(NEXSTAR) – Instead of playing it close to the vest, a number of TikTok users are sharing their latest secret for avoiding airline baggage fees.
The “packing hack,” as demonstrated by multiple travelers, involves taking all of the items you might keep in a carry-on bag — e.g., toiletries, electronics, a change of clothes — and instead stuffing them into the pockets of a fishing vest, which can then be worn on the plane.
Chelsea Dickenson, the travel vlogger behind Cheap Holiday Expert, was one of the earliest to tout the hack on TikTok back in January.
“I’m sure others have had the same thought path in the past — no idea is truly original and all that — but after going viral … I’ve seen lots of people in fishing vests both online and in person and it always makes me smile to see it,” Dickenson told Nexstar.
In her viral TikTok clip, Dickenson demonstrated how she packed her fishing vest’s pockets with carry-on items, including her wallet, her passport, her AirPods, a power bank, some playing cards, a bikini, a portable speaker, her gym clothes, a stick of deodorant and — the pièce de resistance — an entire MacBook laptop.
Dickenson made it onto her flight with no issues, she said.
Other users demonstrated the same hack in later TikTok videos, with one claiming she was able to fit “a week of clothes” into the pockets, and another praising her fishing vest as the “goated” travel accessory.
Proponents of the idea claim it has helped them avoid fees associated with additional carry-on bags, especially when flying on budget airlines. (Many low-cost U.S. carriers allow passengers to bring only one small personal item when boarding, while full-service carriers usually allow for a personal item and a checked bag with the price of a ticket. All other bags must generally be checked for a fee — the notable exception being Southwest Airlines, which allows passengers to check up to two bags without incurring any additional cost.)
“The best thing about this tip is that it’s pretty legit,” Dickenson wrote of the fishing-vest hack on her site. “There’s absolutely nothing that says you can’t use your coat or jacket in this way and the pockets are really handy at sectioning things off!”
But while the hack seems to work for folks on TikTok, most airlines have at least some restrictions on the types of clothing a passenger can wear onto an aircraft. These restrictions, however, mostly prohibit “offensive” or “obscene” clothing, and do not specifically concern clothing with excess pockets, or the items allowed within such pockets. (United Airlines also stipulates that passengers who are “not properly clothed” can be denied boarding, but does not elaborate on what that means.)
Representatives for multiple full-service and low-cost airlines did not immediately respond to requests regarding the “packing hack.”
Even Dickenson, though, acknowledges that the vest increases the risk of drawing attention to oneself and, in turn, holding up the boarding process.
“I have tested out stuffing my clothes into a neck pillow, into a slightly too big bra, and in a duty-free bag,” Dickenson told Nexstar of her previous attempts to circumvent the carry-on restrictions. “All have worked, but I think the main takeaway at this point is that staff at the gate are busy. And as long as you’re not pushing the limits too far, they just want to get you on the plane quickly!”