If you have travel planned in the near future, you may be evaluating your luggage and packing needs. One of the most important considerations is whether you’ll be traveling carry-on only or be checking your bags.
This post was published at a prior date and has been updated. I’ve left earlier comments in place.
Keep Calm and Carry On?
There are few issues that divide the (traveling) masses as much as luggage, specifically whether to check bags or travel carry-on only. Each side has its adherents, and some will defend their position vehemently!
Above: for shorter trips or when I don’t want/need to check a bag, I like this carry-on sized spinner bag When I use a bigger, checked bag it’s the medium-sized one on the right (mine is an earlier version, not expandable).
Carry-On vs. Checked Luggage: Which Makes Sense For You?
I’m an agnostic in this, and say there’s no right or wrong answer to the carry-on vs. checked question. I’ve traveled with both carry-on luggage and larger checked bags in recent years, depending on the nature of the trip.
And le Monsieur adamantly refuses to edit his travel wardrobe down to carry-on size, so at least one of us is always checking a bag. We have noticed that baggage handling services seem to have improved in recent years at most of the airports we’ve traveled through.
Here are a few considerations to help you decide whether checking bags or carrying on is best for you.
Carry-on only travel might make sense for you if:
- You are traveling to multiple destinations, and relying at least in part on trains, buses or other public transportation. (Another note, on many trains there is limited room for luggage, and the racks that can accommodate large bags may not be near your seats.)
- You like to change travel plans on the fly, or be able to adjust for flight or other transportation interruptions.
- You hate the idea of paying checked baggage fees. (Though be sure to check with your airline; some discount and other carriers have begun charging for bags carried on as well.)
- The thought of your luggage going missing makes you break out in a cold sweat.
- You like to avoid complication whenever possible.
- You don’t mind either doing some hand washing of clothing or visiting a laundromat or paying to have laundry done if necessary.
However, some people prefer to have more options, don’t want to have to worry about laundry, or have special wardrobe requirements.
Checking your luggage may be a better option if:
- You are traveling to a single destination or will have access to a car in between destinations.
- Your travel plans include activities that require special equipment (e.g. skiing, rock climbing, music retreats) or have one or more “special occasion” events on the agenda (e.g. destination weddings, formal dinners, costume parties).
- You either don’t mind the baggage fees or are part of an airline loyalty program that waives them once you hit a certain status.
- You may not able to lift your luggage into the overhead bin. (Seriously, if you have back problems or strength issues, it may not be worth the risk of injury.)
- The thought of not having enough variety in your wardrobe makes you break out in a cold sweat.
- Hey, half the fun of travel is shopping! 😉
If you decide to check bags, I encourage you to never bring more luggage than you can manage on your own (unless you have door-to-door assistance lined up). And do include some fresh clothing in a carry-on bag, just in case that checked bag gets delayed.
And even if you always check bags, it doesn’t hurt to pack lighter and smarter.
Check out my 👉 Travel Wardrobe Resource Page 👈 for ideas.
In the carry-on vs. checked luggage debate, where do you come in?
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