Checked and Carry-on Baggage

Carry On vs Checked Baggage: Which is Better?

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So, you have a trip coming up and you’re not sure if you should travel with only carry-on baggage or also bring along a checked bag.

For some trips, it’s an obvious choice, but other journeys require more consideration. There are many factors that in to play, making it difficult to decide.

That is where this article comes in. We’ll explain the differences between checked and carry-on baggage, the pros and cons of each, and travel scenarios where each one shines.

Checked Baggage

What is Checked Baggage?

Checked baggage refers to any luggage that you check into the cargo hold of the airplane, either at the check-in counter or self-service baggage drop. These bags are typically larger, heavier, and stored in the hold of the plane for the duration of the flight.

The weight limit for checked baggage varies depending on the airline and the type of ticket you have bought, but it’s usually 50 pounds (23 kilograms) per bag.

On international routes, many full-service carriers include a complimentary checked baggage allowance with most ticket fares.

Advantages of Checked Baggage

More Space and Comfort

One of the biggest advantages of checking your luggage is that it allows you to bring more items. This is perfect if you are going on a long trip. Having more space for clothes is also helpful if you are traveling to a destination with a cold climate. If you plan to bring sports equipment with you, such as a bike or golf clubs, a checked bag is a must.

You are also less reliant on your carry-on. You can remove bulky items such as clothes and guidebooks from your carry-on and pack them in your checked bag. I like to travel with lots of tech gear, so the extra space in my carry-on is very welcome.

I like to be able to pack enough clothes so that I’m not spending much of my trip doing laundry. With the extra space that checked bags offer, I can reduce the number of times I need to wash my clothes. Hotel laundry services can be expensive, and taking your dirty clothes to a self-service laundry is inconvenient and time-consuming.

You are also not subject to the carry-on limit for liquids. I like to bring my preferred toiletries instead of relying on what my hotel provides. You could purchase some items at your destination but, if you are traveling overseas, your preferred items may not be available. If they are available, they could be more expensive.

Avoid Overhead Bin Hassles

One of the most significant advantages of checking your luggage is that you don’t have to worry about the hassle of finding space in the overhead bins. This can be especially frustrating when you arrive at your seat only to find that there is no room for your carry-on. With checked baggage, you can avoid the stress and frustration of trying to find a place for your bag, and instead, relax and enjoy your flight.

More Convenient at Connections

If your itinerary includes a connecting flight, having a lighter carry-on bag makes the experience more comfortable, especially if the layover is long.

I often travel solo, so not having a companion to look after my bags is an issue. I find the idea of taking a bulky carry-on into a restroom quite unpleasant.


In certain cases, checked baggage is included in the cost of your ticket (thank you Southwest).

Some ultra-low-cost carriers charge for a carry-on bag. In these circumstances, it’s often cheaper to buy a checked bag instead of a carry-on. In addition, some airlines offer a discount for checked baggage if you book in advance. The size of your checked bag can be larger than your carry-on. Some airlines now also weigh your carry-on – in this instance, your checked bag weight allowance is more beneficial.

If you are traveling internationally, typically on a transatlantic or transpacific flight, many airlines include at least one free checked bag with the price of your ticket. Depending on the carrier that you are traveling on, your overseas flight may have a carry-on weight limit of as little as 15 pounds (7 kilograms). In this case, traveling with a checked bag is more compelling.

Belongings are Safe from Unauthorized Access

When you check in your baggage, it is in the custody of the airline and stored within the plane’s hold during your flight. Other travelers can’t access your bag during this time. This can give you peace of mind, knowing that your luggage is safe and secure.

Of course, you would need to weigh up this benefit as there is a risk of items being stolen, you’re your checked baggage, while in the custody of the airline.

Disadvantages of Checked Baggage

Baggage Fees and Restrictions

One of the most notable downsides of checked baggage is the fees and restrictions that airlines now impose. In recent years, many US airlines have shifted towards a “à la carte” pricing model, where basic services, including checked baggage, are no longer included in the price of a ticket. This has led to a proliferation of baggage fees, with some airlines charging upwards of $50 for a single checked bag. These fees can quickly add up, especially for families or groups traveling together, making air travel significantly more expensive.

