Travel Tip #1: Always Carry On


Pack Light!After shelling out a cool grand for that overseas flight (you fly coach – right?), you notice that those pesky baggage fees are only for domestic flights. Hooray – the you’ve gotten something for free from an airline! Without a fee for checked luggage, you decide to stash your carry on bag in the closet and borrow your parents’ big suitcase that has Rollerblade wheels so you can pack an outfit for every occasion and bring back souvenirs that scream “Look where I went” for even your most distant relatives.

But hold up there big spender – for most people on most trips, you need to bring your carry on bag and leave the behemoth bag behind. It’s not just the fees ($25 each way for the first bag on most domestic flights), but also the time, effort, energy and risk involved in taking more than you need on vacation. Oh, and if you think you are avoiding the fees because you are flying internationally, remember that any flights you take while you are on vacation will probably charge you a fee. Let’s break it down for you:

Time. If you check your bag, you are going to have to get to the airport a little earlier so you can stand in the first of many lines you will stand in that day. Carrying your bag gets you out of the first line, so that’s a plus. And when you land, you do not have to wait forever (seriously, my bag was on the same plane I was, right?) only to have them to chuck your luggage onto that moving carousel surrounded by the same people you just spent the last half-day with.

Effort. This becomes especially important with a connecting domestic flight after you land from an international flight. When you first land in the US you have to clear customs with all of your luggage, then go through security all over again. If your bag was checked, you have to wait to collect it and then wait to recheck it. They can make the planes stay up in the air, right? There has to be a better way to do this.

Energy. A big bag is heavier and requires more exertion on your part to move it from point Airport to point B&B. You have to believe me because I was Physics Student of the Year in 2001 (for reals). Not every airport has those moving walkways and not all hotels have elevators, so save yourself some blood, sweat and tears and bring a small, lightweight carry on bag that you can easily move around with.

Risk. Don’t take anything with you that you cannot afford to lose. Plain and simple. Airlines lose luggage ALL OF THE TIME. In addition to that, if your connecting flight cut it too close, your checked bag may not be on the same plane you are and you will have to get your bag the next day. There is the risk of your stuff getting lost or stolen on your trip. You are better off keeping your belongings where you can see them.

Know Before You Go

Check your airline’s website for the exact dimensions, but usually anything smaller than 22” x 14” x 9” can come on board with you. You are also allowed a personal item. (If you are a man, this purse is called a “laptop bag.”)

Bottom line:

Carry on. The smaller bag will force you to pack light and save you money, time, energy, effort and risk.

7 responses to “Travel Tip #1: Always Carry On”

  1. avatar Erin says:

    Agreed! Never EVER EVER check bags! Another trip: Try doing some sink laundry. Pack a little bit of laundry detergent for cleaning up smallish clothes (socks, undies, thinner shirts). You can pack fewer clothes (and have a lighter carry-on bag) if you do a little wash on vacation. Just think ahead about how long stuff might take to dry.

  2. avatar nova says:

    It’s my FAVORITE to just have a carry on. I feel so free. Good advice! 🙂

  3. avatar Johanna says:

    Would love to be able to only bring carry on, but for trips to my family in france for 4 weeks it’s just not possible to fit my things in a carry on. And my toiletries can’t be in my carry on so..

  4. If you’re a big souvenir shopper, you can always put a small duffel in your carry-on and check it on the way back. I think I could easily fit my stuff into my carry-on, but for special trips it’s the gift-buying that kills me!

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Last updated: February 19, 2014