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Carry on only?

I know Rick advocates packing light. And after several journeys across Italy by train, understand and practice that concept... mostly.

But, I have to ask, why do you have to carry it on? Are you afraid of loosing your luggage?

Our first trip to Italy was 24 years ago. We flew into Venice - without either of our checked bags. We had an adventure right off the bat. Of course, we had not packed a change of clothes in our carry on!!! Only snacks and games and books for the flight! Ugh. Lessons learned!

We now remember to pack clothes in the carry on but still check bags (one each). It makes the airline/security routine easier and less stressed.

Not really looking for an answer - just the reasons why YOU choose to carry on only and then deal with one bag limits (what constitutes ONE bag on which airlines) liquid limits (3-1-1 rules) and hassling with those overheads on board the plane!

Maybe I'm just too old fashioned?

Posted by
160 posts

I like traveling light and not having to deal with baggage claim (it's great getting off the plane and zooming thru customs out into a new city). I agree with Rick that weighing yourself down w/too much luggage marks you as an inexperienced traveler and therefore vulnerable target for ill-favored types.

I have a friend who had his luggage lost by the airline on an international flight, and on another int'l flight one of my bags was contaminated with some sort of smelly liquid.

That said, I'll have to check my larger-than-usual backpack (4,300 cubic inches) for my 3rd Euro trip next month. I'm carrying more this time because I'll be in Europe for two months doing the Camino pilgrimage in France and Spain. I'm not looking forward to that, but I have to do what I have to do. But I still have only one bag, which is always my goal.

Posted by
13 posts

I always check a bag and just take the extra 10 minutes to pick it up at baggage claim. I pack just like you do and i think it works wonderfully.

Posted by
18311 posts

In the last century, I made three flights to Europe. First trip, my luggage was nearly left in Boston. Third trip my luggage was nearly sent to So. America, never, I am sure, to be seen (by me, at least) again.

So, when I started reading Rick Steves, I completely imbraced his carryon philosophy. Two trips later, it paid off big time when I had what appeared to be plenty of time to make a connection in an eastern city. However, my plane left so late that it would be getting into that city at the same time the plane for Europe left. The airline picked us (13) up at the gate and took us by van to the next plane, which was ready to leave. I am sure that no luggage made that connection, and and I was relieved to have mine with me. Five hours after arriving in Europe, I was four hours by train from the airport.

Lost luggage can ruin a trip.

So, if you absolutely, positively, have to have something with you in Europe, carry it on. If you can live without it, leave it at home.

Posted by
389 posts

I'm a checker too. I travel with my 70+ mom who can't do her own overhead; if she has to check I might as well. Of course this trip we are flying on to Stockholm from London the next day. If the luggage is lost, I'm not sure how NW is going to catch up with us. I guess I'm willing to adventure (and I always keep necessities in my carry-on ;-)

Posted by
410 posts

I check too - for a number of reasons - I think the carry on thing is over rated and I do get a little frustrated watching people lug aboard outsize (not every airline is very vigilant) carry on suitcases and then wonder why they can't find somewhere to put them or they have taken up all the space before I want to put my small bag in the locker.

I don't find the 10 - 15 wait for luggage too much of a problem - when you have to generally travel at least 30-60 mins to the airport and get there 2 hours before a flight, then the flight time, what is another 15 mins? Admittedly I have never lost luggage but figure I would cope -anything I would miss is with me - computer for example.

Some airports are huge and carrying the luggage through the airports I figure would be a pain I don't need.
And finally the liquid rule just makes it all so much harder.

Posted by
309 posts

In our case after having our bags miss the flights twice because of short layovers we decided we didn't want to take the chance of starting off our much awaited vacations putting in baggage claims and hoping to get our bags . Even though we always had some extra changes in our carry on you still end up having to make sure you get your luggage at some point. Not how I want to spend vacation time.
Besides that I love traveling light. It really frees us up to just enjoy the time. We use to travel with several bags and over the years have learned to simplify and enjoy!

