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Does Costa Rica have a Holiday Baggage Embargo?

If you post this question to expats on FB, you will get many conflicting answers. This can be very frustrating. Who is right and who is wrong? Don’t despair! There is a simple answer to

Holiday Baggage Embargo in Costa Rica

If you post this question to expats on FB, you will get many conflicting answers. This can be very frustrating. Who is right and who is wrong? Don’t despair! There is a simple answer to cut through the confusion.

The multiple answers vary by airline and travel dates. This is because Costa Rica does not have a holiday baggage embargo applied to all airlines but some airlines flying into Costa Rica this time of year have baggage embargos. And, the baggage restrictions imposed by airlines are not all the same.

What is a baggage embargo for checked bags?

A baggage embargo is a restriction that may apply to oversized, overweight, extra checked baggage and to types of baggage including sports equipment and boxes. Some destinations have year-round restrictions and others have restrictions only during summer, spring break and holiday travel periods. During an embargo, airlines do not accept any checked items outside their specified limits.

When can you find airline baggage embargos in Costa Rica?

Typically, some (but not all) airlines impose baggage embargos for Costa Rica during the holiday period: November to January. Exact dates can vary and generally are not announced until mid-October. However, baggage embargos can be announced for any time of the year without notice.

Do all airlines have the same baggage restrictions?

There can be embargo restrictions on the number, types, weight and size of checked items. One of the most common variations in baggage restrictions is concerned with checked boxes. Some airlines won’t accept boxes of any kind; other airlines limit type, number, size and weight of boxes.

Holiday Baggage Embargo in Costa Rica

Don’t learn this lesson the hard way, like I did!

One year after a US Thanksgiving visit with family, I went to the airport with 3 pieces of luggage to check. I was told I could not check a third piece of luggage because there was a holiday baggage embargo in place for flights to Costa Rica. Luckily my daughter was with me and she asked if I could check an overweight bag… the answer was ‘yes’.

We repacked my largest piece of luggage to include the contents of one of my smaller pieces of luggage on the airport floor. She took the third empty bag home and I paid the fee for an overweight bag (same as for an extra bag on Southwest). Based on this experience, I wrongly assumed baggage restriction during Costa Rica’s holiday baggage embargo was two pieces of checked baggage and bags could be overweight if I paid the standard overweight fee.

A couple of years later, after another Thanksgiving family visit, I went to the airport with one piece of luggage and one box to check. Both were within size and weight limits. However, I was told I could not check a box because of Costa Rica’s holiday baggage embargo. I was at the airport 3 hours before my flight time, as recommended for international flights.

After learning about the embargo, I did not have enough time to go home, repack and return to the airport in time to check-in an hour before my flight. I called a family member and asked them to come to the airport with an empty piece of luggage as fast as possible. We transferred as much as possible from the box to the luggage and I managed to check-in, five minutes before the deadline. My family member took the box and what would not fit in the luggage home, and I went back to retrieve these items 6 months later when there was no holiday embargo.

Repacking luggage on an airport floor at a very crowded airport after Thanksgiving, is NOT fun! And, I had to learn this lesson not once but twice.

Lessons Learned

ALWAYS check with your airline before you pack, to determine if there is a baggage embargo for your destination and for your travel dates, no matter what time of the year. And check again within 24 hours of your flight time, since baggage restrictions can change without notice.

FB groups for expats moving to Costa Rica are good sources of information… BUT, other expats are not experts on baggage restrictions for your particular airline or travel dates. Your airline is the only expert you need to consult!!!



Margaret Aliff is a true Outlier who chose to work as an independent contractor in different fields for most of her career. She is a US citizen who lived in many places but found her forever home in Costa Rica 15 years ago. Margaret finds fulfillment in retirement by helping people who want to move to Costa Rica.

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