Checking Bags vs Carry On: A Travel Debate With Myself

There was a recent article on Defector where two of their writers debated the merits of each option. I read the article and commented on Twitter that I had mixed feelings about this decision. I have a flight to Nashville coming in June. I will have to make this decision. Here are the pros and cons of each. I am flying Southwest, so I can check one bag free. The decision changes when there is a fee.

Checking Bags


  • You don’t have to limit your packing to make it fit in a carry-on eligible bag.
  • You don’t have to worry about making sure all of your shampoos and such are in a separate clear bag and the right size.
  • The security line is much easier when I am only carrying my phone and the book I plan to read.
  • Boarding is easier when you don’t have to look for overhead space for your bag.
  • You avoid being the annoying person who holds up the boarding process looking for space.
  • If you have a layover you have less stuff to worry about lugging from gate to gate.


  • You have to deal with possible lines to check your luggage.
  • You have to deal with baggage claim at the end of the trip.
  • There is the possibility of lost luggage.
  • You might leave your ride waiting while you wait for your luggage.

Carry On


  • If you have your boarding pass, you can head straight to security when you arrive at the airport.
  • You can head straight to the exit when you arrive at your destination.
  • This reduces the amount of time you have to spend at the airport and reduces the wait of someone picking you up.
  • You have control of your possessions so there is no worry about lost luggage.


  • You have to be more careful how you pack – the right size liquids in a clear bag and a smaller bag that will fit in the overhead.
  • You have more to worry about in the security line.
  • You have to take the time to find overhead space when boarding.
  • You have more to carry from gate to gate and restrooms/coffee/etc. during a layover.

My decision varies from trip to trip.

If it is a short trip with direct flights I almost always carry everything on with me.

If it is a longer trip with layovers I tend to check my luggage.

I always check my bags on international flights.

Where do you fall in the debate? Do you check your bags? Carry on? Does it change from flight to flight?


10 thoughts on “Checking Bags vs Carry On: A Travel Debate With Myself

  1. I always check my bag. At my age and size, I have a terrible time even getting a coat into the overhead compartment. I know I wouldn’t have the strength to launch a bag into it, let alone pull it out without bonking myself or someone else in the head. And I don’t have to worry about liquids/creams in my carryon. I have a tote bag to carry my iPad and other sundry items that I want on my person just in case, and it fits under the seat in front of me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Travelling without having to tote stuff about is so freeing, as I discovered the first time I flew after 9/11 and could only carry that small see through bag. And these days, with camera kit to manage, everything else would get checked.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup. Except that the last time I did it, the players in my rugby team were around the same carousel. Win, win 😉 as 1) they grabbed my case for me and 2) they’re charming and very funny company. I know I can’t be that lucky every though.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s