To Check Or Carry On, that is the Question

I used to be one of those people that lugged around a suitcase that was so large, even without much in it I probably went over the allotted checked bag weight limit. With the amount of travel I’ve done in recent years, I’ve gotten much better. I still can’t, and really don’t want to, do two weeks in Europe with a carry on, but I definitely carry on my luggage much more than I used to.

People often ask me – is it better to check or carry on? While that’s really up to you, as I don’t want you arriving at your destination with a one pair of mis-matched socks and too few pairs of underwear, I can provide some of the pros and cons.

Pros for carrying on:

1. You don’t pay for it!

2. You don’t bring 10 pairs of pants that you never end up wearing. You have to pare down.

3. If you’re running for a connection, you don’t have to wonder if your bag is going to make it.

4. You don’t have to worry about things being taken out or “misplaced” from your checked luggage.

5. You’ll feel accomplished – honest!

6. If you buy souvenirs and have to expand your suitcase or buy a duffle bag, you always have the option to check your bag on the way back without having to pay for a second checked bag.

7. If you print out your boarding pass online, you don’t have to deal with the baggage drop line at the airport. You can go right to security.

8. Two words: baggage claim

Cons of carrying on:

1. You really have to pack consciously. You can’t just throw stuff in there.

2. It limits what else you can take. When traveling for fun, I usually travel with my laptop or ipad (have to, I have client emergencies that pop up), my DSLR camera, my luggage, and my purse. I have a camera/laptop combo backpack, but that still leaves me with three items counting my purse. I usually shove my purse in my suitcase to board, but I need to leave enough room in there to do so.

3. If you don’t want to check your bag on the way back, it limits souvenir purchasing.

4. You have to lug it around the airport. Airport bathroom stalls with a roller board and a “personal item” get crowded.

5. Your toiletries are limited to 3 oz. Most hotels provide shampoo, etc but if it’s something like hair gel or a specific product you can’t find at your destination, this cramps your style.

6. You have to fight for overhead bin space, and if you’re on a very full flight and in boarding zone 4 or 5, you may have to check it at the gate anyway (though may be able to pick it up as you step off the plane and not have to wait at baggage claim).


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