bring a purse and leave all your clothes at home (unless that’s a viable option, in which case I’m high-fiving you hard right now). I’m just saying there are children in the destination you’re going to, and – just like you with your kids – their parents like them to wear diapers, eat food and look adorable. Guaranteed. Bring what you need to start but unless your child has particular requirements (medications, allergy-specific options, etc.) you can rest easy knowing that you’ll find pretty much anything else in destination. Pro tip: check with the hotel you’re staying at ahead of time. They likely have a lot of baby and toddler essentials on hand.

5. Train ‘em young: Each paying passenger on a flight is entitled to one piece of carry-on and one personal item. Each passenger. Getting each of the kids a carry-on they can manage can result in a little extra wiggle room for the entire family and save your back. Help little ones pack by creating a list of essentials (underwear, socks, shorts) and packing those before entertaining requests for non-essentials (Peppa Pig dolls, Elsa costumes, Pokemon stuffies). Plus, if you’re really good at it, you can perform the ultimate Jedi move and squeeze a few extra pairs of your shoes into the two-year-old’s extra space. But not the gym clothes. Never the gym clothes.

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