Please sign in to post.

To check, or not to check, carry on luggage

We are taking our first RS tour 9/22 - 10/5 to GAS and trying to decide whether to try and take our carry on or check it. The airline we're using is Lufthansa and we've read that they're pretty strict. I do worry though about the possibility of lost luggage when we get to Germany and then we're out of luck. Their website has different measurements than what is printed on our airline tickets! We are going to buy new luggage and it sounds like you can't trust the manufacturers' specs on the size. Thoughts?

Posted by
2393 posts

Everything you said is true. We never check luggage if we can avoid it. The airlines don't lose luggage often but when they do, it's difficult to get your luggage if you don't remain in the city where you landed.

Posted by
3996 posts

I have been checking luggage every holiday (at least 4 flights a year and sometimes 8 a year) for the past 25 years and we have never lost any luggage or had it delayed. If you check the luggage, then weight not size is the issue.

Posted by
1169 posts

Lufthansa absolutely weighs your carry on. They don’t, as far as I know, weigh your personal item. That makes it a lot easier to skirt the weight requirement. Put all the heavy things in your personal item for weigh in.

It’s absolutely possible to make the weight limit for a shoulder season trip. When I did GAS my bag weighed 6.5 kg. You need to be careful about the weight of your bags. Backpacks should weigh less than rollers.

As far as luggage size, go with the stricter measurement. Lufthansa code shares with other airlines so your bag allowance is the one of the airline you are actually flying.

Before I went carry on only, the airlines lost my luggage so many times I lost count. And it was always the times when I really needed my luggage. Sometimes the luggage would go missing 3-4 days at a time. There’s a reason I went to carry on only!

Posted by
3321 posts

One thing we do whether we check or carry on is this. Pack half of one person's stuff in each bag and then do the same with the other person's stuff. If one bag is misdirected (and hopefully not both), at least you'll have enough clothes to get by until it catches up to you.

Posted by
614 posts

I fly Lufthansa quite frequently (usually in business class for work). I could get on with my older 22-inch Tumi and newer 2- inch TravelPro most of the time. As long as you don't have a hard size and overstuff the suitcases both of them could fit in the bin that they measure. The issue I have had with Lufthansa is that they may weigh your suitcase and even if I fit for size, it might not meet the weight. This happened one time when I was in the check-in line and the other at the gate. I was flying business class both times.

Here are the current guidelines from the Lufthansa site: Size and weight: One piece of hand luggage should not exceed 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm in size or 8 kg in weight. Foldable garment bags: These count as hand luggage up to a size of 57 cm x 54 cm x 15 cm.

Note: even if you check your luggage, you will still need to carry your own luggage on your tour, so choosing a bag that is light, stable (I prefer the four wheels instead of spinners on cobblestones), and has a very reliable pull-up handle is important. There is nothing worse than having a bag that a handle breaks on you (yes, it happened twice to me--once with my niece on our trip to Italy, her brand new 21 inch bag's side handle broke and to my Tumi in Australia).

My recommendation is choose your suitcase as if you were carrying on. It will be the best option for all aspects of your transit (train, bus, walking) and you can always have the option of checking it if you like.

Posted by
973 posts

We always check our luggage and put a change of clothes in our carryon. I have only had my luggage go missing for longer than a day a couple of times. The longest was four days on our Christmas market trip. I bought clothes, etc. at my initial destination (Strasbourg) which was actually fun. My new “luggage” was a large shopping bag from Au Printemps. I gave the airline the addresses of the hotels and the dates we would be there. The luggage caught up with me in Rothenburg, Germany (second stop on our trip). I was actually a little sad when my stuff showed up because I was enjoying the experience of packing extremely light. It is not a disaster if your luggage goes missing. You won’t be in the jungle with no stores. And you will have some clothing souvenirs to bring home. The airline and travel insurance compensated me in full for my purchases. No questions asked.

Posted by
2047 posts

Note to above - we have been on over 20 Lufthansa flights (including segments) the last several years, and we have never been asked to size or weigh our packs. This includes many times at Frankfurt. The packs are on our backs, nothing looks wrong. We hold them to the 8 kg (or so) and we can go 3 weeks on this. Our home airport is Philadelphia, and it has been shown over the years that there is a problem there not so much for losing luggage, but for luggage handlers steeling from luggage. We will not check if at all possible.

