Checked Bag Veteran Survives Switch to Carryon Bag, Saves Big on Airline Fees

Confession of a Checked-Bag Veteran

Okay, confession time: I generally travel with a checked-bag – even for short trips. Stupid, huh? And expensive? Yes to both.

Two Great Reasons to Use a Carryon Bag

Here’s why it’s dumb – really dumb – to check a bag.

The Airport Restroom Dilemma

So why do I check a bag?

Well, I was a Girl Scout, so I like to be prepared – which means I like to have more clothes than I need (what if the weather changes or what if I don’t like the outfit I planned on wearing?) – plus,  I don’t like grubbing for overhead bin space, and I don’t like wrestling with a bag in a small space like…oh, let’s say an airport restroom (and in these security conscious days, you feel funny about asking someone to watch your bag while you go to the Ladies’).

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But, let’s face it: the $50 per flight bag fee was what was really on my mind (not to mention my wallet), so – I finally made the switch to a carryon.

Tired of Airfare Expert Rick Seaney Teasing Me about Bag Fees

I thought it would be difficult to make the switch, but I wearied of FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney’s gentle teasing about me constantly schlepping a big bag everywhere I went (and as Mr. Airfare Expert never tired of reminding me, “You know, I went on a 10-day trip to Italy with a carryon.”). Okay, time to change.

How to Switch from Checked-Bags to Carryons

So here’s what I did (and it’s easier than you think):

1. Find the right bag for you: First I ransacked the house looking for a suitable carryon. I did not want anything heavy, because that would add to the inconvenience factor, so – for me, no wheeled cases.

I finally found a light weight nylon duffle bag with a couple of handles and a shoulder strap. I thought, if I pack light, I could even slide this under the seat in front of me, if I had to.

Poignant moment: The bag I found had one of those airline paper ID tags on it…from TWA. Yeah, it had been awhile since I’d used this bag.

2. Plan ahead for clothes, cosmetics: It’s a science, no doubt – but if you decide what you’ll wear each day, with no deviations, you’ll be fine. I packed no extra clothes – and took the bare minimum of cosmetics (hint: use a tinted moisturized, and you can leave your foundation behind, plus count on using your hotel’s sample size shampoo/conditioner).

3. Wear or carry the heavy stuff: My bulkiest and/or heaviest shoes? I wear them. A big coat? It’s on me. And, since I have to have something to read, I take paperbacks instead of hard covers (magazines aren’t enough to feed my habit).

Carryon Bag Success

So how did it work out? Beautifully.

I’ve used a carryon now on three flights (on Frontier and Delta); I never had any problem finding bin space, and I had no problem navigating the airport (or or the restrooms) because I kept my bag light.

Bonus: Quick Airport Exit

A nice little bonus was getting out of the airport in record time and being first in line for a taxi; plus, I did not waste a minute worrying about whether my bag would make it to my destination at the same time I did.

But best of all, I now save around 50 bucks in bag fees every time I fly. And that is truly something to savor.


Published: September 13, 2010