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So You Have a Carry-On Sized Bag: Check or Carry On?

July 08, 2018
5 min read
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Let's say you're flying with luggage that will fit in the overhead bin. There's always the option to check it instead of carrying it on, but there are concerns with doing either.

Travelers tend to have a tried and true philosophy on which they prefer, and it's normally based on their experience: having luggage damaged or stolen when it's checked, the ease at which they can travel when they have a small suitcase to drag, etc.

We decided to turn to the trusted TPG Lounge of almost 37,000 members to ask what they would do in this scenario. Here's what they said:

Carry On

Some TPG Lounge members are adamant about carrying on their luggage as long as it'll fit in the overhead. It tends to be quicker than waiting for it at baggage claim, and it can ease travelers' minds that their luggage won't get lost, stolen or damaged. Plus, it ensures that your luggage will stick with you through it all — including connections. The downside is that you'll have to keep it with you at all times and find space for it in the overhead.

"Never ever check. Status makes this easier as I’m first to board." – Gloria L.
"I never check a bag. One, it can cause problems if I happen to catch an earlier first or if I’m delayed and change routes. Also I prefer to slide my laptop bag on it and wheel it through the airport than carry the laptop bag. Plus no waiting at baggage claim." – Jay M.
"I travel often but the only time I check a bag is when I go home to visit my family bc I usually bring my dog with me and he already counts towards my “bag” to bring in. Plus it allows me to bring bottles of wine or tequila from Mexico. Other than that, carry on all the time!" – Marisol B.

Check It

Travel can often be stressful, so it can be a luxury to say goodbye to your carry-on sized bag before going through security. The reason why people typically don't choose this option is to avoid checked luggage fees, luggage damage or stolen items.

"We usually check our luggage. Rarely carry on. I don’t like wrestling with my suitcase(s) while navigating trams and lounges. I have a nice bag I carry that has room for a change of clothes and my basic toiletries and meds so it’s never been an issue." – Kristi C.
"Always check. Ain't nobody got time to fight for overhead space." – Kevin W.
"I fly a lot of international so there is a lot of scrutiny of carry on bags. Because of how long it takes to usually clear immigration and customs my bags are usually there waiting right after that, so it doesn’t impact time at all and save a lot of hassle." – Ivan B.
"I don't typically travel with more than my carry on, even when going internationally for several weeks, and I always check it. Nothing drives me more bonkers than the ridiculous amount of time it takes to board and deplane due to carry on luggage, so I make sure I'm not part of that problem." – Michael S.

Even though having one of those things happen to your belongings is never fun, there are ways to combat them.

There are several cards that will waive your baggage fees with airlines. And many cards will cover lost luggage or even incidental costs for baggage delays. Plus, most independent travel insurance covers theft, so long as there is a police report.

It Depends

These travelers are open to checking or carrying on their bags. It all depends on the flight leg, whether the flight is short or long, who they're traveling with, or whether they're in a rush or not.

"When I travel to Europe, I carry on on the way over and check my bag on the way back. I put a backpack in my roller carryon and use it as a carry on on the way back. Wine must be checked, after all!" – Traci S.
"Without kids: carry on. With kids: check. (Too much of a pain dragging luggage and kids.)" – Eu T.
"I do both? Lol. I bring a carry on size and bring it with me going to my destination. But on the way back, the bag is always heavier due to all the stuff i buy, so i check it in and only keep my absolutes on my person (e.g. anything i would be really salty to lose)." – Lisa L.
"I keep it with me if I'm heading out — but often check it when I'm coming home. I travel for work a lot, so I'm usually in a hurry when I get to a destination, not so much when I'm home. (My carry-on is designed to fit under the seat, which helps a lot.)" – Kelly H.
"I usually carry on, however if they’re checking bags at the gate for free due to limited overhead space I always do so. Luckily haven’t ever had a problem, as i don’t mind waiting at the carousel afterwards and oftentimes already have a checked bag anyways to wait for." – Sherilyn G.
"I prefer hands free for getting food at the airport and not having to cram the suitcase in the bathroom stall with me but since I've been taking shorter trips lately where a carry on is all I need, I have not been checking it." – Beck B.
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