Carry-On Vs. Checked Bag: The Pros & Cons

Carry-On Vs. Checked Bag: The Pros & Cons

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In the miles & points world, the concept of checking a bag is almost sacrilege. If someone checks a bag and something goes wrong, they’re basically told “well that was a rookie mistake, you should never check a bag.”

In this post I wanted to discuss the pros and cons of carry-ons vs. checked bags, and share my (controversial) take on why checking bags isn’t always terrible.

The pros of traveling with carry-ons

What are the benefits of traveling exclusively with carry-ons?

  • You don’t have to arrive at the airport as early, since you can typically skip the check-in counter
  • There’s less risk of your luggage being delayed or lost, especially in the case of irregular operations
  • You don’t have to wait at baggage claim
  • You potentially save on checked bag fees (though it really depends — many people get free checked bags, and on some ultra low cost carriers checked bags are less expensive than carry-ons)
There are benefits to traveling just with carry-ons

The pros of traveling with checked bags

What are the benefits of traveling with a checked bag?

  • You can take more stuff with you; it’s nice to be able to travel with multiple pairs of shoes, different type of clothing, etc.
  • You’re not restricted to just taking liquids in containers of under 100ml
  • You don’t have to worry about boarding early, or about your bag possibly being gate checked; if you’re traveling outside the United States, you’ll often find that airlines have a weight limit of 15lbs for carry-ons, which is highly restrictive
  • You don’t have to carry your bag as far, and don’t have to keep an eye on it throughout your journey
There are benefits to traveling with checked bags

Hot take: checking bags isn’t that bad

Back in the day I’d never check bags. When I lived in hotels full-time for a couple of years, I just had a carry-on bag. However, over the past few years, I’ve warmed up to the concept of checking bags. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely don’t always check bags, but I do it a lot more often than I used to, and I’ve kind of started to not mind it.

To be clear, I still don’t check bags on a majority of my trips. However, if I’m taking a longer trip, typically internationally, I have no qualms checking a bag. So, why is checking bags not that bad?

  • While I avoid checking bags with American Airlines domestically at almost all costs, both Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines have a 20-minute baggage guarantee, and I find that outside the United States (especially in Europe), bags regularly arrive even faster than that
  • I really appreciate being able to check bags with larger liquids; for example, if traveling to a tropical destination, it’s great to be able to bring quality sunscreen with you, which can save you significant money and hassle compared to what you’d spend acquiring this at your destination
  • Having your bags delayed is rare, but if it happens, you can take advantage of the credit card delayed baggage benefits with certain premium cards, and can go on a bit of a shopping spree
  • Airlines have much better baggage tracking technology than in the past, so you can typically see throughout your journey when your bag was loaded and offloaded, etc.
  • Statistically the risk of bags actually being lost is very small, and with technology like AirTags, we have even more assurance than ever before
  • If I’m traveling only with carry-ons, I’m generally technically exceeding the limit outside the United States, since it’s so low (often 15lbs); it’s easier to just not worry about your bag possibly being rejected
  • It’s kind of nice and liberating to just walk through the airport with a backpack

Again, I’m not advocating for always checking bags. I do everything I can to avoid checking bags if I think they’ll take a long time to arrive, or if I think there’s a significant risk of operational issues (due to a complicated itinerary, bad weather, because airlines are generally operating poorly, etc.).

But if I’m flying Alaska or Delta, or if I’m traveling with an airline where bags typically come out quickly, I’ve certainly warmed up to the idea.

It’s rare to have issues with checked bags

Bottom line

While many experienced travelers swear by only traveling with carry-ons, I think there’s a case to be made for checking bags as well, at least in specific situations. If you’re traveling with an airline that reliably delivers bags quickly, if you have credit card insurance for delayed or lost bags, and if you value being able to travel with more stuff (including liquids), then there’s most definitely merit to checking bags.

At least that’s my two cents, but I know others will feel differently…

Where do you stand on carry-ons vs. checked bags? Do you swear by carry-ons, by checked bags, or does it depend on the situation?

Conversations (63)
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  1. Eileen K Steere Guest

    I have been using Delta Airlines. I haven't had any issues and they have been very helpful when I request how they track my bag( which is on their app). Your bag shows up when it is on the plane, when it is taken out, and again when it is on your plane. I really appreciate this feature. Staff is very helpful by telephone, text, or at the airport.

