Carry on or Checked Baggage? Which is best?

You’ve chosen the destination, the flights and the hotel but still the choices keep coming.

You need to pack, but which bag should you use? Should you go with the big suitcase for checked baggage or put everything into carry on?

Our team at FlightReclaim have taken many thousands of flights, here are a few thoughts from us.

1) Do Your Research

If you’re thinking of packing everything into hand luggage, you need to know what the size restrictions are for bags.

The default for carry-on luggage is that it can be 56cm long by 45cm wide and 25cm deep – this including all handles, wheels, pockets etc.

However… that figure is not set in stone and each airline is free to set their own maximum dimensions. Some airlines are also far more rigorous in checking, using tools to check the size of bag. Others wave through any bag that looks roughly OK.

Be certain that the bag you intend to take as carry open will qualify as carry on.

2) Don’t let the choice of bag influence what you pack

You can make a choice of bag and then pack accordingly, this most likely to be the case if you are determined to use only carry on.

However, this approach can lead to you leaving behind items that might have been of use during the trip.

A better approach might be to lay out all that you intend to pack and then see which bag(s) are suitable. If it all fits in a carry-on bag then your choice might be made.

Alternatively, if you require larger bags to accommodate what you intend to pack then you can weigh up if removing a few non essentials might see the luggage fit in a small bag. Either way, you are making the choice based on your luggage rather than the size of bag you’d prefer to take.

3) The fear of lost luggage

One common reason travellers list for preferring carry-on luggage is that it removes the risk of your possessions being lost.

You carry the bag on, you place it in the storage compartment above your set, you carry it off at the end of the flight.

Checked in luggage can go missing, either permanently or, more commonly, for a period of time.  

It is worth noting that the amount of luggage to go missing has been steadily dropping, this as processes at all airports are made more efficient, but there does remain a risk.

On any individual trip, it is highly unlikely that your luggage will go missing or be misplaced; but that isn’t to say it’s impossible.

 4) Comfort and convenience

The larger your carry-on luggage, the less convenient it might be and also, potentially less comfortable.

There is the discomfort of carrying it around, also, above head storage is in short supply, you might end up with a sizeable bag down by your feet. 

A large bag might have everything you need for the flight in but the problem is it might have everything else too, making it difficult to find those few in-flight conveniences.

Another option is to pack the vast majority of what you need for the trip in hold luggage, but then just have a small bag with a few essentials for the flight.

Simply having a small light bag with you can make the whole airport and flight experience more relaxing (right up until you  head to a crowded luggage retrieval carousel, of course).

5) Will you need extra room for the return flight?

Stuffing everything into one carry-on bag for the journey out is great right up until you realise it won’t all fit on the way back.

You’ve bought a few souvenirs, the bag was already fit to burst, you’re going to need to buy a bag just to fit everything in.

Or, you might decide not to buy souvenirs or items for yourself simply because of a fear it won’t fit into your luggage – your choice of bag therefore negatively impacting your holiday.

It might be that there is no real prospect you’ll come back more fully laden than when you left, but if it is a possibility; if the business trip might include buying souvenirs for the kids, then factor this into any choice.

6) Time, Money, Convenience

Ultimately the choice comes down to an equation that involves time, money and convenience – this assuming that both carry-on and checked luggage are realistic options; it might be that the amount you wish to take rules out solely having carry-on.

Foregoing checked baggage might be cheaper (although this is starting to change), there will also be the time saving at the airport as you won’t have to go to baggage reclaim.

However, are you compromising convenience and even your trip; will there be items you will later wish you had packed?

There is no magic formula, we cannot say one is better than the other.

Hopefully, on weighing up the choices, you will get a gut feel and the choice you make will be for the best of the trip and whole experience.

Another concern.

Hopefully choosing the best type of bag will be the biggest stress you have on holiday, certainly regarding the flights.

Unfortunately, however, a far more common problem is that flights get delayed or you get bumped because of overcrowding.

In these circumstances, just getting to your destination can be a challenge.

At Flight Reclaim, we are specialists in helping you get the compensation you are entitled to when your airline lets you down and you either don’t get to board or suffer from a delay.

We have a 98% success rate, have helped more than 50,000 passengers and won them more than £20 million in combined compensation.

Importantly, we also work on a no-win, no-fee basis and have a commission rates that are among the lowest in the industry.

Hopefully you never suffer from delays or similar but, if you do, please do get in touch. At up to £540 per passenger in compensation for simply filling out a few very quick details it can be well worth your while.

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