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Maths professors teach holidaymakers how to beat budget airline baggage charges

30 July 2013

Profs reveal the top ten hand luggage packing tips for a week's summer holidays.

Gocompare.com has called in two Cardiff University mathematicians to help budget airline holidaymakers beat the eye-watering charges for checked-in baggage.

Some airline passengers can pay more than the cost of their seat to check a suitcase into an aeroplane's hold for their holiday flights. For example, this summer, one budget airline* will charge customers flying to the Canary Islands or Greece anywhere between £35.00 to £130.00 per flight for just one checked-in bag weighing up to 15kg. For passengers paying their baggage charges at the airport, that's could mean £260.00 round trip for their suitcase. It's not surprising then that 29% of people surveyed by Gocompare.com thought that luggage charges on airlines were ‘extortionate'.

Mathematics professors Rhyd Lewis and Jonathan Thomas have analysed the best way to pack a bag and have shown that it's possible to pack enough clothes and other items for a week's summer holiday into a bag measuring 45cm X 40cm X 20cm, small enough to carry on to a plane and avoid checking in any luggage at all.

The bag contained:

-          Two pairs of shorts;

-          Two pairs of swimming trunks;

-          Two shirts;

-          Four t-shirts;

-          Five pairs of underpants and five pairs of socks;

-          A pair of jeans and hoodie;

-          A towel;

-          Pyjama bottoms;

-          A pair of flip flops and a pair of trainers;

-          Sun cream, insect repellent, deodorant, shower gel, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste;

-          A Kindle and an iPod touch.

The maths masters, who honed their skills calculating the most efficient way of packing sea containers, have created the following top ten packing tips for air travellers:

1.       Be organised

It may sound frivolous, but making a list of everything you might want to take can be really handy. You don't need to pack everything on the list, but it'll be easy to decide the things you really need, and those of less importance. You can also keep the list for future trips.

2.       Pack things in the right order

It's a mathematical fact that the order in which you pack things will have a big effect on the amount you can get in your suitcase. On your bed, lay out everything you plan to take. Start by putting the largest items into your case first, and then use the small items to fill in the spaces between.

3.       Be ruthless

Reduce the number of items to pack by removing the things you probably won't use or you can buy cheaply at the destination. Having light luggage reduces your costs, is easier to carry, and reduces CO2 emissions. The fewer items you pack, the easier the packing problem.

4.       Not too heavy

If you are travelling with family or friends, try to spread the weight between cases so that none of them exceed the weight limit. Luggage scales for use at home can be bought for less than £5. Savings can also be made by using light bags instead of heavy suitcases.

5.       Fold items as efficiently as possible

Folding clothes and towels etc. makes their shapes regular. This makes them easier to pack together with no spaces in-between. When folding things, make sure they are not wrinkled. Avoid rolling large items like towels, because the gaps around the cylindrical shape will be hard to fill efficiently.

6.       Avoid unnecessary spaces.

Put things inside other things. For example, if packing shoes, stuff them full of socks or underwear. Also avoid putting things like half-empty bottles of sun-tan lotion in your case - either find a smaller bottle, or buy some when you're at your destination.

7.       Use technology

Gone are the days where you need to pack five paperbacks and two travel guides to keep you busy on holiday. Instead, store all your reading material on your phone/tablet/kindle before you go. Don't forget to pack your charger though.

8.       Reorganise if necessary

If the suitcase seems full, but there are still items to pack, look for spaces and then re-organise the items around that area to increase the size of the space.

9.       Carry-on luggage

If your checked-in baggage is still overflowing or overweight, consider putting some items into your hand luggage. Special travel jackets can also be bought with extra-large pockets for laptops, books, clothes, and even shoes.

Avoid unwanted breaks and spills by packing things sensibly. If you have toothpaste or lotions with a pop-up top, then consider putting them in a polythene bag and packing them inside your shoes. You can also protect your valuables by packing them in the centre of the cases, using durable items like flip-flops, wetsuits or towels as protection around the edges of the case.

When asked about packing 56% of survey respondents said they fold their items compared to 33% who roll. However, nearly half (44%) of holidaymakers said they always pack too much and bring home unused items.

Top five items most often brought back unworn or unused were:

1 - T-shirts/vests (75%)

2 - Shoes (68%)

3 - Trousers (62%)

4 - Underwear (59%)

5 - Shorts (57%)

3% of respondents said they brought back 10 pairs of unworn underwear.

Gocompare.com's travel insurance expert Caroline Lloyd said:

"The professors have shown that it is possible to pack a week's worth of holiday clothes and belongings into a single carry-on bag but however much you take on holiday, always check out the cover details of your travel insurance.

"Don't pack anything delicate or valuable in hold luggage as it might not be covered by your travel insurance if it gets damaged or lost. There are single item limits, but the excesses on some policies can sometimes mean that it won't be worth claiming if it goes missing or is destroyed.

"You may also be asked for proof of purchase or ownership for any items you're claiming have been lost or stolen. This can be difficult if you've had them for quite a while although some insurers may accept previous photographs showing you and the item. A good rule of thumb though is that if you can't bear to lose something, don't take it on holiday."

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Notes to editors:

Research commissioned by Gocompare.com and carried out by OnePoll on the 15th of July 2013 with 2,000 UK holidaymakers aged 18 and over.

*According to Ryanair's website, passengers flying on routes to the Canary Islands or Greece between the 1st of June 2013 and the 30th of September 2013 will pay £35.00 per flight for one checked-in bag weighing up to 15kg when the fees are paid during the initial flight booking on Ryanair.com. The charge increases to £40 when the baggage fees are later paid via ‘Manage My Booking' and £130.00 if paid at the airport or via the Call Centre. http://www.ryanair.com/en/terms-and-conditions#regulations-tableoffees