  2. Anthony Guest

    As a diabatic I have no choice but to check in bags if I'm travelling long term. For some people unfortunately it's unavoidable. Typically I also try to stop wherever there are layovers that can reduce the risk of a bag flying off to a far flung destination

  3. Pappy Rat Guest

    We always check bags because it is free for us on Southwest and American. We carry meds, a change of underwear, camera and other valuables in carryon.

  4. Nancy Guest

    There are always a few minutes at arrival when having bags is a pain, but having all the clothing and stuff that you need makes up for those few minutes.

    Carry on is certainly less hassle for a few minutes, but not having what you need isn't worth that ease.

  5. Nat Guest

    If I'm traveling by myself, I carry on most of the time domestically. If I'm traveling with my little kids, check in almost always. I'd love to see Lucky rewrite this post once he's traveled with Miles a bit. It's difficult to juggle kids that are still stroller-sized AND luggage going through the airport and getting on/off a plane. It's certainly doable but very stressful. And that's with making sure I have the most compact...

    If I'm traveling by myself, I carry on most of the time domestically. If I'm traveling with my little kids, check in almost always. I'd love to see Lucky rewrite this post once he's traveled with Miles a bit. It's difficult to juggle kids that are still stroller-sized AND luggage going through the airport and getting on/off a plane. It's certainly doable but very stressful. And that's with making sure I have the most compact stroller and carseat options for my kids' ages/weights.

    I did a solo trip with the older kid this year where we both carried on. It was great not having to wait for bags but slightly challenging to go to the bathroom (trying to put 2 humans in a stall with two suitcases). I imagine this will get easier when the kid can use his own stall! :)

  6. Lee Guest

    If you're travelling on holiday, shopping and buying back stuff is almost mandatory. So even if you don't want to check bags on the way out, do you really want to return home without any souvenirs or shopping?

  7. Al Guest

    I agree that whether carry-on or checked bag is a personal choice. I don’t travel for work and do 2 to 3 times international trips a year usually on airlines with status, so checking bag is not an issue. But I choose to fly with my 27L backpack carryon only. The few times I checked my bag it came back like it went through the grinder. I like my backpack because I can just walk...

    I agree that whether carry-on or checked bag is a personal choice. I don’t travel for work and do 2 to 3 times international trips a year usually on airlines with status, so checking bag is not an issue. But I choose to fly with my 27L backpack carryon only. The few times I checked my bag it came back like it went through the grinder. I like my backpack because I can just walk through everywhere without issues or have to look for elevators (especially outside of the US). Even with the limited amount of stuff I take with me on 1 to 2 weeks trip I found myself not wearing half of the clothes I bring. I go to Michelin starred restaurants from time to time, so I will have to bring a jacket for Europe trips but it is not issue for Asian trips.

  8. Albert Guest

    Oh grow up. Travel light with a carry-on. You don't need to check-in half your entire wardrobe! Pack what you need, not what you want. Laptop/tablet on top and liquids in a jiffy to whio oug for check-in. Easy peasy.

  9. Travel Tablet Guest

    I chuckled at most of the posting and comments as it discounts many, many flyers. If you're just over 6 foot 4 inches, 280 pounds, wear a size 50 suit jacket and have size 14 feet you can fill a carry-on in mere seconds. If you travel to engage in outdoor sports, as I do, you can't carry on many items (fishing stuff, ski poles, hunting equipment, snowshoes, the list goes on). You're spot on...

    I chuckled at most of the posting and comments as it discounts many, many flyers. If you're just over 6 foot 4 inches, 280 pounds, wear a size 50 suit jacket and have size 14 feet you can fill a carry-on in mere seconds. If you travel to engage in outdoor sports, as I do, you can't carry on many items (fishing stuff, ski poles, hunting equipment, snowshoes, the list goes on). You're spot on with Delta - I can follow my bags check in to carousel. Delta and Alaska go where I go all over the US, England and South Africa (where I then drive to the 6 countries I visit and savor the travel experience). IMO, flying is only a means to get to the beginning of the real journey and the real journey is off the beaten path where buying toothpaste is impossible and you don't have anything you didn't bring - no matter how simple.

  10. Jason Brandt Lewis Guest

    If I am staying more than one night, I (almost) always check a bag. I have never worried about it, nor have I ever had a bag lost by an airline -- one time delayed; never lost. And, admittedly on those very rare occasions, I *have* taken advantage of Alaska's 20 minute guarantee. OTOH, I have also never gate-checked a carry-on either.