Posted by
151 posts

Great Question!
My husband and I travel light (carry on!) to save our backs on the trains in Europe. Upon arrival in Venice last time we were met with a transit strike and packed our way to San Marco in the heat. It was tough but we made it.

We have a six year old we will be taking this summer (two weeks from today) and she has her own Rick Steves bag to carry and plan for. As for the liquids question, my evil plan is to take no liquids on the flight and proceed directly to Sephora upon landing in Paris:)

We do usually end up checking on the way home (so many souvenirs) but this time we plan to ship things home during the three weeks we will be there so who knows.

Posted by
2000 posts

I have had good luck with checking bags through multiple Europe/USA flights and not having my luggage lost. I also have carried on one bag. When carrying on, you have to be sure your bag is not too heavy for putting it in the overhead (I'm a middle aged woman).
If I am taking any trains in Europe, I like to have one carry-on sized bag, because lugging bags on and off trains is not fun. If I am staying in one place for a long time, as I did in Paris last year, I may bring a larger bag ans check it. (it still was a hassle to deal with because the apartment I rented in Paris had a teeny elevator and my large suitcase and I almost did not fit in it). So it's always good to bring a small bag, I think. When going to Europe I like to carry on, to be sure I have my stuff with me. Coming home I check the bag and carry on small duffle bag with necessities and new things. If my bag is delayed coming home, I don't care.

Posted by
144 posts

You definitely have to pack very light if you are traveling on trains. I learned this the hard way, when the only storage was overhead and I couldn't lift my bag above my head.

I like to pack light then check my bag, but I always carry my meds and a change of clothes in my carry on. Seems like I always have a layover where I would need to carry my luggage around an airport for hours.

And I have noticed that the carry on luggage is getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. I have seem passengers put a full sized suitcase in the overhead...

Posted by
8 posts

I carry on for the outbound trip. That way I have control of my luggage when I arrive and don't fear losing anything. Since I usually pack a small, empty duffle to bring back any treasures I may purchase I will check bags on my return. My reasoing is that I have the important stuff with me, and if my bag goes missing for a few days I am home with other clothes, cosmetics, etc. so I don't mind. My bags, however, have never been lost so this is more of a control freak thing than anything else.

I chose to deal with one bag when travelling just because of ease of moving around. Not transporting 3 bags, a purse, etc. is just easier.

Posted by
14 posts

In our recent trip to Europe we had to fly thru London, where if we had checked a bag on AA we would have to claim it and I believe clear customs and then reenter after checking in with the connecting airline. It was just easier to use carry-ons rather than check the bags thru. However we did check the bags thru coming back to the States, which for some reason you can do coming this way. We carried enough clothes to last for 5 days then it was find a laundry, but even that wasn't a problem, just expensive at diffent places. The only reason that I really wanted to check a bag, was that it be hard-sided so that I could bring back wine in it. Maybe if we had been traveling non-stop to Germany we would have then have had a checked bag for tht reason.
Jim

Posted by
25 posts

At the Phoenix airport i've never waited less than 30 minutes after getting to baggage claim for my bag and a few times close to an hour. I just don't have that patience after a long trip home. I love the time savings of not checking. it takes me no longer in the security line (I have it down to a science) and love not having to even mess with the check in line downstairs for domestic flights. I find it much less stressful not to worry about my bag showing up because it's with me. I've had bags delayed in the past for business trips and it's always a headache! I don't think I can quite get my liquids for 2 weeks into a ziplock bag for my upcoming trip this year, but i plan to carry on everything else in my standard rolling suitcase a check a small tote with my liquids and nonessentials.

Posted by
49 posts

I have checked my bag to Europe 5 times with no problems. I am a light packer but I hate hauling bags around airports when making connections and I hate hefting bags into the overhead bins!

