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Carry-On Vs. Checked Luggage

This is always the debate, do I check my bag or do I carry it on? This decision gets me every single time. There truly is an art to making this decision. So how do you decide whether to check your luggage or carry it on?

Here’s my checklist for deciding on whether I should check my bag or carry it on:

1. Are there checked luggage fees?

I always try to determine if it is worth it to check my bags. I fly almost exclusively United and take advantage of their credit card to get free bags but when I do travel with other airlines, I have a look at how much it’s going to cost before weighing it out if it’s worth it. Then there are situations where I just have to check the bag.

2. Can it all fit?

Do I really need 5 coats for a weekend trip? Probably not, so let’s make some decisions, plan ahead and take two coats — I then can probably check my bag.

3. Am I pressed on time?

Checking bags means extra time pre and post departure, this is something to keep in mind. Am I in a rush when I land or can I hang out an extra thirty minutes for my suitcase?

4. Can I afford to have a lost suitcase?

Airlines on average lose 17% of checked luggage (though they have made measures to bring this number down). When I am going on a trip that has multiple locations and am going from place to place, I cannot afford for my suitcase to be lost. It can take two days or more for your suitcase to catch up to you and if you are on the road, this can complicate things. When I want to make sure my belongings are with me, I usually will not check my bag. If I am headed somewhere to hangout for a week or two, it’s really not going to affect me if my luggage is lost and delayed in arrival.

5. Do I really want to carry it?

Yeah, dragging suitcases through an airport can be a pain — so I check it for simply just this reason. I do love to just have my purse and not worry about the suitcase.

Hopefully this is helpful for your next travels, stay tune for a “how to pack a carry-on” soon!

Bon travels xx

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


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