    Yes there are places to do laundry, and I have certainly done...

    If I am staying more than one night, I (almost) always check a bag. I have never worried about it, nor have I ever had a bag lost by an airline -- one time delayed; never lost. And, admittedly on those very rare occasions, I *have* taken advantage of Alaska's 20 minute guarantee. OTOH, I have also never gate-checked a carry-on either.

    Yes there are places to do laundry, and I have certainly done so on trips lasting a week or more, but I also don't want to waste a lot of time in a laundromat. "Fluff 'n Fold" is normally great, but then there was the time in Cambodia where all of my wife's clothes turned pink...

  11. Howard Moher Guest

    I often travel for two, or even three, weeks with just hand baggage. In most places you can buy anything you find you unexpectedly need, or replace used toiletries, and most places have convenient laundry services. Not schlepping lots of gear is liberating.

  12. Morgan Diamond

    I like others pretty much always check a bag. Its about only checking things in your suitcase that aren't overly valuable/important. In my checked bags are generally just my toiletries and clothes. And even then if you have a piece or two (or a few) of clothing that you value more then you can put it in your carry on. That way as well if it does get lost you still have an outfit or...

    I like others pretty much always check a bag. Its about only checking things in your suitcase that aren't overly valuable/important. In my checked bags are generally just my toiletries and clothes. And even then if you have a piece or two (or a few) of clothing that you value more then you can put it in your carry on. That way as well if it does get lost you still have an outfit or too.

    Its just so much easier walking through the airport with a relatively light backpack and not having to worry about your carry on being too heavy, finding room in the bins etc. and having the freedom to pack more for your destination. Also as an Australian I have never had any problems with checked bags domestically and generally I find Asia and Europe to be pretty good too.

  13. Eskimo Guest

    Stupid blanket ban is the biggest factor.

    Banning all liquids. Or historically, laptop batteries, toners, etc.

    It's wrong to use stereotype profiling on people why it isn't when you do it on liquids.

  14. Frog Guest

    I used to agonise over this in my younger days and spent a lot of mental energy trying to pack everything I needed into a carry-on. Now I don't spend much time thinking about it. I take whatever I need for a comfortable stay at my destination and then decide if a carry-on or check-in is appropriate.

  15. Albert C Guest

    We usually travel to Europe for 2-3 weeks and we always check baggage. I like to take my brand of deodorant,toothpaste and my own razor. And the freedom to go to the lounge and not have to watch a bag is worth a few minutes waiting for a bag.Also we usually fly premium economy and they have priority baggage service

  16. iamhere Guest

    The only reason one should take more stuff to cary on is if they are avoiding checking a bag. Otherwise you can travel light with just some important items in a cary on.

  17. dalo Guest

    I almost always check a bag. I rarely take short trips either. I resent the people who try to carry on only but, theycan't get it right.They bash you with their back packs, block the aisles getting on and off while they struggle with their over size and multiple carry ons in a panic to find overhead bin space. Even starting with airlines enforcing the rules in place for size or number of carry on...

    I almost always check a bag. I rarely take short trips either. I resent the people who try to carry on only but, theycan't get it right.They bash you with their back packs, block the aisles getting on and off while they struggle with their over size and multiple carry ons in a panic to find overhead bin space. Even starting with airlines enforcing the rules in place for size or number of carry on items would be an improvement. I blame you, Ben, and other bloggers who fashionably encourage the obnoxious, inconsiderate crowd who needlessly make travl worse because they cannot be inconvenienced slightly. Thanks for considering that checking a bag might not be so terrible.

    1. Pappy Rat Guest

      You are so right. People carry on way too much, and airlines do not enforce size rules. There really should be enough bin space on every airplane.

  18. Rick T. Guest

    I've flown every week for the past year on AA and I always have a checked bag. My bag has not been at my destination airport only once in the past year (bad weather in DFW.) And it made it to me the same day.
    I like checking a bag in order to have the flexiblity to carry the items I can't take through TSA. I can carry small tools, liquids and extra supplies...