Posted by
2432 posts

My wheeled luggage is carryon size, but I usually checked it. The carryon size allows me to make last minute decisions regarding checking. However, I've had many, many trips and no lost luggage. I have had delayed luggage home once in the last 20 years...I love how it was delivered home for me and only a few hours later. I am not too careful with my flight schedule on the way home as it doesn't matter if my suitcase arrives on the carousel or via delivery. I have never had a suitcase delayed on my outgoing flights because I help the airlines by 1. taking a photo of my packed luggage so I can show the airline personnel what they are looking for, 2. at check in making sure the airline properly tags the luggage, 3. distinctly marking my luggage so in a sea of delayed luggage mine is easy to spot, 4. making sure I allow enough time between flights for the luggage to be transferred between planes (Too many people have to hasten to their next flight and somehow expect their luggage to make it) 5. Having all the 'need to have' items in my personal item; including part or all of a change of clothes, just in case. 6. Not checking if I'm catching a train to base in a city hours away...not something I do, but I admit I wouldn't be more than a couple of hours from the airport that first night...just in case.

I check because it's freeing 1. not to have all you luggage with you in the airport, 2. not to have to hurry on board so as to get bin space for the luggage, 3. can get off ahead of the people collecting all their luggage, assuming you make sure you are sitting in the front of your class. Otherwise, you will dislike everyone that carries the kitchen sink onto the plane... :-) Also, I rarely have to wait for my suitcase at the luggage carousel. My last trip to Amsterdam there was no wait at all.

The dangers of your luggage being lost, IMO, is overblown on this site if you make some effort to help as described above. Besides, if my luggage were to be lost, because of how I pack my personal item, my trip could go on as planned (but with hand washing every night and/or just a little shopping). So bring a tape measure with you when you shop for luggage or, if on line, read the reviews as if they are not marked properly, someone usually points out the true measurements. Buy a carryon, but check it for ease of travel. YMMV

Posted by
5035 posts

ddougherty, is your flight non-stop to Germany from Pennsylvania? If so, there's little opportunity for them to lose your checked bag. If you absolutely need that much stuff, then I'd check one or two bags. Mix your stuff up so at least each of you have something in each bag, if you must. Is it a codeshared flight? That conversion from metric measurements sometimes gets fudged.

The airline carryon restrictions are only one reason that people (and RS) promote packing light and carryon only. Its the dragging or carrying larger heavier bags from bus to hotel, up the stairs, up the hill, etc., where it gets old. But its not a crime to check bags.

Note what Larry said about backpacks. What I've seen most of the time and our last flight with Lufthansa,and some other airlines, is that they usually check weight and size of roller bags, but not backpacks. People dont think the wheels count but they do.

Posted by
1980 posts

For the outbound flight I carry on (unless I'm traveling alone) and I always check it on the way home - I'm tired and I don't want to think. I can check without fear because I don't travel with anything that can't be replaced.

Posted by
457 posts

Unless you have a nonstop flight from Point A to Point B, I'm always inclined to carry on my baggage. If your flight has multiple segments, you increase the liklihood of not meeting up with your luggage at the end.

Last summer we flew a circuitous route from SMF to Palma, and carried on luggage, until the last flight on a regional carrier, when they took it from us and gate checked it because of size. At that point, I figured there was little chance it wouldn't be there at the end.

Posted by
2767 posts

We have been flying to Europe for 16 of the last 18 years while taking 16 RS tours. We always try to fly an European airline (as in Lufthansa) from Seattle to Europe so we can fly non-stop. We have always checked out 21/22" RS roller bags (2 wheels) so that we can include our RS travel bathroom bag with associated liquids and pastes as well as anything else that might be required to be checked. We each carry on a large day bag with the items we do not want to lose such as medicines, cameras, iPads, etc. We have never experienced lost or delayed luggage thank goodness. In all of our flying to Europe, we have never been stopped due to size or weight.