Furthermore, airlines have strict size and weight restrictions for checked bags, which can limit what passengers are able to bring along. If you plan to travel with more than two checked bags, excess bags become prohibitively expensive. Similarly, overweight and oversized bag fees are punishing. These cumulative fees can quickly add up.

Although less restrictive than carry-on bags, there are certain items that you can’t pack in your checked bags. For example, lithium batteries and power banks are prohibited in checked bags, yet they are allowed in carry-on.

Delayed And Lost Luggage

Another significant disadvantage of checked baggage is the risk of delays and lost bags. According to the US Department of Transportation, on average, over two million bags are lost or delayed every year. While most bags are eventually recovered and returned to their owners, the process can be time-consuming and frustrating. In some cases, you may have to wait hours or even days to be reunited with your belongings.

Additionally, if you have connecting flights, there’s a risk that your checked luggage will not make it to your final destination on time.

Moreover, when a bag is delayed or lost, you may be without essential items which can greatly impact your travel experience.

Damage to Your Luggage

Another disadvantage of checked baggage is that it can get damaged in transit. Airlines are responsible for the safe transportation of your checked baggage, but accidents can still happen. If your luggage is damaged, you may have to file a claim with the airline, which can be a time-consuming process.


Checking in your baggage can add to your overall travel time, as you will need to wait in line at the baggage check-in counter and retrieve your luggage at the baggage carousel once you arrive at your destination.

If you have a tight flight connection and are required to re-check your bags, you stand a greater chance of missing your connecting flight.

Carry-on Baggage

What is Carry-on Baggage?

Carry-on baggage is luggage that you bring on the plane with you and store in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. These bags must fit within specific size limitations set by each airline, typically around 22 x 14 x 9 inches, including wheels and handles.

Many ultra-cost carriers now charge a fee for carry-on bags. However, you can bring a personal item on board at no charge. This item is stored under your seat.

Advantages of Carry-on Baggage

Saves Time

Checking in carry-on luggage is much quicker than checking in checked baggage, which can save you time at the airport.

Arriving at your destination is also a breeze. With carry-on, you won’t have to wait for your luggage at baggage claim, which can save you time and stress.

Access to All Your Belongings During Your Trip

With carry-on, you have quick and easy access to all your belongings throughout your journey. You don’t have to wait for your checked baggage to arrive at your destination.

Less Stressful at Connections

If you have a tight connection, you don’t have the stress of having to collect any checked bags and re-check them. Once disembarking, you can head to your next flight’s gate.

Better Security for Your Belongings

When you travel with carry-on, you have more control over your belongings and can always keep them within reach. This reduces the risk of lost or damaged luggage and gives you peace of mind while traveling.

You Can Avoid Baggage Fees

Carry-on often doesn’t incur any extra fees, unlike checked baggage. However, this is beginning to change. Many ultra-low-cost airlines now charge a fee for carry-on bags. If you are traveling on a carrier which includes free carry-on, it’s a cost-effective way to save money on your air travel.

Less Chance of Your Bag Being Lost or Damaged

When you carry your luggage on the plane, you have more control over it and can ensure that it isn’t damaged or lost during transit.

Disadvantages of Carry-on Baggage

Strict Carry On Size Restrictions

Carry-on luggage is subject to strict size restrictions set by the airlines, and if you exceed these restrictions, you may have to check your luggage and pay an extra fee.

Airlines commonly use carry-on baggage sizers to assess that your carry-on bag is within the size limit. Some travelers will go to great lengths to make sure their carry-on bag fits, to avoid any extra fees.

Some Airlines Also Have Carry On Weight Restrictions

More airlines are increasingly enforcing weight restrictions for carry-on, which can be inconvenient if you’re carrying heavy items.

Limited Space to Pack Your Belongings

With carry-on luggage, you have limited space to pack your belongings, which can be an issue if you are traveling for a longer period or need to bring along more items.

Some Items Are Restricted in Restricted in Carry On Baggage

With carry-on luggage, you also need to consider the restrictions on liquids, sharp objects, and other items. This can make it challenging to pack what you need and make it through airport security.