    I've flown every week for the past year on AA and I always have a checked bag. My bag has not been at my destination airport only once in the past year (bad weather in DFW.) And it made it to me the same day.
    I like checking a bag in order to have the flexiblity to carry the items I can't take through TSA. I can carry small tools, liquids and extra supplies that I wouldn't be able to if I was carry-on only. It also lets me return home with items I wouldn't have space for without checking a bag.
    It certainly helps that with my AA status I don't pay for checked bags. I suppose if I was getting charged baggage fees these days I would likely rething my strategy.

  19. Lucinda Pape Guest

    I'm short so unless my bag fits under the seat, I check a case as reaching up above is hard.

  20. Franny Guest

    I never check. My small luggage is very organize, so i mix and match clothes, it takes 2 days though ! Of course it is possible with summer clothes, i don’t really travel to winter resorts. I have a carry on and a big bag where i put some shoes and a minimum of toiletries. I buy local, and use hotel’s stuff. Also, i wash underwear and socks, sometimes tshirts at the hotel. I really...

    I never check. My small luggage is very organize, so i mix and match clothes, it takes 2 days though ! Of course it is possible with summer clothes, i don’t really travel to winter resorts. I have a carry on and a big bag where i put some shoes and a minimum of toiletries. I buy local, and use hotel’s stuff. Also, i wash underwear and socks, sometimes tshirts at the hotel. I really can travel 2 weeks without checking, and nobody will notice i am wearing the same things. Just organization ! So try it.

  21. Paul Guest

    Or I'd like to take a small carry-on and I used to check a bigger bag I've flown thousands of times and never had an issue .usually just buy the clothes I need and then donate them when I'm done with them I don't spend a fortune though

  22. Never In Doubt Guest

    I never check, except when the gate agent forces me to. And sometimes not even then.

    1. ArtM Guest

      If you are one of those flyers who drag your oversized "carry on" on the plane and take up overhead compartment space of your fellow flyers; shame on You!! Do you think you don't have to follow the rules?

    2. John Guest

      Agree. Although I've never had to check at the gate. Honestly, I've never flown an airline that weighed at the gate. Good luck low costers.

  23. Jimbo Jones Guest

    While not a mega-flyer I would estimate 50+ commercials flights under my belt I think. I could count how many carry-on only flights on probably two fingers. Of course the more flights the more chance you have to encounter a bad situation but I have never had my luggage lost, only ever had my luggage delayed to the point of them delivering it to me once and I can’t ever remember waiting longer than what...

    While not a mega-flyer I would estimate 50+ commercials flights under my belt I think. I could count how many carry-on only flights on probably two fingers. Of course the more flights the more chance you have to encounter a bad situation but I have never had my luggage lost, only ever had my luggage delayed to the point of them delivering it to me once and I can’t ever remember waiting longer than what must have been 15 minutes (still felt like an eternity) for my bags to hit the belt.

    Everyone’s mileage is different but I simply don’t care about any possible negatives checking bags creates. Especially today with all of the online check ins, prepaying for bags, check in kiosks where you print your own bag tags to the curbside bag drops for a small fee or the inside free bag drops it doesn’t seem like it is any real impediment to forward motion. Unless you’re traveling Economy and need live check in help. I suppose I’m lucky and only transit through the big hubs like Chicago, Atlanta, etc.

    I go to the airport at-least 2 hours early just to avoid any issues. I don’t understand those who cut it close or see it as wasting your time “waiting” if you’re early. Meanwhile I’m there with no stress, maybe having a coffee, a snack/meal, chatting, reading or catching up on something. I suppose I would feel different if something critical was in my lost bag but that’s what for carry on is for, split the difference.

  24. Doug yarbrough Guest

    I have been a road warrior for going on 30+ years. I always check my bag. This year alone I have made 42 trips to 3 countries and 46 cities. As of today I have only had my bag delayed one time. I am of the mind that I think you should be charged per bag to carry on. I would make the boarding procedure faster and qould.cut down on the people carrying multiple bags.

  25. SS Guest

    I travel internationally 4 x a year. I have never had my carry on weighed. I only travel with a carry on. I use vacuum bags and can have more than enough clothes in my bag. Reduces down to a thick book

    1. Andreas Guest

      Austrian Airlines (including Lufthansa etc) when checking-in in Vienna will ALWAYS weigh your carry-on: not at check-in, but when you pass the first boarding pass check. Aerolineas Argentinas normally also weigh the carry-on.