Posted by
12104 posts

Since 2015 I have checked in only the 2 wheel roller or spinner. The carry on shoulder sack (19 in) has always cleared the weight limit. Sometimes at check-in (I don't recall which airline), it is not even weighed, unless I do that myself to satisfy my own questions on its weight. I have always checked in luggage in 24 trips over.

Posted by
1169 posts

The dangers of your luggage being lost, IMO, is overblown on this site if you make some effort to help as described above.

Like many things, it’s not a problem until it is. And when it goes wrong it can go really wrong (like coming out in pieces).

It’s super dependent on the route flown, how many transfers, if your plane is running late, etc.

It’s like seat belts. You don’t need them... until you do.

Posted by
2432 posts

It’s like seat belts. You don’t need them... until you do.

Checking a bag is not like wearing a seatbelt. A seatbelt can be a matter of life and death for a person. Checked suitcases contain objects; unimportant objects if you packed correctly. If you can't move on without your suitcase, you packed incorrectly.

Sorry, I've seen this simile before and as someone who has seen tragic results for people not wearing seatbelts I find this comparison inappropriate for our discussions as the items contained can not be compared.

Posted by
1169 posts

Sorry, I've seen this simile before and as someone who has seen tragic results for people not wearing seatbelts I find this comparison inappropriate for our discussions as the items contained can not be compared.

I used to do crash tests as part of my engineering internship. By the time I was done the auto was about 4-1/2 feet long. I know exactly what I’m saying.

The point is that most of the time you don’t need seat belts. Just like most of the time your checked bag is OK.

The problem comes during that one time when it isn’t OK.

Posted by
308 posts

My husband and I just flew into Vienna yesterday and decided to check our carry-on sized bags. I am happy to report that both bags arrived! We were glad we checked our bags because we had quite the long hike and had to go through security again before catching our connecting flight in Chicago.

Posted by
8640 posts

I'm not going to get into the fray of checking or not checking. It's personal choice.

The only thing I will add is to never put prescription meds, electronics or jewelry in checked bags. Always carry on.

Posted by
1 posts

We went on the Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna tour just last month. Although we didn't fly Lufthansa, we were so happy that we carried on our luggage! No waiting to pick up your luggage, and then waiting to go through customs. We were able to breeze through everything, and get on our way. Remember, you'll be jet-lagged when you get to your destination, so getting to the hotel quickly will become important. We also heeded Rick's suggestion that our suitcase not weigh more than about 20-25 pounds. This is within the carry-on weight limits, and makes it must easier to carry up those steep and narrow stairs that you'll find in the hotels used on the Rick Steves tours. Hope you have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
49 posts

I am going to chime in as someone who does not like to check but did on a RS Ireland trip some years ago. The person going with had hurt her foot about a week before we left so we had a courtesy wheelchair for her as we were to fly from Sacramento to Ireland thru Chicago and it involved lots of walking. We checked our bags so I could deal with her and the chair... on a 14 trip I then had no luggage for 9 days other than my small day bag thank goodness. A very memorable 9 days where I wore Dublin T-shirts and the same pants for a week.. I was lucky one of the innkeepers washed them for me one night. I will NEVER check a bag again! Great story now and while it did not make the trip less fun, it was just a PITA.

Posted by
42 posts

I just returned from the GAS tour and my suggestion is to definitely do carry on for the way over. I am not one of those fortunate people in this thread who have never had issues with delayed luggage - although it is a low probability, it is definitely a real possibility (as I can attest - multiple times). It happened as recently as last May on my trip to Paris, but since I was in the city the whole time it was not a big deal. It did take over 24 hours for it to be delivered to my hotel, arriving at 11:30 PM! So considering that you will be immediately boarding a train for a destination 4 hours away, and staying only 1 or 2 nights at any one place (exception Switzerland - but they will definitely not deliver it to Murren), it is quite likely your luggage will not catch up to you for the majority of the tour if it is delayed (as the previous poster Steph above has described so aptly). Given this possibility (and my poor luck when it comes to airlines and luggage), it made my decision to not check my carry on quite easy. However, I do usually check it for my flight home, as it is nice not to be burdened by it. By the way, you'll have an amazing time - I really enjoyed the GAS tour.