Posted by
2 posts

For me it's not a lost luggage issue as much as lost time. I spend no time checking and have anything I might want on the flight with me. On my vacation I don't worry about my things because I have almost nothing with me. I don't spend time thinking about what I am going to wear either. The liquid rules offer a great opportunity to visit a durg store or the equivalent in a different country or even just a different city, fun! Additionally I find it's easier to haul a single bag around by myself (no else ever volunteers darn it!). The one time my family travelled en mass as adults we rented an economy car. We only fit becuase all four of us had only one carry on bag each. Lots of little things add up to the fact that I will do just about anything to avoid checked luggage.

What an interesting thread! I've enjoyed reading the answers. Thanks for your question Sally.

Posted by
689 posts

Thanks everyone! Very interesting to see the wide variety of travel methods. And, the different things that cause stress to travelers.

I love the idea to check a hard sided suitcase to bring wine/olive oil back in! I think I may still have one of those and will think about using it this year! Excellent idea!

Posted by
441 posts

My wife's luggage didn't make it onto our plane last year and,due to a holiday weekend,couldn't be delivered until four days later. Four days later we were a long way from the airport. We carry-on now.

Posted by
112 posts

We Are taking the train this time on a month long
trip. So we will really have to travel light. Will
a 21 in bag be allowed on the plane? REturn
trip will be BA thru Heathrow and we will probably
check bags on thru to U.S.
We will buy necessary shampoo, etc when we get
there. No hairdryer or curling iron.

Posted by
3580 posts

I've seen and been subjected to delayed or lost checked luggage. "Carry on only" forces me to keep it light. Handling my luggage on public transit requires that I keep my bag weight to 18# or less--plus purse with a pound or two of stuff. At the end of a flight I want to grab my stuff and get going. I've travelled this way on about a dozen international flights, and I've never been sorry I didn't check my bag.

Posted by
221 posts

I travel light but have given up the Rick motto of always carrying on. I don't see what the big hurry is at the airport that you can't wait 30 minutes for your bag. since I always end up have to change plans once before I get there anyway, I enjoy the freedom of not having to lug my (even though it's light) bag through the airport to my connecting flight. but for sure in my carryon, a change of underthings and your toiletries at least!

Posted by
1 posts

I haven't quite reached the zen of Rick Stevens, but I get closer every year. This year I packed a rolling duffel that I checked, and a normal sized backpack that I brought on. The key is that the duffel CAN be brought onto the plane if need be ( it's in the 'can fit, but you'll get glares' category ).

Part of the problem is that I tend to travel is very cold and very hot climates all in one trip. I'm staying in Youth Hostels, so no private bathroom to do laundry, and I often have to go a two weeks before I can hit a laundromat.

I was flying in and out of Dublin, so I took all of my "Dublin weather" stuff and put it in my backpack, then put my luggage in storage. When I hit France tomorrow, I'll switch out my clothing for "coast of france" stuff, and do the same thing.

Posted by
138 posts

I agree with Chere. I, too, pack light, one small wheeler, 22". I probably could take it on the plane with me, but why? This way, I can pack all my liquid stuff without worrying about 3 oz bottles and quart bags, all that silly stuff I refuse to deal with. My Swiss Army knife is safely there, and also my nail grooming implements. Going shopping for toiletries in another country is fun, but only when you FEEL like doing it, not when you HAVE TO. Also, people here mention how quick they are to get out of the airport when they only have a carry-on. Well, how long does it take them to get their huge (by carry-on standards, that glare-producing stuff) out of overhead bins? And while they are doing it, guess what? They are holding up people like me, who could just zip off the plane with only a handbag and get to the luggage carousel quickly.

