You pack your bags and are a “carry on only” traveler, can I get your autograph and get a picture with you? You’re like some elite celebrity now and I’m so envious of you!
*buzzer sound* NOT!
Why is going carry on only a trendy thing? Why are those who check in bags looked down on? Why does it matter and why do people force themselves into being a “carry on only” traveler?
There are SO many downsides to going carry only. Which is exactly why I rarely ever do it.
Now, let’s set a few things straight here before people get angry because well, ya know, this is the internet and all, and it’s literally the easiest place to get butthurt about other people’s opinions…
- This post was written with humor and sass, so if you can’t read this lightheartedly and laugh, just don’t read it all. I’m not a serious person, so reading this seriously and taking it personally would be dumb.
- Obviously, there are benefits to going carry on only, no luggage fees, no waiting for bags, no chances of over packing etc… I get it. I’ve been traveling for years, I’m very well aware of the concepts and benefits of going carry on only. In fact, I do travel carry on only when I’m in certain travel situations but those are rare.
- It’s pretty obvious this is also coming from a person who literally lives out of a bag (new readers: I’ve been abroad for nearly eight years now). So carry on only is only possible when I’m going from A to B and back to A and only leaving for a few weeks. This is a very rare occurrence and I don’t recall my last round-trip flight, hence the reason I’m checking in my bags AKA my closet for the next year + of travel.
- “You” isn’t YOU. It’s an imaginary carry-on only d-bag… A person we’ve all met before who brags about how small their bag is and how they never check it in and how they can dangle their bag on one finger it’s so light. OooOOooOhh!! So when I say “you,” I don’t mean you, the reader, I mean that d-bag dude. 🙂
- I don’t have anything against carry on only packers, this is all written in good fun!
- DON’T BE SERIOUS BECAUSE I’M NOT!
Are all the easily butthurt people who can’t fathom that others have different opinions and like to have fun gone? Good, let’s get on with it…
Don’t lose this! Click to pin it now.
10 Reasons Carry on Only Is Lame AF & You’re Not Special
1. Mission Impossible: Packing for Different Seasons
LOL, you think you’re going to be able to bring that puffy jacket, those hiking boots, and twelve sundresses because you’re going to Iceland, Norway, Thailand, and Hawai’i on the same trip?
That’s cute. Good luck having to wear twelve dresses under that puffy jacket to keep yourself warm enough, it ain’t happening.
Packing for two seasons in one carry on is not an easy task. Sure, it technically is possible because there are about 500 million celebrities and influential people on earth who have told us that ‘anything is possible” so we need to have faith, but do we really need to shove all that into a single bag?
I mean, it’s not going to be easy, and you’re unlikely going to look cute. You’ll also hate yourself with all that weight on you, and you’re probably going to have to carry or wear that heavy jacket so it doesn’t take up all the space in the bag.
It’s not easy to pull this off, and it’s just not worth it in my eyes. Packing for numerous seasons well requires more space.
2. Legroom = 0
You’re going to stuff that carry on cabin bag so full and then put the overflow in your personal bag. Don’t pretend like you’re not.
Where else will you put your silly travel pillow, tablet, harmonica, large leatherbound journal, and ten intensive yoga and spiritual books!? You’re not going to have any leg room, at all.
In case it’s been a while for you on a plane, planes have already given you the least amount of leg room possible for a human to survive with. And that’s if you’re of average height!
If you’re a tall, leggy model (jealous), then you’re going to be smashed all because you wanted to go carry on only. I know, the legroom situation is borderline inhumane at this point but somehow the airlines are getting away with it. And if you’re on a long haul flight, good luck!
Made your personal bag too full? Booked an emergency exit row flight thinking you’ll score extra leg room for that bag? Ha! You’ll have to throw everything in the overhead bin or possibly place it in the hold if it’s all full. Speaking of…
3. The “Hold”
Oops. They think your bag is too big or maybe you boarded too late (wait for it…)
So guess what?
You’ll have to put your bag in the hold anyway, so you can’t access your stuff, and you may even need to rearrange items so you’re not putting batteries or valuables in a place where you can’t see it.
Of course, this will all be last minute as they are closing the doors–so you’re frantically grabbing a few important things but being rushed caused you to forget your headphones which renders you unable to drown out the hellish screaming baby that will inevitably sit behind you.
You won’t get a warning for this either, you’ll be at the gate, or literally about to get on the plane… or worse, trying to shove your bag in the overhead space when they will break the news to you.
You may have to pick your bag up where all the other peasants who checked their bags go or best case scenario, you’ll have to wait outside the plane on the tarmac for them to get it out of the hold while everyone else jets in front you making the immigration queue a million people longer.
So much for your master carry on luggage plan.
RELATED: 51 of the Best Travel Accessories for Men and Women
4. The Cabin Ran out of Space
Thought you were cool to board late so you could grab a sandwich and a coffee?
Wrong. Now it’s too late because they’ve filled the overhead cabin space.
So either your bag will be approximately 20 rows behind you where you can’t see it, and you’ll need to wait for everyone to get off the plane to go the opposite way of traffic getting off or, best case scenario, it goes in the hold as I mentioned above.
5. Which Airlines? Which Carry on Limits?
What one airline deems as the oh-so-holy perfect sized cabin bag size doesn’t mean all the rest follow suit. Many airlines have different rules.
That’s confusing, isn’t it?