  26. 0504 Traveller Guest

    I try never to check a bag if I can help it - especially after this past year of traveling. I traveled through Europe during the summer meltdown and for 2.5 weeks I had my bag for only 4 days as the rest of the time it was lost. When it actually does arrive to your destination, I have had to wait sometimes 1-2 hours just to get my bag; so if I can help...

    I try never to check a bag if I can help it - especially after this past year of traveling. I traveled through Europe during the summer meltdown and for 2.5 weeks I had my bag for only 4 days as the rest of the time it was lost. When it actually does arrive to your destination, I have had to wait sometimes 1-2 hours just to get my bag; so if I can help it I try and do carry-on only. And because I am carrying-on, if I have to I pay to board early to ensure my carry-on fits

  27. G.E. Osborne Guest

    I flew to the Philippines on Singapore Airlines and checked bags and also had one carry on. Both directions the baggage arrived on time however it looked as if the used my bags to clean the tarmac.

  28. Ellen Louise Schwartz Guest

    I often check my luggage. My credit card covers the expense and I have medicines, warm clothes and extra shoes to cover most unexpected situations. The unexpected happens a lot.

  29. Jason T Guest

    As someone who travels around internationally quite a fair bit (say, 16 countries and over 30 cities in 2022 alone), the only country to avoid checking bags in would be US, because it is mostly inefficient and relatively backwards compared to the rest of the world, depending on the cities you're flying to. Half of Europe used to be terrible (15 years ago, 1 hour wait at Paris CDG was normal), but everything had greatly...

    As someone who travels around internationally quite a fair bit (say, 16 countries and over 30 cities in 2022 alone), the only country to avoid checking bags in would be US, because it is mostly inefficient and relatively backwards compared to the rest of the world, depending on the cities you're flying to. Half of Europe used to be terrible (15 years ago, 1 hour wait at Paris CDG was normal), but everything had greatly improved (about 15 minutes from deplaning). In Singapore (and a number of other countries) the checked bag is typically waiting for the passenger without expedited clearance though it has been getting sloppy recently. Only in the US, in most cities, you can stand there wondering if somehow your luggage didn't make the flight with you.

  30. Vince Guest

    The issue now is Alaska won’t let you fly with them if in Pacific Northwest.

  31. Travis Guest

    Checking bags is awesome if you carry marijuana with you :)

  32. Sel, D. Guest

    Sunscreen/wine/liquor only reason to ever check a bag. Unless you’re moving.

  33. Riku2 Guest

    If you only have carry on bags then were do you put all the shopping that you buy when on a trip? I am regularly coming home with 20-30kg of stuff bought overseas and sometimes a lot more than that. The article seems to imply that the only things you travel with are items to use/wear when on a trip.

    1. DenB Diamond

      The only things I travel with are items to use/wear when on a trip. and things to discard while travelling, when I buy something new to replace them. Like shoes.

  34. Christine Allen Guest

    My carry on is a wheeled bag that I put my 'personal' bag so no I don't 'shlep' it thru the airports. Very rarely will I do a checkin. My wife on the other has to do a carryon & a checked bag, medical stuff goes in the carryon and the checked has the normal traveling stuff.

  35. Santos Guest

    I travel out of a normal-sized backpack with a change of clothes, my laptop/charger and toiletry kit. Recently I've been debating 86'ing the laptop, seeing as I can pretty much do any and all of my work on my iPhone. Any incidental needs, I can buy them at my destination. Wearing a decent sports coat and biz casual shoes, I have yet to find myself in any situations where I'm under- or over-dressed. I do...

    I travel out of a normal-sized backpack with a change of clothes, my laptop/charger and toiletry kit. Recently I've been debating 86'ing the laptop, seeing as I can pretty much do any and all of my work on my iPhone. Any incidental needs, I can buy them at my destination. Wearing a decent sports coat and biz casual shoes, I have yet to find myself in any situations where I'm under- or over-dressed. I do get some incredulous comments from customs on occasion wondering where the rest of my luggage is. Packing light is where it's at.

  36. One who does not check bags anymore on airlines. Guest

    My main issue with checking baggage is the damage that has occurred more often than not wheni check my bags. Broken wheels, and cracked casing. They look like some one threw them off a several story building.

