You Don’t Need to Pay to Check Your Bag

This scares some while you wait for the flight to stop completely: we are looking for volunteers to check their bags at the gate . For others, it is a relief. But for the truly smart, this is old news. Because you can often check your bag even when no volunteers are asked.

Volunteers are usually asked to check their bags at the gate when the flight is very busy or the plane is very small – either way, when there is no room at the top for all the bags on wheels. Sometimes a request is made before boarding, sometimes after several zones have diverged. Volunteers bring their bags to the podium and check them right away. Sometimes, especially on smaller planes, you will receive your check-in bag at the gate; otherwise, you will collect it at baggage claim as normal checked baggage.

I’ve always enjoyed checking the gates just so that I don’t have to worry about finding room for my suitcase – no more rushing on board, no more nagging at other passengers who blatantly ignore baggage size restrictions or put their winter jackets in the bin. In fact, I loved it so much that I started asking if I could check my suitcase like the pet of the over-maturing teacher that I am. (I miss this when I land late at night and will desperately try to get home without waiting for my bags.) And most of the time they say yes to me.

Check-out is the perfect compromise for travelers who don’t want to pay to check their bags but hate lugging around a rolling bag or heavy backpack around the terminal while picking up snacks and other pre-flight rituals. In most cases, if you ask at the boarding gate, you will be able to check your bag thirty minutes before boarding. (You need to wait until the crew is ready for you.)

Yes, you still need to pack TSA-compatible liquids and you will have to carry your bag through the airport to the boarding gate – and it must be the correct size for carry-on luggage in case the gate check fails. not on the menu. But even if you can’t check in before boarding, it’s still a blessing to just be able to sit down and find your seat without worrying about free space in the hold. (Of course, make sure that everything you need during the flight is in your personal item, which you put under the seat in front of you.) And if that wasn’t enough: Checking out means your bag. will usually be one of the first to receive your baggage. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, know that you can take the first step.

Updated 1/18/18 11:08 AM EST: This post has been updated to reflect that sometimes when you check in, you pick up your bags at the gate, but sometimes you pick them up when you drop off your baggage.


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