5 Ways Carry-On Luggage Can Save You Time and Money

By Kentin Waits on 27 January 2015 1 comment

I don't know about you, but just the thought of air travel fills me with dread. Booking a flight is a bit like agreeing to toss my schedule into a chipper-shredder for at least a day and embracing the Great Unknown. The whole process is just stressful enough that travelers are hungry for any tip or trick to help the whole process go a bit more smoothly. (See also: 15 Airport Hacks From Professional Travelers)

After 15 years of living far enough from family that any visit requires a flight, I've adopted a personal travel policy that makes a world of difference: I pack strategically and fit everything into a single carry-on bag. Seriously — I haven't checked a bag since the Clinton Administration. If you're still checking luggage when you fly, it's time for a change. Here are five ways you can save time and money by traveling with only a carry-on.

1. Easier Check-Ins

Without luggage to tag and check, you can skip the long lines at the check-in counter. Print your boarding passes beforehand or at the self-service check-in machines at the airport and then breeze right over to the TSA screening line. If you're running late, being able to dodge even a single slow-moving line can mean the difference between making your flight and screaming as you watch it taxi down the runway.

2. No Fees… Most of the Time

One of the most obvious benefits of traveling with a carry-on only is avoiding the notorious checked baggage fee. Depending on the carrier, these charges can range from $25$50 for the first two bags and up to $125 for each additional bag. For budget-conscious travelers, those numbers can add up quickly. And while the majority of airlines still don't charge for properly-sized carry-on bags, Frontier Airlines' new fees may signify the first shot across the bow.

3. Itinerary Flexibility

During my most recent flight in August of last year, thunderstorms in Denver (my connecting city) left me stuck in Portland, Oregon. By checking-in with the gate attendant frequently, I was able to get rerouted through Chicago. The first question she asked me was "Did you check any luggage?" Of course I hadn't. I had everything I needed in a small carry-on slung over shoulder. No need to worry about where my luggage would end up and no need to make a special trip to the airport to pick up my belongings a day or two after I arrived at my final destination. I saved hours of time, avoided lots of drama, and dodged a major migraine.

4. Theft and Loss Avoidance

Take a second to Google this phrase: "TSA theft checked luggage." If you still feel confident about the security of your checked luggage after wading through the 51,000 results, kudos to your boundless optimism. Though I don't travel with anything terribly expensive, I still cringe at the thought of someone thumbing through my daily planner, pocketing my favorite pair of sunglasses, or (worst of all), nabbing my fat jeans.

5. Speed and Convenience

Ever notice how antsy everyone gets as soon as a plane hits the tarmac? It's not because your fellow passengers have all developed a mad craving for a gooey Cinnabon — they're hoping to beat you to the car rental counter. Not having to wait for your luggage to be spit out onto the baggage carousel is a major benefit, especially if there are a limited number of rental cars or taxis available. Once again, the advantage goes to the traveler with the least amount of stuff to haul around.

Let's face it, we live in a new era. Air travel sucks most of the time and all signs point to the whole process getting a lot scarier for travelers in the not-too-distant future. Making it just a little more bearable means planning carefully, preparing diligently — and always packing lightly.

Could you travel happily with a carry-on bag only? What ways do you save time and money when flying?

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Guest's picture
Mary

I went to London in November for 10 days with a carry-on. Color coordinate everything, bring tops you can wash out in the sink (or rent a flat with a washer!) A travel size Febreeze will air out blazers and sweaters. One shoulder bag carries my purse, reading material and electronics (iPad mini, chargers,) plane snacks, make-up and toiletries. The wheeled carry-on has clothes. 2 pair of shoes is plenty! Heading to Ireland in March for two weeks and will pack the same way. It also helps cut down on the shopping:)

Guest's picture
Norman

Most people just taking a carry-on waste a lot of money AND time. they spend endless time search for a drugstore or whatever item that didn't fit in. They realize that they need another t-shirt or waste hours at the loundry salon OR a lot of money on laundry in the hotel.

if you are on a short business trip, carry-on only is okay. most airlines reduced (or are reducing) their carry-on-space as well. 15 more mins at the baggage claim and 10 euros more for the luggage just don't make up for all the flexibility you give up.