Posted by
57 posts

I check because I got sick of dragging stuff through airports. I'm leaving for Paris, should be packing right now, and using a 24' bag and one carry on for books, IPod, meds and camera. I endured a lost bag two years ago changing planes from Vienna to Paris while by daughter's bags made the plane. The bag was found but didn't get to me in Paris but did it ruin the trip? No it just made another travel story. Having to wait for bags can be a pain and take time but it gives me time to relax, walk around a bit and get the flavor of a new place. No need to go rushing around trying to find cabs, trains etc. Plus which I don't hold up everyone dragging the bag in or out of the overhead or trying to stuff it under the seat. And, I don't risk fracturing someone's skull with my stuff.

Posted by
84 posts

One reason I don't check a bag is that it's much easier to get on earlier flights, etc.

Two times in a row traveling outside the country my checked suitcase didn't make it immediately after me. There's nothing as demoralizing and disorienting as arriving in a foreign place without your things. Last Christmas when I went back to Germany I carried on and was MUCH happier!

Posted by
970 posts

The advantage of carryon is twofold: Not waiting at baggage claim, and not risking losing a bag. Losing a bag costs you more than the obvious annoyance. It costs you time dealing with airline staff, filing the claim, etc.

Take only what you really need. If that spills out into a checked bag, and you are certain you really need that stuff, then that's fine, isn't it? Everyone's situation is different. A serious photographer, for example, on a lengthy trip would likely use carryon for cameras and equpment, and check clothes, etc. A student traveling with 2 jeans and a cellphone is a different case altogether.

Posted by
1449 posts

After reading Rick's book I thought his philosophy made a lot of sense, and I have found it IS easier to get around when I have just one bag on my back instead of dragging a suitcase. But more important to me is the lost bag issue. Traveling domestically I've had bags miss my plane a few times. When I go internationally often the best flight from CA to Europe doesn't go into the city I want. No problem, they have a great train system and usually in 2-3 hours I'm where I want to be WITH my bag. I'd prefer not to take the chance of it missing the plane and having to hope it would get sent to me somewhere else, or having to change plans and wait in the city for it to show up.

Posted by
3 posts

I traveled to Italy last year for a 10 day trip. NW airlines lost my luggage and I did not get it back for the duration of my trip. Luckily I had put a few items in my carry-on but found that having to buy clothes on my trip that I did not need left me a bit jaded to the whole check your baggage idea. I have traveled over-seas since and have vowed that I will never check another bag again. Although the one plus was I didn't have that much laundry to do when I got home:)

Posted by
1717 posts

In this discussion thread ("Carry on only") some of the replies included the words "travel light". That means a traveler does not bring many items, or a traveler does not bring a large bag. Yes, I think "traveling light" has some benefits and advantages and joys. And, one aspect of traveling light is to have a very small bag, or no bag, with a person in an airplane. From my many experiences of being a world traveler, for many years, I decided to carry a small bag with me in airplanes.
The size of the bag is seven inches, ten inches, four and one half inches. I put that bag on the floor by my feet in an airplane. In one trip to Europe I did not carry any bag in the airplane : I put several items, including my camera, plastic bottle for water, food, small notebook, a Rick Steves' travel guide book, book to read, personal grooming and hygiene supplies, small tape recorder, and an extra pair of socks, sun glasses, thermometer, in the pockets of my jacket. (my jacket has eight pockets)

Posted by
1717 posts

In this discussion thread ("Carry on only") some of the replies included the words "travel light". That means a traveler does not bring many items, or a traveler does not bring a large bag. Yes, I think "traveling light" has some benefits and advantages and joys. And, one aspect of traveling light is to have a very small bag, or no bag, with a person in an airplane. From my many experiences of being a world traveler, for many years, I decided to carry a small bag with me in airplanes.
The size of the bag is seven inches, ten inches, four and one half inches. I put that bag on the floor by my feet in an airplane. In one trip to Europe I did not carry any bag in the airplane : I put several items, including my camera, plastic bottle for water, food, small notebook, a Rick Steves' travel guide book, book to read, personal grooming and hygiene supplies, small tape recorder, and an extra pair of socks, sun glasses, thermometer, in the pockets of my jacket. (my jacket has eight pockets)

