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’).

Take Our Bag Poll, Below

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.

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Published: September 13, 2010