Checked Baggage vs Carry-On: Which is Best for Your Trip?

Gear Warrior travel pack in Coral Sunset


Looking for the best luggage solution for your next adventure? Intrepid traveler Charli Moore outlines the type of trips that can accommodate carry-on only luggage and those that require the maximum capacity of your checked baggage allowance.


Travel planning can be stressful enough without adding luggage woes to the equation, so make your life a little simpler and choose the carry-on or checked luggage option that’s ideally suited to your trip.


When to Travel Carry-On

Reduce your carbon footprint, limit the amount you have to carry, and save on checked baggage fees when you travel with just one carry-on bag.

Spring Break: Whether you’re heading south to warmer climes or hitting the trails in search of adventure, when traveling for spring break you’ll have one major priority; enjoying unforgettable experiences with your mates. One thing you won’t want is to be weighed down with excess luggage, so my advice is to travel light. My detailed spring break packing list will ensure you have all the essentials and organize everything into a compact, functional carry-on bag that you can easily manage on public transport.

Flying with an Economy Airline: Bagged yourself a deal on a cheap flight to your destination? I’m guessing you probably won’t want to shell out for checked baggage fees so, consider flying with carry-on only. Eagle Creek’s 35L backpack and a 32L wheeled luggage option is the largest carry-on in the world and transforms between a backpack and wheeled pull-along; ideal for transitioning between the airport and overland transport.

A Beach Break: If you’re anything like me you relish a beach break to the Carribbean because it means your packing list is a minimalist dream. Fabrics are lightweight and, to be honest, other than a selection of beach-wear, you’ll only need a handful of outfit options. Save yourself the hassle of carting 23kg across the sand and limit your luggage as much as possible.

Weekend Escapes: For a weekend break, layering is the key to minimal luggage. Depending on your itinerary, you may be able to get away with packing just two outfits and some basic toiletries; don’t forget to check whether your hotel provides shampoo and shower gel. Traveling light with a sleek carry-on is also heaven for anyone who loves to make the most of duty-free shopping opportunities at the airport because your luggage won’t hinder you as you peruse the aisles, and you may even have space to stock up on a few little luxuries before you fly.

Long-Term Travel: This may surprise some who struggle to travel light, however reducing the number of belongings you lug around the world is a sensible option; particularly when backpacking. After you’ve been on the road for more than just a few weeks, the novelty of carrying everything you own on your back will soon wear thin and you’ll be grateful for a well-made carry-on backpack. Trust me, I spent seven years living out of a 65L backpack.

Pack a few natural fabrics, some quick-dry layers, and the tech you can’t live without into lightweight packing cubes, and don’t forget that you will likely be able to buy anything you find you’ve forgotten or can’t live without when required.


When to Travel with Checked Luggage

Maximize your capacity and streamline your carry-on by checking your luggage before you fly. Here’s when it makes more sense to travel with checked baggage versus carry-on bags.

Family Travel: There’s no doubt that parents require a lot more ‘stuff’ when traveling with children. The extra clothes for ‘what if’ scenarios and selection of toys and games to provide entertainment during long journeys, young families struggle to travel light.

Optimizing your checked luggage allowance is key under such circumstances, and if you’re clever you can limit yourself to one instead of two or three heavy bags. Consider a spacious and durable duffel that will handle all that family life throws at it; it also transforms from a wheeled duffle to a backpack with ease during moments when you need to be hands-free.

Multi-Stop and Multi-Season Trips: If you’re planning to visit a number of destinations and need to pack for varied climates, you’ll struggle to travel with anything less that 20kg. Fact: Winter coats are big and bulky and if you need more than two pairs of shoes, you’ll need the additional space offered by a larger pack or case.

Remember that layering is your friend and ensure that you can mix and match the clothing options your large wheeled bag. In this situation it’s better to maximize your capacity and have everything that you need to comfortably transition between locations.

An Active Winter Break: If you’re planning an active winter break and want to travel with your own snowboard/skis; review the regulations of your airline with regard to what they class as sporting equipment and the costs for checking these items. Packing for a winter break means negotiating bulky layers and chunky shoes, therefore a structured, wheeled luggage option and the addition of space-saving packing cubes are the ideal combo for a trip of this nature; especially if you’ll have to bundle your bags into a hotel transfer once you arrive at the resort.

Luxe Travel: Taking a break from adventure travel and treating yourself to a luxury vacation? Ditch the minimalist approach and make the most of the opportunity to travel in style. If you’re flying premium, you’ll likely have two bags of up to 23kg included in your ticket price so max out your allowance and pack an outfit for every occasion!

Whether you choose to carry-on or check your luggage, start your travel prep by reading our ultimate travel packing checklist and ensure you travel efficiently with everything you need to make some epic memories.


Related Products:

Expanse Convertible™ International Carry-On

ORV Trunk 36

Pack-It Specter™  Compression Cube Set


Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

How to Pack for 2 Weeks in a Carry-On

Crossing Continents Hand Free: The Rise of Backpack Travel

How to Fly Through the Airport Security Line

By Charli Moore on May 31, 2019

Charli Moore is an adventure enthusiast who has been location independent since 2011. A freelance writer and editor of the travel blog Wanderlusters, she has a penchant for adrenaline highs and crunchy peanut butter. Follow her on Instagram to feed your wanderlust.


Image: Agnese & Michele Fossati follow them on Instagram