Posted by
1717 posts

My previous reply here was posted twice, inadvertently. I apologize for that. In this discussion topic of "Carry on Only ?", a related topic is the question of what kind of bag (not a carry-on bag) is the best kind of bag for traveling.
Some people said they choose to carry a bag (carry-on size) with them in an airplane (to Europe from an other continent), and they do not check any bag to an airplane's baggage compartment. A reason for that is because some people do not want to bring a big bag or suitcase with them when they travel to Europe.
But some kinds of big bags or suitcases are more desireable than others. I think an undesirable type of suitcase is the suitcase that has two large wheels attached to its bottom, and telescoping long handles at the top. (That is the most popular type of suitcase now). That type of suicase is sideways when it is being pushed (on its wheels). (My reply is continued in my next posting here).

Posted by
1717 posts

This topic (discussion thread) was started June 12, 2007. Perhaps not many people will read my comment here. But because of the alarmist postings here, about a bag not arriving at the destination airport in Europe, I think more discussion on that topic is appropriate. The persons who did not receive their bag at an airport in Europe have my sympathy. But in recent years, the airlines' baggage handling systems were improved, and I was told that the incidents of a bag not being found at the destination airport in Europe (flight from U.S.A. to Europe or Britain) are now very rare. I guess that some of the "lost bag" experiences were caused by a traveler's error. A traveler may be at risk of not finding a bag at a destination airport, if the traveler is traveling in more than one airplane, and (a) one of the airplanes is small, therefore not all of the baggage can be in that airplane. Some bags will be put in an other airplane flying to the same airport later. (Continued in my next post)

Posted by
1717 posts

A second cause for a bag not arriving at the destination airport in Europe or Britain is (b): a traveler connects with an other flight in Europe, and there is a short time between the arrival of one airplane and the departure of the next airplane. The airpline does not have time to transfer a bag from one airplane to an other airplane. If either of those travel situation will occur, the traveler will probably know about it before leaving his or her home. And the traveler could decide to not check any bag at the airport (to put a bag in an airplane's baggage compartment), or the traveler could check a bag, and also bring all the necessary clothes and other items in a carry-on bag in the airplane.
(Continued in my next posting here).

Posted by
1717 posts

Not all travelers have the same style or preferences for traveling. Some people choose to carry all of their baggage with them in an airplane. But I think that is not necessary. And, an airplane (Boeing 767, or Boeing 777, and other large airplanes) does not have enough space in the overhead storage bins for a carry-on bag of maximum size for each and every person in that aiplane. I guess most people would NOT want to hold a bag (maximum carry-on size) with them at their seat. I traveled in airplanes of airlines from the U.S.A. to Europe several times during the past six years. On my trip to Italy (to Malpensa airport of Milan) my bag of carry-on size was my primary bag. But I did not carry it in the airplane. I checked that bag (to the airplane's baggage compartment). Some travelers (including Rick Steves, and me) are capable of putting everything in a carry-on bag. But I think doing that is not necessary. And, carrying all baggage in an airplane is not the best choice for all people.

Posted by
1717 posts

A large suitcase, on its large wheels, that is pushed sideways, is similar to a snow plow, or bull dozer, forcing other people do move to the side, in a crowded railroad passenger train station in Europe or Britain, or in an aiport, or other public places.
I do not do that. I commend and appreciate the travelers who use a carry-on bag as their primary bag when they travel to Europe or Britain.
But there are other styles of suitcases that have wheels. When I need to use a large suitcase, I use my suitcase which has four small wheels at the bottom. (When the suitcase is standing upright, the four wheels are at the bottom, at the floor). That suitcase is pulled by a vinyl strap which is detachable. (I put the strap in the suitcase before I give the suitcase to the airline in the airport).
When I am walking with that suitcase, I pull the suitcase, using the short strap. The suitcase rolls along gracefully behind me, on cobble stone streets in Europe, and sidewalks, that have many cracks

