Home Travel Equipment Which Is Better, Checking Luggage Or Just Doing Carry On?

Which Is Better, Checking Luggage Or Just Doing Carry On?

by SharonKurheg

Some people swear by traveling with only carry on luggage. I’ve heard them say how they traveled all across Europe for a month with only a knapsack. And other people are like, “That’s nuts!”

Others will travel for a week and will carry just about everything they think they could ever need. They’ve got 2 checked bags, a carry-on and the biggest handheld bag that will legally fit under the seat. And the backpackers look at them and think, “That’s crazy!”

So yeah, some people are team carry on, others are team checked luggage. Both have their good points and their bad points. Like these…

Just Doing Carry On


  • Your stuff can’t get lost – your bag is always with you, so it can’t be sent to the wrong city by mistake
  • It’s faster – you don’t have to wait on any bag drop line when you arrive at the airport, and you don’t have to wait at the luggage carousel after you’ve landed
  • It’s cheaper – most airlines allow you to bring a carry on bag for free
  • There’s less to drag around – once you’ve landed, you only have that bag and maybe a personal sized bag to bring with you from place to place


  • You’re limited in how much you can bring – you’re going to have to make sure that everything you bring can be mixed and matched. That means more focus when you’re packing, as well as more washing while you’re away. And if you get an impossible stain on that blouse you planned to wear with 4 outfits, well, then what?
  • You’re limited in what you can bring home – if you want to bring back a special souvenir, or gifts for friends, you’re going to run out of space quickly. And forget about bringing home anything liquid like beer or wine.
  • It could be more expensive – it’s the exception more than the rule nowadays, but in an effort to decrease carry on luggage, some airlines (Frontier, Spirit) have made carry on bags more expensive to bring onto the plane than checked luggage.

Checking Luggage


  • It’s easier to pack – you don’t have to choose between a pair of shoes and your “good” camera because you can bring both.
  • You can bring things that you’re not allowed to pack into your carry on – if you’re going to be gone for 2 weeks, you may want to bring a big bottle of shampoo. Or maybe you always keep your grandfather’s pocket knife with you; you can’t bring it with you into the cabin but it can go in your checked baggage.
  • It’s easier to get around the airport – assuming that your carry on isn’t as heavy because you have more stuff in your checked back (or maybe you don’t have a carry on at all), it makes walking around the airport a comparative breeze


  • It’s more expensive – with the exception of Southwest Airlines, you can expect to pay $30+ to check your first bag
  • It can get lost – although airlines are getting much better at keeping track of your luggage, a bag given to an airline to be placed in the cargo hold is still a bag that’s at risk of being sent somewhere else or just lost altogether (here’s a list of the airlines most likely to lose or misdirect your luggage)

Obviously, lots of the above have their caveats – if you have the right credit card or status, your fee for checked luggage may be waived. If you’re in the latter half boarding the plane, you may be told there’s no room left in the overhead and you have to check your bag anyway.

Which Are You?

Personally, I tend to overpack and am definitely on Team Checked Luggage. The only time I can get away with just carry on is if it’s a long weekend – probably up to 4 days in the summer, no more than 3 in the winter.

How about you? Are you Team Checked Luggage or Team Carry On? Or does it depend on circumstances?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Timothy Archer January 21, 2020 - 3:04 pm

I despise checking bags. Every minute spent at the carousel feels like an hour.

Ron D January 21, 2020 - 5:54 pm

Carry-on FOREVER!!. I had to check a bag on an Air Asia flight from SIN-LKW (1 hr flight) and I felt defeated 🙂

Lisa Deutsch Harrigan January 21, 2020 - 8:16 pm

I fly Southwest whenever I can for a reason, I am definitely Team Checked Luggage. I carry on valuables, medical, stuff I need 1st day, and one outfit change. The rest is checked, and I don’t have to worry about what I can’t carry on.
PS I used to be Team Carry On, then TSA went nuts. Even some of my standard knitting tools aren’t allowed. I’ll check rather than do without.

Gizmosdad January 21, 2020 - 11:13 pm

3 nights or less, carry on. 4 or more {or 3 nights when I need extra clothing} checked. Sometimes I have complicated airline plans and a carry on is just easier (tight connections, changing airports, switching airlines, etc.) But it I have a long flight, I might check my bag and carry on a few small bags just so that I have more legroom.


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