To Check or Not Check Luggage

To Check or Not Check Luggage

Article by Dr. Linda Ralston, aka Utah Tour Doctor

I am leaving for a last minute trip to California for just 4 days and there is always the consideration, do I check or not check? My choice varies according to the purpose and length of the trip and the amount of electronics I need to take with me.  I use to always use the overhead bin, but it has become a real zoo getting even a small bag on board a flight.  Therefore, I have developed a check list for deciding whether to check versus not to check a bag when flying.

Check a Bag:

  • Traveling for a long business or pleasure trip of 1 or more weeks . . . the longer the trip the increased need to pack more clothes.
  • Weight or size of bag exceeds the limits for carry-on luggage.
  • Preference for personal toiletries (special shampoos, etc.) or lodging at destination will not have toiletries (i.e., safari, camping, backpacking, etc.)
  • Assigned a late boarding group . . . even if you are sitting in the front of the economy seating if you are in the Group F, those boarding passengers before you will store their roller bags in overhead bins near your seat.
  • Airplane type for one or more segments of my flights do not have adequate overhead compartment bins available. If I need to wait for my luggage to be brought to me at the gate, this eliminates the convenience and time factor of what I might save by carrying-on luggage.
  • If traveling alone and there will be a lengthy time period between flights, then I will not want to drag my carry-on luggage to and from every shop, bathroom, restaurant, or Internet Cafe in order to comply with TSA guidelines for unattended luggage.
  • Frequent flyer status, membership, credit card used to book flight, first or business class ticket eliminates the fees for checking luggage.
  • If checking luggage, I will purchase a separate travel insurance package that covers lost or delayed luggage. Do not depend on the airline to provide compensation for delayed luggage or assist you immediately upon arrival.

Carry-on Bag Only:

  • Traveling for a short business trip of 3-4 days.
  • If traveling for an international or longer trip and I want to pack a change of clothes in case my checked luggage is lost or delayed.
  • Minimal number of clothes & shoes needed.
  • Weight or size of carry-on bag falls within the size requirements for carry-on luggage.
  • Need to save time by avoiding the luggage carousel and connecting with ground transportation in order to meet a scheduled appointment.
  • Hotel at destination has shampoos & other toiletries that might be needed. (If I do plan to pack any liquids, the bottle must not exceed 3 ounces and all bottles must fit within a sandwich bag.)
  • Guaranteed early boarding or Priority Seating to ensure that you have access to the overhead bin near your seat.
  • Verified that the airplane type for each segment of my flights have adequate overhead compartment bins available.  Yes, you can Gate Check your carry-on, but this eliminates the time saved by not checking a bag.
  • Verify that I can lift the carry-on bag over my head to place in the overhead compartment.  I should never expect someone to help me load or retrieve my luggage.
  • Avoid luggage fees for checking luggage . . . just make sure that you do not exceed weight or size limits.
  • Returning from an international destination where I may be buying items that are fragile or valuable, then I will want to pack these items in a carry-on for the return trip. (Check out a folding carry-on bag to pack for extra space enroute.)

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