How to avoid checking your bag

a group of plastic bottlesIf you’ve spent any time traveling you know that checking your bag is a pain. It takes time you don’t have, in many cases costs money your company doesn’t want to spend, and adds unnecessary risk in the event of a lost bag. Luckily, it’s possible to avoid checking your bag for the majority of business trips if you have the right tools. Here are the things you need:

The right suitcase.  For multiple reasons, I recommend using the smallest suitcase possible.

  • If you have extra room you’re tempted to bring items you don’t need.
  • If you end up on a smaller plane it saves a lot of time if you don’t gate check your bag.

At the same time, regardless of the size of your bag you want the most interior space possible. You also want to make sure the pockets are useful and will help you pack more efficiently.I use two suitcases right now, depending on the trip: the Eagle Creek Adventure Pop-Top for 2-3 day trips, and the Travelpro Crew 11 20-inch for 5-7 day trips.

A strategy. You don’t need a separate outfit and pair of shoes for each day. You can re-wear and re-mix various parts of your wardrobe and create plenty of different outfits from just a few pieces. Plan to bring three pairs of shoes maximum, including the pair on your feet. Finally, there is no reason to bring full-sized toiletries (ever). Decant everything into the smallest container possible. I use 3-oz bottles for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and contact lens cases for small amounts of liquid (so almost everything else).

Tools for compression. Packing cubes are great for compressing clothing into a small space. I can bring enough clothes for four days in one packing cube. Other frequent travelers use gallon-sized Ziploc bags if they don’t have packing cubes.

Organization. If you are trying to bring the smallest amount of items possible it’s critical to stay organized. I have several smaller bags filled with office supplies, chargers, makeup, jewelry, comfort items, and cords. I also designate the pockets in my suitcase to specific items–undergarments, toiletries, etc.

Readers, how do you avoid checking your bag?

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  1. I use a flat toiletry bag and I roll my clothes. I pack a maximum of four outfits and two pairs of shoes even if I am staying more than a week. I use ziplocs for some personal items, contact fluid and medication. And of course I pack items in my shoes if I am not carrying sandals. My spurge item is 2 curling irons (trying to find one for my hair type in Italy taught me to carry a spare). I pack everything listed and a few more items in a 21″ travelpro spinner without stuffing it.

  2. One of those GoToobs filled with some washing detergent and a Scrubba (Australian company) saves a ton of room because you can take less clothes but have them clean and ready to go overnight.

    The best thing I ever figured out for travelling is that the person checking you in at the hotel tonight has no idea you wore the same shirt 2 days ago in a previous city!

  3. Even: “I use 3-oz bottles for shampoo, conditioner” can be bettered. I buy sheets of plastic tear-off packets that contain one “dose” of shampoo/conditioner. They are lighter than a 3 oz bottle. However, I always check my bag-I have never found it to be a problem and I think it well worth the extra charge for the convenience of not thinking about it, dragging it around, keeping an eye on it, etc. Increasing the size of the overheads was the worst decision airplane designers ever made. It lengthens boarding and deplaning times and I for one am tired of getting hit in the face by backpacks, the stupidest form of airplane luggage ever invented. The only thing I carry on board is a handbag.

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