Packing for a trip is often a little stressful, particularly when you want to make sure that your suitcase doesn’t weigh too much (usually, the limit is 50 pounds). Airlines have strict weight limits for checked baggage, and if your bag is over the limit, you’re hit with additional fees that can seriously strain your wallet. With a handheld luggage scale, you can be sure your bag is the right weight when you get to the airport.
A luggage scale is a small, compact device that allows you to weigh your carry-on or checked bags. Unlike airport scales that you set your bag on, a luggage scale features a hook that you hang your bag from. Nearly all modern luggage scales are digital, and they can provide a highly accurate weight for your bags, which prevents surpriseswhen airline staff weighs your bag.
Choosing the right luggage scale is key, though. That means paying attention to the accuracy, size, weight capacity, battery type, and other features to make sure that it’s as easy as possible to weigh your luggage.
In addition to airlines, cruises and some long-distance buses have weight limits for baggage.
The most important feature for any luggage scale is its accuracybecause a scale is worthless if it’s not going to give you a weight that is extremely close to the reading on an airline scale. In most cases, you get what you pay for — cheaper scales usually aren’t as accurate as higher-end models.
Pay attention to a luggage scale’s precision accuracy. Some models are accurate within as close as 1/10 of a pound, but you should never choose a scale that isn’t accurate within more than a pound.
While a luggage scale must be strong enough to hold a packed bag, it should still be compact and lightweight, so it’s easy to carry with you (especially if you need to weight it on your return trip after adding souvenirs).
If you plan to pack it in your checked bag, you don’t want it to add any unnecessary weight. It should also be small enough to fit in your pocket, purse, or carry-on bag if you prefer. Some models even fold up to become more compact.
You can find luggage scales that weigh as little as two ounces. In most cases, if you stick to a model that’s seven ounces or less, the size will be just right.
Another key feature for a luggage scale is its weight capacity. You want to be sure that it can handle the weight of nearly any bag you place on it. Most luggage scales have a weight capacity of 100 to 110 pounds, which is usually sufficient for most travelers.
However, some scales can only register up to 80 pounds. You’re better off choosing a scale with a higher weight capacity so you can trust that it can handle the weight of your bags.
All digital luggage scales require batteries to operate. Some models use replaceable batteries, though, while others feature rechargeable lithium batteries. Most users find models with rechargeable batteries more convenient because you never have to buy additional batteries and you can usually recharge the scale via a USB cable or standard AC adapter. Luggage scales that don’t have rechargeable batteries typically run on either AAA or AA batteries, though, so it’s easy to find replacements.
Whichever battery type a model has, opt for a scale with a low battery indicator, so you always know when you need to recharge or replace the batteries.
A luggage scale should be as easy to read as possible. That’s why it’s best to choose a model with an LCD display. Not only are the readings extremely clear, but the display usually features a low battery indicator and an overweight warning to alert you when a bag is heavier than most airlines allow.
To be sure that you can read your luggage scale in any situation, opt for a model with a backlit LCD display. This feature lights up the screen behind the numbers so you can easily read the display even in low lighting.
Depending on where you’re traveling, you may prefer seeing the weight readings on your luggage scale in imperial or metric measurements. The best models allow you to see the weight of your bags in both pounds and kilograms so you can switch back and forth as necessary.
If you want the most accurate weight readings, opt for a luggage scale with an auto-lock feature. It locks your bag’s weight reading once it has been stabilized on the scale for five to ten seconds, so you don’t have to worry about it fluctuating while you’re trying to read it.
Because digital luggage scales run on batteries, you want to conserve power to avoid winding up with a drained battery at the precise moment you need to weigh your bag. Choose a scale with an auto-shutoff feature, which automatically turns off the scale if it hasn’t been used in a certain period of time.
Some luggage scales aim to be as convenient as possible when you’re traveling so they can function as a power bank. They have a built-in USB port, which allows you to charge your phone, tablet, or other devices through the scale when you’re stuck at the airport.
To make sure that your luggage scale is always protected when it’s stashed in your bag or purse, choose a model that includes some type of carrying case. Some models feature a pouch, while others include a hard carrying case that can keep the scale safe from scratches and other damage.
"Most luggage scales weigh between 4 and 7 ounces."
Luggage scale prices
Luggage scales vary in price based on the display type and their special features. Most models range from $5 to $68.
The most affordable luggage scales are digital models with a basic LED display. They don’t offer much in the way of special features and typically cost between $5 and $16.
Mid-range luggage scales are digital models with an LCD display. They usually offer some special features, such as auto-lock and auto-shutoff. These scales usually range from $16 to $42.
The most expensive luggage scales are digital models with an LCD display and a variety of special features. In addition to auto-lock and auto-shutoff features, they usually have charging capabilities and a flashlight as well. They typically cost between $42 and $68.
Did you know?
Some luggage scales have a built-in LED flashlight in case you need help seeing while you’re traveling.
Always make sure that your luggage scale is reset to zero before you weigh your bag.
When you attach your bag to a luggage scale and are ready to weigh it, lift the scale with both hands to make sure you have a firm grip on it.
To avoid airline fees, use your luggage scale to weigh your bags on both ends of your trip before check-in at the airport. Even if your bag is under the weight limit when you leave, it can easily pick up extra weight if you buy anything while you’re traveling.
Most U.S. airlines have a 50-pound weight limit for checked bags. Fees on overweight bags usually range from $100 to $200.
Q. Do I really need a luggage scale?
A. The main benefit of using a luggage scale before you leave for a flight is that you can be sure to avoid steep overcapacity fees by keeping your bag under the approved limits. Not only can that save you money, but it can also keep you from stressing before a trip. If you have a habit of overpacking, a luggage scale can make you aware of how much exactly is in your bag too, so you avoid bringing items you don’t need even if your luggage is under the airline’s weight limit.
Q. How do I use a luggage scale?
A. Nearly all handheld luggage scales are a hanging style. That means they feature a hook that you hang your bag from to weigh it. All you have to do it place the strap or handle of your suitcase or bag over the scale’s hook and then lift the scale by its handle. The scale will usually beep or flash to let you know that the weight has been determined and it’s alright to set the bag down. In most cases, you only have to hold the scale with the bag attached for five to ten seconds for a reading.
Q. Can I bring a luggage scale through airport security?
A. You can throw your luggage scale in your carry-on bag and take it with you through airport security — even if you have a model with a rechargeable battery. While spare lithium batteries aren’t permitted on a plane, those that are installed inside a luggage scale are acceptable.