  37. Tom Guest

    I'm in my late 30s now, and I'm at the point where I usually do check a bag (~90% of the time) just because it is easier to not lug my bag through the airport. I personally love to walk through the airport with only my backpack. I'm based in ATL so I usually fly Delta, so I feel pretty confident in their baggage guarantee. I've only had one trip since the pandemic started where...

    I'm in my late 30s now, and I'm at the point where I usually do check a bag (~90% of the time) just because it is easier to not lug my bag through the airport. I personally love to walk through the airport with only my backpack. I'm based in ATL so I usually fly Delta, so I feel pretty confident in their baggage guarantee. I've only had one trip since the pandemic started where my bags weren't out within 20 mins (and even then, I submitted the form from my phone while waiting for bags to start coming out). As a result, I usually plan on hitting the SkyClub on arrival (if there is one) just to hit the bathroom and freshen up some before strolling over to collect my bag.

    I've flown around 400+ trips with DL over the last couple years, and my bag hasn't made it with me only a single time - even then, Delta didn't give me a hard time at all, the baggage office agent reassured me I could buy work clothes for my meeting the next morning and be reimbursed (which DL did without complaint on toiletries and a full outfit, including shoes). I didn't even need to go to my credit card for reimbursement.

  38. Donna Diamond

    I suppose if I were traveling outbound to just one location and one hotel and then home again a checked bag approach wouldn’t be an issue. My trips always involve multiple destinations after arrival either by car or train and a late bag would never catch up with me. Furthermore, I often walk from train stations to hotels and dragging around enormously heavy bags is awful. I travel light with just a carryon spinner and small backpack.

  39. Anthony Diamond

    Checking vs not checking is entirely dependent on what you have to bring with you. And with climate variation, I am surprised more people don't have to bring bags for multiple climates. Here are situations I have faced recently.

    1) Business trip to LA followed by trip to Utah for skiing? You need dress shoes, sneakers, ski boots, ski jackets, dress shirts, casual clothes, etc. Check-in required

    2) Trip to Miami followed by long weekend?...

    Checking vs not checking is entirely dependent on what you have to bring with you. And with climate variation, I am surprised more people don't have to bring bags for multiple climates. Here are situations I have faced recently.

    1) Business trip to LA followed by trip to Utah for skiing? You need dress shoes, sneakers, ski boots, ski jackets, dress shirts, casual clothes, etc. Check-in required

    2) Trip to Miami followed by long weekend? Carryon typically carries a suit, dress shoes, some casual wear, etc. You wanna go out for the weekend? Maybe you need casual outfits. Swimsuits, etc. Maybe you need to check in.

    Basically, any trip where you have to wear a suit and tie with dress shoes, followed by casual clothing or technical clothing (ski boots, hiking boots, whatever), you need a check in. If you are traveling to a winter destination, you probably need a check in regardless of trip purpose.

  40. Samo Guest

    I always check my bag, unless it's a day trip or perhaps max 1 night in the destination. I can't be bothered trying to fit everything into a carry-on, having to unpack and repack at security (e.g. liquids, or whenever they feel like something doesn't look right on the x-ray image), dragging my bag all around the airport and fight for an overhead space on board.

    Stopping by at check-in isn't a huge deal. *G...

    I always check my bag, unless it's a day trip or perhaps max 1 night in the destination. I can't be bothered trying to fit everything into a carry-on, having to unpack and repack at security (e.g. liquids, or whenever they feel like something doesn't look right on the x-ray image), dragging my bag all around the airport and fight for an overhead space on board.

    Stopping by at check-in isn't a huge deal. *G check-in desks are usually fast enough, not to mention that more and more airlines and airports are now offering self-service bag drop which usually doesn't have any waiting time at all. I've never had a bag lost or damaged in my life - I know it can happen but it's so rare that it's statistically irrelevant. I did have two delays though, but in both cases I got my bag delivered within few hours.

    The only issue is waiting at the baggage claim, which takes a lot of time at certain airports. But it's still worth the extra comfort of not having to deal with a carry-on to me.

    1. Ben H. Guest

      I don't know if you're a frequent flyer or not, but regardless count yourself lucky for never having a bag lost or damaged. I wouldn't consider myself a frequent flyer, but in 2019 (year I traveled most, 20 odd flights) two of my large suitcases (2x Samsonite) and 1 gate-checked carry-on (Rimowa) were considerably damaged to the point of having to take them to a repair shop. Maybe I'm very unlucky, but nonetheless I'd say...