Posted by
1717 posts

(Continued from the previous message).My large suitcase (it is not the biggest size) which has four small wheels at its bottom, and it is pulled by a short detachable vinyl strap,is narrow.
When the suitcase is moving (behind me) it has less width than a suitcase, positioned siedways, moving on its two big wheels. My suitcase rolls along behind me, the suitcase is more narrow than my body. (my body is slender). Thus, people in a crowded place are not forced to move away from my suitcase.
My suitcase, rolling on the floor behind me, causes less of a nuissance to other people than a suitcase that is pushed sideways on its two big wheels. But, of course, in some situations when walking, any suitcase or travel bag would need to be lifted up from the floor and carried, probably for a short distance, or for a short period of time. I do not carry my primary bag on my back because the weight of the bag causes discomfort and excessive physical exertion, and pain to the back.

Posted by
1717 posts

And, in all of my experiences of traveling with a big suitcase (not the biggest size) in several countries in Europe : in railroad passenger trains, and in underground trains (METRO), and in other "commuter" trains, and in Taxi cars, the size and shape of my suitcase never caused a problem. I think the important factor is to not have a heavy weight in a suitcase or travel bag. And do not carry things with both hands at the same time. Carrying a big suitcase, or any big bag, in a bus could be a problem, if the bus does not have a baggage compartment. I carried my big suitcase, and a day-pack, in a bus in England, (no baggage compartment in the bus) traveling from Moreton-in-Marsh north to Stratford-upon-Avon. Having the suitcase in the bus did not cause any problem or discomfort because not many people were in the bus. (many empty seats). That was in June, 2003. The bus departed from Moreton-In-Marsh at 6:55 A.M. and arrived at Stratford at approximately 8:25. I recommend that bus ride.

Posted by
710 posts

I have had lost or late arriving luggage a number of time in the past few years. It is okay coming home, but I would hate it to happen going overseas.
I the 1970's the airline gave me $25 to buy stuff to help me while waiting. Nowdays they give you nothing. You just wait. In the USA I hit local Walmarts and Kmarts. Not sure what I would look for overseas.
One time coming home from Ireland my luggage was lost and that was okay. I didn't need any of those things right away and they delivered my luggage to my door. I am think about carryon only our coming trip because we have to change planes in Paris for Rome. Coming home I will check my bag. It arrives, just sometime a few day latter.
On one trip someone picked up the wrong bag - my mother's bag. The airlines did track it down, but it took 2 days.

Posted by
710 posts

Forgot to say.
If checking a bag, I now always make sure to take in my carry on a change of underwear, top, slacks, nightgown, bathing suit, or something appropriate for the climate I am going to. Last year I didn't bother one trip to Florida, and guess what , my suitcase was missing for 4 days.

Posted by
808 posts

It's not just the 767 or 777 that do not have enough room for each and every passenger to carry on the maximum carry on allowance...IT IS ALL AIRCRAFT!!

Posted by
1 posts

Group of five friends flew to Prague recently. Baggage for four of the five arrived with no problem. But it took six days to finally get the luggage of the fifth person. Big hassle for him and many phone calls to the airline. Put a big dent into their much awaited vacation. My husband and I traveled Europe for three weeks recently with only the RS carryon backpack which we carried on. Very handy to have all our stuff with us. will do it again.

Posted by
1589 posts

To me, the entire issue is related to my travels AFTER the flight. We choose to travel very light, making stairs, curbs and hills easier to manage. This method is also much easier on ones body, leaving more energy for the FUN!

Posted by
990 posts

I'm traveling to Berlin tomorrow via Amsterdam and I have 40 minutes between arrival and the connecting flight. If I checked the bag, it's doubtful it would make my second flight. If I don't make the connecting flight myself, at least I have my luggage with me and won't worry about it when I take a later flight that day.