Packing compactly is a useful skill, but for longer work-related trips, it's often hard to get away with just a small overnight bag. However much luggage you've got, a digital scale can help you avoid paying ludicrous excess baggage fees and/or totally trashing your spine.After many years of travel, I reckon I can make a fairly good estimate of whether my standard suitcase is over or near the limit. However, with the increasing costs charged for excess baggage by most major carriers, being sure before you leave the house makes sense -- and for that you need some sort of weighing mechanism. Of course, you can try and calculate the weight by using a pair of bathrooms scales (IKEA will sell you some for just $11.95. However, balancing a large suitcase on a small scale can be tricky, and non-digital scales won't necessarily give you a precise reading. For that reason, I'm a big fan of digital luggage scales, like the pictured one from Balanzza. I picked my set up from Amazon in the UK, but you can get them online in Australia for around $45.
You attach the clip-strap to your bag, lift the bag into the air, and the scales calculate the weight. When it's finished weighing, the scale beeps, and you can put thew case down, while the weight remains on the screen. (In both respects, that makes it superior to older mechanical 'luggage hook' scales -- trying to balance 20kg of suitcase on one of those and read the output was near impossible.) While the enormous suitcases I routinely see in airports suggest that many travellers still take the "let's see if we can get away with it" approach to packing, knowing what you're in for can save time arguing and sticker shock when you arrive. Airlines across the world are increasingly imposing fees for excess baggage, and the odds of talking staff into letting your bag through without paying are much lower than they were a decade ago. A final tip -- even if you're willing to pay excess charges, make sure you know what your airline's baggage policy is before you had for the airport. Most Australian airlines, for instance, won't accept any bag that weighs more than 32kg for health and safety reasons. And while Jetstar promotes the "just bring a carry on bag and pay $10 less" approach, some overseas airlines weigh carry-on baggage, which can lead to frantic repacking in the queue if you're not organised. Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman got a nasty shock when the strap on his carry-on bag snapped in half last Tuesday, which suggests a little more weighing might well have been in order. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.