Carry on or checked luggage?

In recent years I have learned to love the idea of carry on luggage.  Some people may think it is to save money as most airlines have a fee to check luggage for domestic flights.  However this can easily be avoided with airline status or simply booking your flight with the right credit card.  In regards to international flights you are still allowed to check luggage for free with a few exceptions.

Even though I may have free checked luggage status for nearly all of my domestic travel I carry on.  Given that most of my domestic travel is long weekends everything can fit into a carry on.  Although I do make some exceptions to check luggage; especially if it involves sharing a couple bottles of wine purchased in Argentina with friends.

My primary reason for carry on luggage is to save time!   Online checkin makes getting boarding passes easy prior to arriving to the airport and with no luggage to check I don’t have to wait for an agent.  I have TSA Pre-Check so I get to fast track through security.  We will save the topic of  TSA Pre-Check for another post but if you travel 3-4 times a year you should seriously consider it!

So I have already saved anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour waiting to drop off my bag depending on the airport and current waiting time.  Then upon arrival at the final destination I don’t have to wait to collect my luggage which can be again anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes.  So looking at worst case scenario when I add up the time spent for a return trip I have now saved 3.5 hours avoiding the wait for luggage.  Yikes!  I could fly from Chicago to Phoenix in that amount of time.  Additionally if the trip is merely a long weekend that is significant amount of the weekend that I could be spending relaxing with a drink in hand.

November 2013: Panama 10 day trip luggage plus small personal item


For international travel my decision will  depend on the duration of the trip, number of flight connections and the variation of attire required.   For instance this past May I had a 10 day trip to Europe that involved visiting 6 cities, 8 flights and 2 train journeys.  In addition the weather for the destinations varied from 55F to 105F and events ranged from casual to cocktail attire.  It took a lot of careful planning but I managed to get everything into a carryon suitcase and one personal item.  I was even more impressed that all my shopping purchases fit into the same luggage on the way back.


I do appreciate of course that packing for one person is much different from the monumental task of packing for a family of 6.  When traveling with small children checking your luggage is your best strategy given the joys of unloading and reloading through airport security.   For instance when traveling with my sister several years ago my nephew was 3 and my niece was 6 weeks old; I may have been the one who lost the boarding passes in all the commotion.  Oops!

When have I checked luggage?

  • On a 2 week trip to Singapore and Bali with a long stopover
  • On a flight heading to a cruise given all that evening wear
  • On a last minute trip to Mexico and uncertain what our plans might be
  • On many return trips I will check a bag to balance out some of my travel purchases. I always travel with a small collapsable duffle bag that has been utilized many times!

I have a basic principle regardless of carrying on or checking luggage; it is your luggage so be prepared to carry it.

Seek your adventure!

2 thoughts on “Carry on or checked luggage?

  • February 16, 2016 at 21:24

    Well I really liked reading it. This subject procured by you is very constructive for good planning.

    • February 16, 2016 at 22:37

      Thanks I have had lots of trips to practice!


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