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One commenter asked in last week’s post what the big deal is about traveling with only carry-on bags vs. checking luggage. That’s certainly a valid question and one I wanted to explore in a bit more depth. This is one of those topics that seems to generate rabid intensity on travel sites and forums (and at times, no small amount of sanctimony). The bottom line is there’s no one right way, there’s only what works best for each of us.
Two early travel experiences made me starting thinking about the idea of becoming a carry-on only traveler. The first was on our initial trip to Paris in 2007. We’d booked air travel using Frequent Flyer miles, and had to do so with connecting flights as there were no non-stops available. On the return trip, our first flight leg was delayed, then we had to claim bags, go through Immigration and Customs and re-check the bags before catching the next flight home. We might have made that second flight had the bags not taken over an hour to appear on the luggage carousel. We were lucky to be able to rebook the same day; it only took an additional two flights to get us home, almost 12 hours behind schedule and after we’d been traveling for over 24 hours straight. The second was a far simpler (and far more common) scenario: we arrived in Paris but one of our bags did not. It showed up 2 days later; fortunately our itinerary didn’t include a lot of destination-hopping that trip.
Personally, I enjoy the challenge of putting together a well-edited travel wardrobe that will fit in a carry-on bag. On our last three trips, we’ve taken trains and other public transport between destinations, and I’ve been glad to have a smaller bag that was easier to maneuver up and down stairs, on and off trains and busses. I’ll confess though; I still haven’t converted le monsieur, who prefers to have more clothing options and check his larger bag. (I will sometimes check my own bag on the flight home if we’ve purchased bottles of wine, jars of mustards, or other food-type gifts that can’t be carried aboard.)
Due to my recent back troubles, I’m now in the market for a spinner type bag to further reduce strain on my shoulders and back (4 wheels and can be pushed rather than pulled). Spinner bags, or any wheeled bags for that matter, make zealous “pack light” travelers froth at the mouth but again, we all have to make choices that work with our preferences and limitations. There are so many great options and styles of luggage available in durable and lightweight materials, there’s something for almost every style and budget.
So checked bags or carry-on? A larger, checked bag might make sense if:
- You have a single flight, no connections, or connections are on same airline.
- You have a single travel destination…if your luggage does get lost it will be easier for the airline to get it to you than if you’re moving around.
- You prefer to have more clothing options, or your planned activities require special clothing or equipment.
- You don’t want to be limited on the amount of liquids you can bring along.
- You don’t want to have to bother with toting luggage through the airport and on board.
- You’re OK with the possibility of checked bag fees, or are in an airline mileage program that offers a free checked bag.
Carry-on makes sense if:
- You have multiple connections, or tight turn-around time to make connections.
- Your travel includes multiple destinations.
- You will be taking public transportation with your luggage.
- You prefer to keep your belongings with you.
- You don’t mind carrying smaller sizes of your lotions and other liquids, or purchasing once you reach your destination.
- You are able to put together a capsule wardrobe that will comfortably work with all of your planned activities.
There’s no right answer for everyone. As a carry-on traveler though, I must make the following pleas on behalf of us all: PLEASE check airline carry-on guidelines and be sure your luggage is compliant. Please don’t be a bin-hog…that second personal item (if you have one) goes beneath the seat in front of you. We’ve noticed that gate attendants are paying much more attention to what people are trying to bring on, and enforcing gate check of oversized items, but that still holds up boarding and everyone in line behind them. Please don’t take it out on the flight attendant if you are asked to gate check your bag! Please don’t run over other people’s feet with your wheeled suitcase.
Right now I’m auditioning spinner carry-on bags, and will have a report within the next couple of weeks.
Do you check bags or do you travel carry-on? Any tips to share with fellow travelers?
CARRY-ON LUGGAGE AND TRAVEL ACCESSORIES:
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