Travel Tip: Don’t Check in baggage

Following on from last week, when I talked about how many toiletries people travel with, I had a very frustrating week with fellow passengers and their luggage .

a group of luggage on the floorAt Melbourne airport, a family of five were checking in, in front of me. They had fifteen bags – for a vacation. They had a huge argument with the check in staff about their baggage allowance. They were claiming the first class luggage allowance whilst travelling in Economy. The check in clerk was not giving it to them despite their posturing and yelling.  The end result of a lot of wasted time, was a re pack and a decision to leave some stuff behind and to carry some on as hand luggage. On the same day a group of guys had to repack their suitcases before they checked in. This means we all got to see their underwear. A fact I tweeted about as I lost some patience.

My feeling is extra baggage is expensive, stressful and results in a lot of carrying and schlepping.  I do not check anything in because it is  faster at check in- no luggage means a check in at home and straight to the gate (time saved 15-60mins). I fly about 110 times a year- time saved is between 27 and 60 hours per year!). It is also faster at the other end. Bags can take 10 to 90 minutes to reappear at the other end. I am already at my hotel by the time some people are hauling their luggage off the carousel. My other reasons for only having check in:

  • its less likely to be lost- lost luggage can take 2 hours to 2 weeks to get back to you
  • I dont every have to worry about check in fees or higher fares that include bags
I travel with two bags.  One is on wheels  and is designed to be checked if I have to. My bigger bag usually meets the size requirements of most airlines. It is  51cm (20″)  x 33cm (12″)  x 21cm (8″). The other bag is officially my “personal item” (in this case a computer bag). It clips to the handle of the first bag for easier carrying.
I aim for each bag to weigh under eight kilos (17 pounds) before I leave my house. Why eight kilos/17 pounds? Most airlines in the world have a limit on their carry on luggage. For some its as little as 5kg and for some its as much as 10kg. For most it is 7kg (15lbs) . I figure that If I am only just over, they will probably let me through. In the USA I have yet to meet an airline that has checked the weight of hand luggage!
Some practical tips
  1. Take less Clothes we don’t need everything we want to take. Pack and then reduce by half the number of clothes you have packed.
  2. Choose clothes that will all combine. eg for men, make sure your ties and shirts will all work together. Taking 3 shirts and 3 ties creates 9 combinations.
  3. Plan to wash. I aim for a weekly wash. I either wash in a hotel/motel with laundry facilites or find a laundrette or plan to stay with family or friends at certain times! Use your washing time to write postcards, update blogs or read.
  4. Take quick drying underwear, socks and t shirts that are sold at camping stores. You can hand wash them in a sink, leave them to dry and most times they dry overnight. They are not cheap or very fashionable but result in a lot less conventional underwear required
  5. Buy clothes as you travel. When I travel to the USA or an Asian country, I reduce my clothes dramatically and buy stuff as I need it.
  6. Take fewer shoes. One walking, one dress up and one sports is enough.
  7. Wear bulky stuff on the plane- I have boarded Melbourne airport in full summer wearing a jumper (sweater/jersey) and a winter coat heading to Minnesota which is in full winter. My gloves and scarves were in the coat pockets
  8. Reduce your electrical items-I use my phone as my alarm clock, camera, and watch. Ditch the electric toothbrush and razor. Reduce power cords. I have one multiple electrical adapter that works in every country. DVDS can play on a computer
  9. Buy less souvenirs/smaller gifts When buying souvenirs, think: do i really need this? I now let me luggage dictate what I buy. Too heavy? Then I forget it or get it sent
  10. Ship stuff  home -with the dropping of seamail, this has become expensive but can be useful
  11. Buy books second hand at discount bookstores.  I read them on the flight/train and then at the other end I donate the book or sell it at another bookstore or leave it for someone to find (
  12.  if you are buying duty free,  see if you can buy it on your trip home so you dont have to carry it for you. Best method is to have it waiting at your home airport for you.

Luggage Tips?


Related Posts

Travel Tip:  Take No Toiletries




  1. 3 shirts + 3 ties = 9 combinations.

    I’m moving towards checking in MORE, not less.

    At least domestically, boarding and security is a total disaster. Anything I can do to make that less stressful is far more valuable than saving 20 minutes at the end of my travel.

    I absolutely hate having to make sure I’m first in line to board to make sure I can find space for my roller. Even flying first doesn’t solve this issue, because I regularly have to put my roller in the first rows of coach if I’m not in the very first few people on.

  2. With rare exceptions, I will not check bags.

    The DW was flying from FRA back to the states for a short 5 day stay and had a bag that she planed to check, it was just loaded to the brim. I helped her prioritize her packing and she got down to her carryon and an oversized purse.

    She claimed it was very liberating not to have to worry about her checked bag.

  3. I normally carry on despite getting free checked bags, but am planning to check this week for a 12 day trip on which we will have 3 connections en route with long layovers in each. My thinking is that with the long layovers they have time to get the bags to the right place (or maybe more time to rifle through them) and I will be less likely to want to haul them around. Also, the total trip time is 22+ hours so an extra few minutes waiting for bags is not a big deal (unless they aren’t there, of course). We will have overnight gear in our carry on.

  4. Good luck with layovers and have a good trip. Good tip re overnight gear in your carry on.

  5. I think it’s a lot easier for a man to pack light. Most of what men wear isn’t necessarily memorable so it’s ok if it’s boring or repetitive. It’s also a lot easier to coordinate mix and matching. Three pairs of shoes is much more difficult for a woman in a lot of circumstances. I’m not saying it can’t be done for a woman to pack light, just that it’s more challenging and requires more sacrifice.

  6. I have been traveling for the past year exclusively with my carry on luggage. I have had so many negative experiences with checking luggage that I made the decision to only use my carry on whenever possible. It was a little difficult at first until I was able to establish a good packing list of “must have” items that can fit into my carry on bag. Now that I am use to traveling “light” I would never check a bag unless I am traveling for so long that it would not be possible any other way. Take the time to learn how to properly pack your carry on luggage and you’ll never look back.

  7. I totally agree, Martin. I try to do just carry-on, especially domestically. It is a bit harder with international, as I often have to take Aussie gifts for people with whom I will stay. I also agree it is harder for women, but possible. Mix and match pieces work well, and I also like to have 2 tops & 2 pants in basic colours (black or brown in Winter, white or beige in Summer), one set which I wear on the plane anyway, then dress up or ring the changes with multi-coloured scarves and costume jewellery (I NEVER take good jewellery, even rings). An important point in current times is that if you only have carry-on, no one can access your luggage to either steal your stuff, or add illegal stuff without your knowledge.

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