June 19, 2024

The Pros and Cons of a Carry-On

The Pros

  1. Saves time. You don’t have to wait around for baggage claim after your flight.
  2. Saves money (Most of the time). Luggage fees vary. Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item for free. If you can fit all your clothing and travel gear in those bags, you won’t pay any luggage fees.
  3. Less Stress. You don’t have to worry about the airline losing your luggage.
  4. Less Weight to Carry
  5. Your belongings are less likely to get damaged in your carry-on bag
  6. It’s easier to move around. When you travel with a carry-on, you can easily carry your bag over cobblestone streets, up and down stairs, and into packed buses and metros.
  7. You can take flights with short layovers. If you only pack a carry-on bag, you can schedule a layover as short as half an hour. You just need to leave yourself enough time to deboard and walk through the airport to catch your next flight.
  8. You can reroute or re-book your flight if a problem arises
  9. You can schedule flights using multiple airlines
  10. You won’t overpack
  11. All the above = Less Stress and a more relaxed trip

The Cons 

    1. Carry-on luggage has a strict weight limit. Most airlines have a maximum carry-on weight is 10 kilos or 22 pounds. Budget airlines often limit carry-ons to 5-7 kg (11-15 lbs.). To compare, most airlines limit checked bag weight to 23 kg or 50 lbs. You can’t carry nearly as much with you when you travel with a carry-on.
    2.  Space is limited in a carry-on. Packing cubes can help you fit more clothes in your carry-on sized bag.
    3. You must carry your luggage through the airport and load and unload it
    4. You might have to pay for your carry-on
    5. Your wardrobe will be limited
    6. You’ll need to wash your clothes during your trip
    7. You won’t be able to pack winter clothing
    8. No space for souvenirs 

Checked Bags

Most airlines have a checked bag size limit of 62 linear inches (158 cm). This means that the length + width + height must total less than 62 inches. This size limit is universal. Most large suitcases measure somewhere between 25 and 32 inches tall with varying widths. Most airlines have a maximum checked bag limit of 50 lbs. (23 kg).

The fee to check a bag varies by airline and by route. Most domestic and budget airlines charge $25-$60 each way per checked bag. Usually, one checked bag is included in the price of international tickets. If your checked luggage is oversized or overweight, you will be charged an additional fee.

Who Should Travel with a Carry-On?

A carry-on is the better choice for those who move around frequently while traveling. Maybe you’re a multi-mode traveler who takes planes, trains, buses, ferries, taxis, and metros every other day. In these cases, you’ll be much happier with a compact and portable carry-on bag. It’s so much faster and more convenient to pack a small bag.

Those who are on a tight budget are also better off with a carry-on. When traveling with a lightweight carry-on, you can also avoid expensive taxis and Uber by taking public transport or simply walking between the train or train station and your hotel.

Light travelers also enjoy the simplicity and convenience of traveling with a carry-on. When you travel with fewer things, you have less stuff to worry about getting lost, damaged, or stolen. It is a free feeling to travel with a single carry-on bag.

A carry-on is also ideal for those who are short on time. If you’re taking an overnight trip, you don’t want to waste an hour waiting to check a bag and then waiting at the baggage claim.

Who Should Travel with a Checked Bag?

Those who are traveling long-term or full-time are usually better off checking a bag. It’s nice to have some stylish clothing, extra shoes, luxury items, and extra outfits when you’re traveling for months or years at a time. If you value comfort, you’ll probably want to check a bag.

A checked bag is often a better choice for those who must work while they travel. For example, maybe you need to carry a laptop, tablet, camera and lenses, keyboard, mouse, drone, hard drive, batteries, chargers, cables, etc. This gear will take up most of your carry-on space. You’ll need a checked bag for your clothes and other travel gear.

If you need to pack specialty gear for your trip, you’ll probably need to check a bag. For example, if you’re going on a surf trip or ski trip, you’ll need to pack your surfboard or skis in a checked bag.

Those who are traveling through multiple climate zones are also better off checking a bag. You’ll need extra space for boots, a jacket, snow pants, a scarf, gloves, and a sweater.

You’ll also need to check a bag if you’re traveling with items that aren’t permitted in a carry-on. For example, if you want to pack a tent, trekking poles, a full-sized bottle of shampoo, a pocket knife, etc. you’ll need to check a bag. These items aren’t permitted in the cabin of an airplane.

Travelers who spend their whole vacation in the same location are also better off checking a bag. If you only travel from the airport to your hotel and don’t move around, the portability of your luggage doesn’t really matter.

How to Choose Between Traveling with Checked vs Carry On Luggage

If you’re still having trouble deciding between traveling with a carry-on or checked bag, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you able to fit everything you need in a carry-on-sized bag? If you’re not sure, pack everything you need in a carry-on. If it won’t fit, you’ll know you must check a bag.

  • Are there any items that you want to bring that are not permitted in a carry-on bag? Some items are permitted in checked bags but not carry-on. Can you do without those items? If not, you’ll need to check a bag.

  • What is your budget? Packing a carry-on will usually save you money. Check luggage fees to confirm. If traveling with a carry-on means you’ll need to buy gear at your destination, you might end up spending more.

  • Is time tight? Choosing a carry-on bag saves you time on both ends of your flight and during layovers. You save time during check-in and avoid the baggage claim altogether. If you have a short layover, you may need to travel with a carry-on to make your second flight.

  • Do you value comfort or convenience more? A carry-on bag is much more convenient. It streamlines your airport experience. Checking your bag is much more comfortable because you can pack more stuff.

  • What packing style do you prefer? Consider personal preference. If you like having more with you, check the bag. If you’re a minimalist, go with a carry-on.

My Choice: Carry-On

After experiencing the loss of my luggage, I began traveling with only a carry-on. To fit everything, I pared down to the essentials.  See what I pack for 2 weeks

Even though packing everything into a carry-on is somewhat limiting, I find it to be faster, more convenient, and more secure. I save time by not having to deal with checking my bag or waiting around the baggage claim.

Each trip is different. Before your trip, take time to think about what you need to pack to help you decide which type of luggage is best for your trip. For a short vacation to a warm-weather destination, you can almost always get away with just a carry-on. If you’re planning a long-term trip through a range of weather conditions, you may need to check a bag.

Need a Travel Coach?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !