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Checking Luggage when Flying Solo

To check or not to check? That is the question.

I have to be honest, I'm not a fan of checking my bags. Maybe I'm too much of a control freak, or I don't like the risk associated with my luggage potentially ending up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama (although I am fascinated at the thought of visiting that mecca of misguided bags someday - http://www.unclaimedbaggage.com/). It also has a bit to do with a mangled roller bag wheel on a previous trip - where I was traveling alone and ended up hauling a 50 pound bag that wouldn't roll anymore. That definitely plays into my passion for packing my carryon.

But now, there’s an additional factor to consider – your dollars going toward the fuel to get your bag to your destination. A handful of airlines have begun charging fees for checking more than one piece of luggage, and that’s not money I want to part with.

Here are some things to consider when considering whether or not to check your bag when you’re traveling solo.

1. How many days will you be gone?
You can limit the number of outfits and pairs of shoes that you may need to bring by cleverly packing color coordinated pieces. Bring a hopefully-fresh perspective to the same two pairs of pants on a four day trip with new shirts. If you’re a fashionista and need to have new outfits for each day of a longer trip, try packing skirts and lightweight clothing, as they’ll take up less room.

2. How many hours do you have in layovers?
While this may seem like a silly question, it definitely plays into my decisions to check or not to check. If I have to spend more than a couple of hours on a layover, I always check my bag. I have labored too many trips trying to balance my computer bag on one shoulder, rolling my luggage in front of me, all while trying not to drop whatever meal I have just procured from the best place to eat in the airport. The other reason not to have your bulky luggage with you has everything to do with the airport restrooms. Try wheeling your wheelie into a stall and you’ll understand immediately what I mean.

3. How much liquid/gels/creams do you REALLY need?
Picture it – I was checking in at the Phoenix airport. I had been in town for 5 days. I had the fleeting thought that I would actually be able to condense all of my pieces into my computer bag and my suitcase and be able to run free from my home airport the second I stepped off the jetway. And then I remembered – Hope in a Jar (by philosophy). 4 oz. Brand new. And at $15 per ounce, I couldn’t sacrifice it to the TSA’s grab bag for the sake of my getting out of the airport 30 minutes earlier. Why do I bring this up? Because we all have items that we think we can’t live without, so we take them with us everywhere. It’s fine to take them, but condense them if you can – one way is to use a TSA-approved travel kit to take only what you need to zip on through carrying your bags.

Checking luggage versus carrying on has pros and cons. You need to weigh it for your particular trip and needs; however, for the peace of mind that having your luggage with you can bring, I’d suggest giving carryon travel a try!


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