How to lighten your load (with a little help from Ryanair)

On Thursday morning, we left Portugal, flying from Porto to Barcelona.

For weeks ahead of time, we had been stressing out about the flight. You see, Ryanair only lets you have one item of carry-on luggage, and that single piece has to contain within it every single other thing you might have with you, be it a purse, camera, or laptop computer. In addition, that piece can weigh no more than 10 kilos and be no larger than 55 x 40 x 20 centimeters. If they discover you have violated any of these sacred covenants, you must pay a fee of 50 euros to check your bag at the gate.

To make matters worse, Ryanair’s checked baggage is limited to 20 kilos per piece. If you exceed this, you are charged 20 euros per kilo. We paid to check two bags (at an ungodly price that was more than our own tickets), so there was no way we were prepared to pay any overage charges.

The problem? We had departed for Europe with:

  • a) one checked bag weighing 23 kilos (black suitcase);
  • b) one checked bag weighing 20 kilos (blue backpack circa 1988);
  •  c) one checked bag weighing 17 kilos (green backpack circa 1992);
  • d) three carry-on bags weighing an unknown amount, but two of which exceeded Ryanair’s carry-on size limit (black duffel bag and Quinland’s IKEA backpack; the other, my green album tote, was short enough and narrow enough and exactly deep enough); and
  • e) one personal item each (two purses and one camera bag).

This became our own personal story problem. If three people have way too much stuff, and they have to stuff the stuff into a space much smaller than humanly possible, how much stuff will they have to get rid of? Answer: a whole bunch.

First, we had to get another suitcase. This sounds counter-intuitive, but those dang backpacks we checked were small and – much worse – did not roll. We now live in the age of wheels, and you know what? Wheels rock. Backpacks are for the young and foolish, my friends. Rolling is vastly preferable.

Back a zillion years ago on Game Night, I had spied a shop selling bargain luggage. I tried to interest David in it at the time, but he was too interested in various boards and bits to want to shop. Now, however, time was running short. A big rolling suitcase had become a dire necessity. We headed back to the soccer stadium-slash-mall and found a huge red rolling bag, purchased it, and loaded it with groceries. (You can’t put those wheels to waste.)

Next we had to get a device to measure the weight of the bags. We are now the proud possessors of a handheld scale that can also weigh fish and has a measuring tape so we can figure out who caught the biggest one. I devised a way to use it to weigh the big bags without severing our fingers by hanging the scale from my green backpack’s shoulder strap. I am going to patent this idea and make millions.

Round 1 of “Dump! That! Stuff!” soon commenced. We decided that the purses and the camera bag would have to go into the checked baggage, as would the zip-off backpack from Q’s IKEA bag. My carry-on would remain the same, but we’d have to take care not to overstuff it since it was skirting the edge of doom; Q’s IKEA bag would be her carry-on, but could only be filled halfway; and David would carry on the green backpack, turned inside out. He had cleverly realized that with its outer pockets turned inside, it would meet criteria.

The first things dumped, then, would be our other two bags. The black duffle bag was a freebie from Office Depot, so that was no big deal. We’ll need to have a moment of silence, however, for the blue backpack, which had been purchased for my trip to Ireland in college. Its loss was made a bit easier by the knowledge that there was no way in heck that I was going to willingly carry that sucker on my back ever again. We gifted it to the guy who owned the tasca downstairs, which made it much easier. I think we also accidentally gifted him with CDs of a bunch of personal photos, including some flattering “Before” pictures of myself in my skivvies. I didn’t figure this out for a couple of days. David sees no big deal in this, but he doesn’t have his belly hanging out in front of perfect strangers. Anymore.

By the time Round 1 was finished, we had gotten close to our goal. We’d ripped useful papers out of spiral notebooks and tossed the rest, gotten rid of any and all duplicates (CD/DVD case), and figured out what could be replaced later (bottles of conditioner). We still weren’t there, though, so it was time for the real sacrifices. I gave up my black skirt; David gave up one of his four pairs of pants; and Quinland, in a true act of self-sacrifice, gave up her dress shoes. (The one time she wore them, on Easter Sunday, they hurt her feet and she walked home barefoot.)

According to the fish scale, we’d finally done it! We were at exactly 20 kilos per checked bag and 10 kilos per carry-on. We’d lost sleep and sightseeing time and stuff, but our mission was accomplished.

Of course, Ryanair neither weighed nor measured any of our luggage when we checked in… but that’s a different story.

Daily Check-In:

  • I’m grateful! that I have developed my abilities to release my stuff (though it is often done under duress!).
  • I’m lighter! by what feels like a ton of stuff. I am sure we could get by with even less, easily, but we held on to some comfort objects and some of potential use.

7 thoughts on “How to lighten your load (with a little help from Ryanair)

  1. Thanks for sharing your unfortunate but enlightening experience, especially for taking the time to share these tips. I do overpack sometimes and this will come in handy 🙂


    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I can’t tell you how tough it was for us to find a definitive statement of just what they would accept. Sadly, I have heard that different countries enforce the rules more stringently than others, and specific desk agents can decide to be more lax than others.

      Good luck to you!


    1. So sad, isn’t it? I kept thinking of the two of us sitting on the floor of the airport trying to decide what to leave behind… and I went and gave up those awesome flannel pajamas. Drat! But dang, even then I could barely hoist that thing onto my back…


  2. Oh!

    Don’t you hate being the Pollyanna of all things “Rules”? The Richie Cunningham of “Must” and “Cannot”? (or is that me?) And then ole’ Ryanair doesn’t check?!

    LOVE this post! After smiling through the whole thing, cuz it felt like we were talking, I thought “I think I would’ve wore my black skirt over my pants.” 🙂 lol So GOOD FOR YOU! Paring down and still have the red ruffle cardigan, which is very important!


    1. Hilarious! David actually suggested I put the skirt on over my pants… but I had already put on two pair of pants! (He had his sweats on under his Levis, and four large books in his coat pockets…)


      1. Okay, THAT is hilarious 🙂 David is my new traveling hero, and you run a very close second. (The skirt was needed to put you over the four-large-books-in-coat.) 🙂


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