      I don't know if you're a frequent flyer or not, but regardless count yourself lucky for never having a bag lost or damaged. I wouldn't consider myself a frequent flyer, but in 2019 (year I traveled most, 20 odd flights) two of my large suitcases (2x Samsonite) and 1 gate-checked carry-on (Rimowa) were considerably damaged to the point of having to take them to a repair shop. Maybe I'm very unlucky, but nonetheless I'd say that your claim of checked bags getting damaged being statistically irrelevant is very bold, if not completely wrong.

    2. Mike C Diamond

      If you are that one person who has been struck by lightning it is no consolation that such an occurrence is statistically irrelevant. The real statistical improbability of something happening doesn't make the few occasions when it actually does happen any less real.

      I have travelled a lot (not Ben levels, or indeed as much as often as my esteemed colleagues on here), and over the years had only two instances, once where I...

      If you are that one person who has been struck by lightning it is no consolation that such an occurrence is statistically irrelevant. The real statistical improbability of something happening doesn't make the few occasions when it actually does happen any less real.

      I have travelled a lot (not Ben levels, or indeed as much as often as my esteemed colleagues on here), and over the years had only two instances, once where I only just made my flight at LHR and my bag was two days late and battered beyond belief when it arrived in Penang (and was replaced by the carrier that flew the final leg) and once when my bag missed the connection at CLT on a DCA-HNL trip. It turned up a day late sans tag but the airline had handed me cash to buy stuff. I dodged one bullet when the agent in the DFW Admiral's Club noticed my bag had only been tagged to there rather than my final destination, and I was able to claim it and recheck.

      So, not lightning level improbability, but sufficiently rare that I accept its possibility and roll the dice most times anyway. That's even after seeing luggage mountains at LHR and other assorted horror stories over recent months.

  41. Ella Guest

    You’ve left out one huge advantage to carryon only, with mixed tickets. Internationally, it saves going through customs, picking up a bag, and clearing customs back in. In rare events, you can even save a security clearance by just going directly to your next gate. But holiday shopping on my last trip had me checking my main carryon to get home.

    1. JRG Guest

      Very true. Also - having just returned from Zurich (and DEN-SLC) - having no checked bags allowed me to easily change flights in the US (because of delays); standing by for a ticket on the last leg saved me about 3 hours. If I had a bag checked it would have been different....

  42. Ellen T. Guest

    I agree that it is generally much more convenient not to check a bag . However the result of the general trend to carry on only is shortage of overhead space leading to delayed boarding as passengers maximize their allowance, then hunt for space and manoever other items to fit their pieces in the bin. Inevitability there will not be enough room and the unlucky will have their item gate checked increasing the risk of...

    I agree that it is generally much more convenient not to check a bag . However the result of the general trend to carry on only is shortage of overhead space leading to delayed boarding as passengers maximize their allowance, then hunt for space and manoever other items to fit their pieces in the bin. Inevitability there will not be enough room and the unlucky will have their item gate checked increasing the risk of it being lost. Over it being properly checked. In recognition of this some budget carriers have started charging for carry on - in some cases more than they do for checked luggage. I have no doubt that if people continue to push their carry on allowances to the maximum this trend will spread to traditional airlines along with stricter enforcement of carry on allowances. So enjoy the luxury of carry on only while you can, it's not going to be here forever.

  43. HeathrowGuy Guest

    Another good reason to check a bag is to save the wear and tear on our bodies from schlepping heavy things through airports.

  44. Tom Farmer Guest

    I will never, ever check a bag on the OUTBOUND leg. If it’s delayed or lost, it has serious negative effects on my trip — especially if I am hopping Citicorp hotels while away, or catching a cruise. I will consider checking a bag on the HOMEBOUND flight, especially if I’ve acquired a bunch of items on the road. If the bag’s delayed or lost, it has less impact. (I’ll check the bag full of...

    I will never, ever check a bag on the OUTBOUND leg. If it’s delayed or lost, it has serious negative effects on my trip — especially if I am hopping Citicorp hotels while away, or catching a cruise. I will consider checking a bag on the HOMEBOUND flight, especially if I’ve acquired a bunch of items on the road. If the bag’s delayed or lost, it has less impact. (I’ll check the bag full of dirty laundry and carry on anything important; I sometimes travel with an extra, compact-packed but expandable soft bag to make this happen.) But in general I never check anything I care about seeing again.

