Checked Baggage vs Carry-On: Which Should You Choose? (Pros & Cons)

Checked luggage is anything too large to fit in the overhead bins on a plane and that you have to have placed in the cargo area.

Meanwhile, carry-ons are small enough to go in the overhead bin space of an airplane.

There has long been a debate over the packing options you get when flying and which makes the most sense. 

Thus, in the following sections, we will explore in-depth:

  • the ongoing debate of checked baggage vs. carry-on
  • the pros and cons of checked baggage vs. carry-on
  • when you should use carry-on or checked bags
  • what to pack in each type of luggage.

The Carry-On Vs. Checked Bag Debate

If you have ever had your checked luggage lost, you are probably familiar with the idea of carry-on-only travel. And this idea has shown up on countless lists for travel tips, as it’s free and your luggage stays near you on the plane.

Plus, hand luggage means not weighing yourself down with heavy bags and avoiding expensive checked baggage fees.

On the other hand, a checked bag allows you to bring more of the things you need on holiday. You also have more room for souvenirs from your vacation, instead of having to ship them.

So, which side of the debate is right? Often, neither is right nor wrong, and it really depends on the trip you’re taking. 

For example, if you plan to be away for multiple weeks at one or two destinations, checking your baggage might make more sense. Conversely, if you are going for just a long weekend or hopping around from place to place, carry-on luggage might be the better option.

The Pros of Carry-On Luggage 

There are a few benefits to using carry-on luggage instead of a checked bag.

For one, you don’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost because it stays with you in the overhead bin. You also don’t have to wait for your checked baggage at the baggage claim when you arrive at your destination.

Plus, changing accommodation or traveling to a nearby town or city for a few days isn’t as much of a hassle when you just have a carry-on bag or small backpack.

And packing for trips with only a carry-on is way simpler. Since, even if you fill your carry-on bag to the brim, there is still only limited space in the bag for what you want to bring, making it super easy to pack.

You can also save money on bag fees because you’re traveling light. But, some low-cost carriers might make you pay to bring hand luggage. 

For instance, certain airlines, like Air France, make you pay for hand luggage that goes over the weight limit. However, these policies are rare. 

Furthermore, if you aren’t checking luggage, you can often skip the check-in line and head straight to airport security. 

What are Some of the Drawbacks of Carry-On Luggage?

While carry-on luggage can make things easier and cheaper, there are some drawbacks.  

For starters, if your carry-on bag doesn’t have wheels, your arm can get sore and achy trying to carry it on and off the plane and through the airport. 

Additionally, if you are flying alone, maneuvering your carry-on into the airport bathroom stalls can be challenging.

Further, you must remember to bring your carry-on off the plane. It’s your responsibility, so if you are a bit absent-minded or rushing to make a connection, there is a chance you might leave your carry-on behind.

Most airlines also only allow one carry-on bag, so you don’t have near as much room as with checked bags. Thus, you might end up desperately having to find space where there isn’t any. 

And international carriers often have weight restrictions, making it so that you get even less room to pack. However, you do also get to bring a personal item on the plane. 

Lastly, you should know there’s a slight chance you’ll have to check bags that you meant to bring on the plane at a gate check if the plane is full. You’ll then have to wait on the jet bridge for a gate agent to bring you your bag. 

The Pros of Checking Your Baggage

Checking your baggage may cost some money, but it ensures that you can bring anything you might need or want while on holiday since it’s larger.

You can also pack things that you cannot put in a carry-on, like a bottle of wine. 

Plus, since the checked baggage gets put in a plane’s cargo hold, you don’t have to worry about carrying your luggage with you or dealing with having to physically lift your bag up to the overhead compartment. Other passengers will also appreciate the extra space. 

What are Some Cons to Checking Your Luggage?

One of the most significant drawbacks to checking your luggage at the airport is that you can end up with a lost bag. Baggage handlers aren’t perfect, so your bags could end up disappearing. 

Another con is the cost since most airlines charge to check your luggage when you check-in for your flight.

Checking your bags can cost up to $60. However, some airlines offer free checked bags if you pack light. 

Finally, if you check your baggage, you also have to wait at the luggage carousel to get it back, which can take some time.

When Should You Opt for Carry-On Bags?

If you are planning a trip with multiple destinations, it’s easier to cart around a small travel carry-on bag than to drag a massive suitcase around. It also means you will pack lighter and carry less frivolous items, making this option great for business travelers. 

Overall, opting for only a carry-on is perfect for shorter trips, as it means you only pack what is necessary, and you can travel light. 

Additionally, if you are traveling on a budget, then, generally speaking, you will want to opt for a carry-on rather than checked baggage, as it tends to be free or a lower fee. But, you should always check with your airline for prices. 

When is Checking Your Baggage the Right Option?

If you are taking a long trip, where you are going to stay in one or two locations only, checking your baggage is a better option than trying to shove everything into a tiny carry-on.

Also, if you are prone to forgetting things, you should opt to check your bag rather than trying to remember to keep track of your carry-on. 

Furthermore, most planes allow you to have certain personal items so you can still bring something with you on the plane. 


As you can see, it can be challenging to make the right luggage choice for your next flight. 

But, remember that you don’t have to bring just one bag. Today, more travelers are deciding to bring two bags, one of each type.