Having to Carry a Heavier Bag on Board

Carrying your luggage on the plane can be heavy and uncomfortable, especially if you have a lot of it. Cabin crew are not obligated to assist you with lifting your carry-on into the overhead bin, although many do. However, if you aren’t physically able to lift your bag overhead on your own, this could be an issue. Fellow passengers can often help though.

If your itinerary includes a connection, you also need to contend with your heavier carry-on while moving through the airport.

When to Travel with Checked Baggage

There are typical scenarios when traveling with checked baggage makes more sense.

You Have a Long Trip

For extended trips, checked baggage is often the best choice. When traveling for a long period, you need more than what a carry-on bag can accommodate. With checked baggage, you can bring all the essentials you need for an extended trip, including toiletries, extra clothing, and other personal items. This is especially important if you’re visiting multiple cities or countries, as the weather and activities in each destination can vary greatly.

You Are Traveling with Your Family

If you’re traveling with children, it can be difficult to manage multiple carry-on bags, especially when you must keep track of everyone’s belongings. In this scenario, checking baggage can be a lifesaver. You can split up your belongings and pack them in separate bags, making it easier to keep track of everything and minimize the number of carry-on bags you must manage.

You Are Traveling with Bulky or Sports Equipment

If you’re an avid golfer, skier, or snowboarder, you know how difficult it can be to transport your equipment on a plane. Many airlines allow you to check sports equipment as baggage, making it easier to travel with your gear and enjoy your favorite activities.

When To Travel with Only Carry-on Baggage

There are situations where it makes more practical sense to travel with only a carry-on bag.

You Are Taking a Short Stay Trip

If you’re traveling for a weekend getaway or a quick business trip, carrying only a carry-on bag is the perfect solution. With a limited amount of time away from home, you don’t need to pack many items, and a carry-on bag can easily hold enough clothes, toiletries, and essentials for a few days.

You Are Flying on a Domestic Flight

For domestic flights within the United States, airlines typically have more lenient carry-on bag size and weight restrictions compared to international flights. This makes it easy to pack all your essentials in a carry-on bag and avoid the hassle and cost of checking a larger bag.

You Want to Save Money

Carrying only a carry-on bag can save you money on baggage fees, which can add up quickly, especially for budget travelers. By avoiding checked baggage fees, you can stretch your travel budget further and enjoy more activities and experiences.

You Are Traveling to More than One Destination

If you’re planning to travel to multiple destinations during your trip, having to only look after a carry-on bag is much easier. You can easily move from place to place without having to worry about checking and retrieving your luggage each time. This is especially convenient if you will be traveling on public transport such as trains and buses.

You Are Going on a Sports Oriented Trip

If you’re planning an active trip, such as hiking or backpacking, you’ll want to pack light. A carry-on bag will allow you to bring what you need for your trip without the added weight of a larger bag.

Final Thoughts

Both checked baggage and carry-on have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two will depend on your travel needs and preferences. Factors that you may want to consider include the length of your trip, your destination, budget, and whether you want to spend much of your vacation time doing laundry (a pet peeve of mine – after all, I’m on vacation!).

Whether you choose checked baggage or carry-on, make sure you pack wisely and only bring what you need. Remember to check the airline’s baggage policy before you fly, as restrictions and fees may apply.

Personally, I always travel with a checked bag – the flexibility and freedom that this choice offers far outweighs any of the negatives for me.

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  1. Travelling is such an opportunity to experience life in other places outside of my comfort zone (my own country). As a female passenger😁,I love packing several items- most of them are necessities though so I always ended up with checked luggage even just for a week trip . Besides, it’s easy to move inside the airport and sit comfortably in the plane with just a light backpack or shoulder bag instead of plenty carry-on bags. What an informative article for avid travellers out there. Thanks for the tips 👍👍.

    • Hey there Airene

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that traveling with minimal carry-on certainly makes for a more pleasant flight experience. Being able to travel with those creature comforts that you just can’t do without is also a bonus.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Wow, this article really breaks down the pros and cons of checked baggage vs. carry-on perfectly! I’ve always struggled with deciding which option is best for my trips, but this article has given me some great insights. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Austin

      Thanks for your kind words.

      I’m glad that you got something out of the article. We’re definitely #teamcheckedbaggage here but realize that carry-on still has an important role to play when flying.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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