3 Reasons Why I Don’t Check My Suitcase

One of the first lessons I learned as a new business traveler was not to check my suitcaseVictorinox werks 20 beige. That first year of work trips was full of lengthy delays at the baggage carousel, lost luggage, and  frustration. Since then I have operated under the assumption that most frequent business travelers don’t check their bag. However, some recent comments plus a few interesting conversations with other long-time business travelers made me realize that’s quite right. So here is my case for why I don’t check my bag.

  1. Time. People who say it doesn’t take that long to check a suitcase must not go to crowded airports very often. In my home airport (which is not that big), even with status, checking my bag can add an extra 20-30 minutes during peak times. In extremely busy airports? Forget about it. Not to mention the time you spend waiting for your luggage once you arrive at your destination! On my first business trip my bag took  45 minutes to get to me–it was literally the last one off. Nope! No time now.
  2. Lost luggage. During my first year of business travel I took a trip that had two legs–Portland and Chicago. Because I would be gone for over a week, I checked two bags. One was my suitcase, on was my smaller bag that had my makeup, shoes, and all the gear I needed for my trade show. Guess which bag the airline lost? An emergency stop at Target took care of most of my needs, but it definitely made for a stressful trip.
  3. Coworkers. Want to set the wrong tone for a trip with your boss or coworkers? Be the only one who checks a suitcase, delaying everyone while you wait at the baggage carousel. Sure it’s not necessarily fair, but it makes you seem high maintenance–like someone who can’t streamline their routine for three days.

After our conversation one of my business traveler friends emailed me asking for tips on minimizing her packing and suggestions for a carry-on suitcase. Sounds like I may have convinced her not to check her bag anymore! Plus I promised I’d write her a blog post….

Readers, do you check your suitcase? Why or why not?


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  1. I travel weekly for work (4 day trips) and always carry-on. However, the limited overhead bin space leads to uncomfortable jockeying to get on the plane first. If I sense that space is getting tight or I’m in a late boarding group, I will opt to gate check my bag to avoid stowing it 20 rows past my seat and leaping over people once we land. As my airline status has increased, I’ve been able to carry-on more reliably by boarding earlier.

    We do tease people on my team whose bags are too large to carry-on, or just overpacked in general 🙂

  2. I hardly ever check my bags. In fact the only time I do check bags is when I’m carrying medical supplies for mission trips.
    I recently traveled for 5-1/2 weeks in South America with a single carry on bag. I never had to worry about my stuff. Others in my party chose to bring huge scheme through bags. It was pretty annoying waiting for them. Many times we were the very last ones on the shuttle because we had to wait for the bag checkers. It caused a lot of unneeded stress and almost caused us to miss our connection on multiple occasions. Please don’t do that to your travel companions!

  3. I’m a recent convert to travelling carry on only for international/long haul trips. The greatest benefit to me is knowing that you won’t lose your luggage between legs of a complex or multi-leg trip. Also, I was in transit the day of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and it was a great comfort to me to be independent and to know that if our flight got diverted, cancelled or changed, we wouldn’t lose our bags. On that particular flight there were some additional security issues (and obviously people were feeling tense) meaning that we got delayed by several hours. Fortunately, because we had our carry on bags with us, we were able to get changed into fresh clothes just before boarding. And then once we eventually landed at our destination we were able to make a quick getaway.

  4. I always check my bag. It is what the cargo hold is for. As a pilot, I think about weight & balance and while airlines allot a weight allowance per passenger, it has become so random-with people dragging all sorts of stuff on board, unweighed, it bothers me. It delays boarding and deplaning. As a business traveller for 40 years, I don’t mind the extra time-I travel to many busy airports and Europe, out of LAX, PHL, SEA, big deal. As for reason 3, that is ludicrous. I couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks because I chose to check my bag-what are we, herd animals who have to copy each other at all times in case someone thinks somebody else is “different”? I have never lost luggage for more than 24 h either, and only on a handful of occasions, all out of PHL.

  5. I always check my bags and very very rarely have any issues. Maybe once a year is my luggage lost. (and never more than about 12 hours) O and I fly at least 80 flights a year all over North and Parts of South America. Maybe the airlines should incentivize the frequent travelers to check the bags. This would make boarding a lot better considering the non-frequent have pay and bring all they can to avoid it. Would also make Pre-check faster. Either way, don’t be afraid to check your luggage even on multi-stops the problems are rare all things considered.

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