  45. DenB Diamond

    I agree that circumstances have changed in favour of maybe sometimes considering checking a bag. For me, they have not changed enough. I still wouldn't consider it. I value Same Day Standby more highly than the average traveller, I do not travel with children, I never travel to cold climates and I know how to travel with one pair of shoes. I never use LCCs or ULCCs, so I usually don't run into the carry-on...

    I agree that circumstances have changed in favour of maybe sometimes considering checking a bag. For me, they have not changed enough. I still wouldn't consider it. I value Same Day Standby more highly than the average traveller, I do not travel with children, I never travel to cold climates and I know how to travel with one pair of shoes. I never use LCCs or ULCCs, so I usually don't run into the carry-on restrictions. You know that feeling you get when you're too far from your mobile phone? (the slightly vague sense of something wrong, followed by the clarity of what's wrong, then outright panic)? I get that when they get-check my bag. That's why I've downsized my (always 2-wheel) rollaboard. Call me stubborn, but I know which answer is better when the uniformed airline employee, considering my request, asks the Golden Question "have you checked any bags?"

  46. D3kingg Guest

    Liquids is an invalid point to check in a bag . Go to a drug store and buy travel size containers for $1.99. Problem solved . You can carry on your moisturizer, sunscreen, etc.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ D3kingg -- We go through a LOT of sunscreen when traveling to sunny destinations. Usually my quart size liquids bag is full with toothpaste, moisturizer, etc., so there's not really room for sufficient sunscreen.

    2. Never In Doubt Guest

      Rollout stick sunscreen.

  47. Sigmund Guest

    @Lucky I haven’t seen much in the blogging world about this but it seems like AA is having significant issues with their baggage handling system at DFW. My bags have been there for two days and according to an agent I spoke with there may be 10,000 bags piling up at the airport. As someone that always used to carryon l, once you have children it’s much more difficult to do so.

  48. Bruno Guest

    Checked bags sort of restrict you from immediately jumping on another flight during short notice IRROPS.
    Also not being able to go airside more than 3h in advance (when checkin desk usually opens) at intl airports with nice lounges can be annoying.

    On the other hand a benefit of having a checked bag is that they’ll more likely hold the plane for you when being a bit late at the gate, especially internationally.

  49. Sean M. Diamond

    I fail to see the attraction of carrying / dragging more than you absolutely need to through the airport.

    I will carry one light duffel bag with one day of emergency clothes together with critical electronics, and the rest can go in the hold. Life is so much simpler that way.

    1. chasgoose Guest

      Yeah, I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather have less to deal with in the airport. It’s just one less thing to forget and deal with. Especially if I have a connection or am on a regional jet with too small overheads.

      That said, if my flight is already delayed or the weather suggests the potential for IRROPS, I will suck it up and carry on.

  50. Jim Guest

    The make-or-break for me on most trips is sunscreen... I burn easily, so if I'm going somewhere sunny, I need a lot of it! Can't do that with current liquid rules.

    Occasionally on long trips (2 weeks or more) it's just a matter of needing too much stuff to carry comfortably.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Sunscreen in rollout stick form (sort of like deodorant), for the win.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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HeathrowGuy Guest

Another good reason to check a bag is to save the wear and tear on our bodies from schlepping heavy things through airports.

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Samo Guest

I always check my bag, unless it's a day trip or perhaps max 1 night in the destination. I can't be bothered trying to fit everything into a carry-on, having to unpack and repack at security (e.g. liquids, or whenever they feel like something doesn't look right on the x-ray image), dragging my bag all around the airport and fight for an overhead space on board. Stopping by at check-in isn't a huge deal. *G check-in desks are usually fast enough, not to mention that more and more airlines and airports are now offering self-service bag drop which usually doesn't have any waiting time at all. I've never had a bag lost or damaged in my life - I know it can happen but it's so rare that it's statistically irrelevant. I did have two delays though, but in both cases I got my bag delivered within few hours. The only issue is waiting at the baggage claim, which takes a lot of time at certain airports. But it's still worth the extra comfort of not having to deal with a carry-on to me.

4
Sean M. Diamond

I fail to see the attraction of carrying / dragging more than you absolutely need to through the airport. I will carry one light duffel bag with one day of emergency clothes together with critical electronics, and the rest can go in the hold. Life is so much simpler that way.

4
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