Most travellers I know aim to travel with just carry-on baggage but most often end up checking their bags because it takes far too much time and effort to pack smart and efficiently. Most of us pack far too many clothes than we will ever need because doing so requires much less thought when packing. Just throw everything in that suitcase and don’t worry about it right?
Although there may be several benefits to travelling with just carry-on, in my personal experience it may not always be the best choice. In fact, it may end up causing you more headaches throughout your journey. Before I divulge why it may be less convenient to not check a bag, lets explore some of the benefits to travelling with carry-on alone:
Pros of Travelling With Only Carry-On Baggage:
No extra baggage fees
The typical airline charges $25US per checked bag and up to well over $100 for bags that are overweight. By keeping your personal articles to a minimum, you can save up to over $200 per return flight. Recently however, due to long TSA wait lines, some airlines are dropping baggage fees in order to expedite the security wait times.
Save Time by Avoiding Baggage Drop-off Lines and Waiting to Collect Your Baggage at Your Destination
If you are checking a bag, be prepared to add at least 1 hour minimum to your transit time. Instead of simply printing off your boarding pass and proceeding through security, you will have to tag your bag and line up to drop off your bag. This process alone can take an hour so if you are planning on checking a bag, be sure to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights in order to ensure you have enough time to drop off your bag and go through security.
Furthermore, when you arrive at your destination, typically you will have to wait an additional 20-30 minutes for your bag to be available for pick-up at the baggage claim carousel. For international travellers, this wait may be even longer given that customs agents may be searching your bags prior to putting them on the carousel. What better things could you be doing in those 20 minutes? Be at your hotel, sipping on a nice glass of chardonnay? Sign me up!
No Worrying About Lost Baggage
I don’t know about you but every time I’m waiting at the baggage claim, I always fret over the fact that my bag might not make it. I neurotically think of what time I checked-in for my flight and what order my bag should be in as it was loaded and unloaded on the plane. Fortunately, I have not ever had one of my bags lost but one time I had to wait almost 3 hours after returning on a flight that arrived at midnight. I was not a happy camper by the time I claimed my bag at 3am but nonetheless, I was pleased that I did get my bag!
Save Money at Your Destination
Cons of Travelling with Only Carry-On Baggage:
Not All “Carry-on Approved” Bags Will Fit in Overhead Bins
Ever go to a luggage shop and see luggage labelled as “Carry-On Approved Luggage”? Or even try out the airline’s “Carry-on Approved Luggage Sizes” bins at the airport? Well sorry to disappoint, all that is meaningless and rather completely dependent on the type of aircraft you will be flying on. Each aircraft has VERY different overhead bin storage space and there are some aircraft such as the dash series which won’t fit much more than a laptop case!
Travel Tip: I always travel with an extra small bag/purse within my larger carry-on which contains all of my electronic devices (cell phone, chargers, etc). Note the small purse in the left of this photo which I store in my larger carry-on below. This way if you are on a small aircraft where your bag won’t fit and you have to use the sky-check service, you can quickly remove any articles which cannot be checked (i.e. anything containing a lithium ion battery).
Additional Scrutiny at Customs Checkpoints
As I mentioned previously, if you are just travelling with carry-on, you have limited space in which to place any additional articles which ultimately limits you in terms of what you can purchase throughout your travels. Several times, well more often than not, I travel with only carry-on and do not purchase any items while abroad and therefore have nothing to declare at customs. Apparently this must be some sort of red flag or perhaps a red flag only because I am a female and I should be bringing multiple bags and shopping everywhere I go? I have wound up in secondary screening almost every time I travel with carry-on only and have nothing to declare. Being subject to secondary screening is time consuming and anything but fun. At minimum, it may add 1 hour to your journey and if you have been travelling for a long time, this is the last thing you want to have to go through! As a side note, if you are travelling internationally, ALWAYS DECLARE EVERYTHING HONESTLY and IF IN DOUBT, DECLARE IT! Not properly declaring items is a serious offense!
Limited Quantity of Items (Liquids and gels, clothing, shoes etc.)
This is probably the biggest challenge for most travellers; Being able to pack all of your necessities in such a way that it meets carry-on requirements. Liquids and gels are limited to a maximum of 1L total comprising of bottles that contain a maximum of 100 ML each and that is very difficult to do, especially if travelling for more than a few days at a time. Clothing can be packed minimally especially if your hotel has laundry facilities but shoes however cannot. If you are planning on travelling with just carry-on, I recommend wearing all of your bulkiest items (boots, jacket, etc.) during transit.
In reading this, I hope that my points will better prepare you for your next trip.
Looking for tips on how to travel more efficiently? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Safe travels my friends!