Some airlines say this size, some say that size, which size is it?! Oh, don’t worry, the weights are different too!
And which bag will you buy and bring with you for your trip? What if you have multiple flights across multiple airlines and they all have different rules?
Maybe some will make you check it anyway so now you need to buy another smaller bag to bring with you so you can carry on some items.
This is just a shit show, isn’t it? Why did you make this terrible choice? Wait, let me make you feel worse…
6. Your Neck, Your Back, Your…
They will scream and yell… Maybe for your entire vacation.
One shoulder will ping, the other will ache, or they BOTH may totally tweak TF out on you.
One shoulder will go numb while the other will get red. Your lower back is slightly thrown out from when you went to lift your bag and didn’t your use knees enough.
Your body hates you. Totally f*cking hates you. And really, you’re starting to agree with it.
7. WTF Are You Wearing Again?
Particularly for women, those outfits are going to get super old, super quick.
Are you wearing that blouse again? Isn’t it in every single photo already? Have you gone from Rome to Dubrovnik to Mostar in the same day? Because that’s what it looks like.
If you like to switch things up, going carry on only doesn’t offer the luxury of varying outfits.
8. No Souvenirs Allowed
Sorry, Mom, I can’t buy that cool teapot for you from Morocco because I decided to go carry on only, and that will put me overweight.
But what your mom will hear is, “I don’t love you, F you mom!”
Also, my bag will break if I try to shove one more thing in it.
Oops, you wanted a cute new shirt from Venice, and a hand carved elephant souvenir from Thailand? Not happening.
You can’t buy not one thing on this trip, so forget it. I SAID FORGET IT, KAREN!
Aw, that’s cute, you have a fav lotion or fash wash and you want to bring it with you on your trip.
Not unless you tediously squeeze tiny bits of it into a 100ml tube so you can get it through security. Think you’ll just buy everything once you land? It’s totally possible!
If you can find the stuff you like not priced at a small fortune…
A large number of toiletries and cosmetics have whitening agents in them in Asia. The sun is extra strong in New Zealand and you’ll have to give up your first born child to afford the sunscreen…
Many of these things are sitting at your home already or are cheaper back home. So too bad you’ll have to leave all those liquids behind!
10. You’re Not That Cool
Just stop. You managed to put things in a bag and you think you’re better than those who also put their things in a bag that’s slightly bigger?
Please stop trying to put yourself on a damn pedestal. You don’t get a cookie, you don’t get a medal, and you don’t get brownie points. Nobody cares you’re carry on only, only you do.
Why do carry on only people think they are the shit?
Just in case any keyboard warriors are still here:
Remember guys, this was written to be silly and funny, no need to put me on a pitchfork and tell me all about recent amazing adventures with a carry on only… I don’t care to be belittled as if I don’t know what carry on travel is like, I’ve done it, I know, I’ve been there, I’m happy for anyone who travels the way they want to.
This was just to have a little fun! Nothing more, nothing less.
And because in reality, that lifestyle isn’t a possibility anymore for me as I literally live out of a bag and I have been for nearly eight years now. So when people give me shit and wonder why I’m not carry on only, I can show them this post instead. 🙂
I’d love to tell them, “How about you try living out of a carry on only bag for eight years and let me know how that goes for you. Don’t forget you work online and do photography too so that’s taking up a bunch of space already!” And see how they go…
Hope this made you chuckle and I hope this made #TeamCheckIn feel a bit better about not feeling pressured to shove everything they own into a tiny ity bity bag. Check it in… It’s OK!
Are you team carry on or check in? Tell us a horror story from either angle in the comments and make me laugh!
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The Best 11 Carry on Backpacks For Every Traveler
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!
I’m a carry on only…but if I did what you do, I’d check my bags! All your points are valid, but you forgot the washing the ‘dainties’ in the hotel sink :o). And if your bag went ‘down under’ because there wasn’t any room up top…if you’re not standing on the tarmac, it’s in that narrow walkway next to the door the baggage person is tossing them through…in either really hot or really cold, like popsicle cold, weather. It’s taken me a few years but I finally figured out how to roll my bag down the impossibly narrow airline aisle…except i can never remember until I’m trying to do it the other way with 80 people behind me.
But I do it anyways…
Long term travelers wash in the sink too! ;-p
I have been travelling on and off for a good ten years now. When I hit the road it’s generally for a year. I started to travel with wheeled ones, turned to backpacking and this year wheeled ones again. I started have mercy for my back. I am travelling with two luggage, one check-in and one carry-on. I have a small backpack too for my computer and valuables. For a while I was reading all those blogs about travelling with carry-on only and staring my two luggage hopelessly. I wanted to do that in order to move around much easily but then I think about all my toiletries from my country, all natural and very hard to find on the way. And expensive. I can’t throw them away just like that! Anyway I started to leave some stuff behind. Some outfits I have never used during first three months of my travel, and will never use. Just today I left a bunch of good clothes in the hotel in El Fuerte, Mexico. So my luggage is lighter for the next flight I am going to take in two days. (This tiny ones with 20 seats only :)) And housekeeping lady in the hotel was happy when I let her know about the clothes I left in the room. She is in my size 😉
I am still learning to travel with less. But I don’t think I am ready for carry-on only. At least not yet. Maybe after few years on the road in a row.
Your article actually made me feel good about my luggage and carrying the essentials (my essentials, everybody is different) with me.
Totally all for this! I too have some products that I want with me that are hard to find or expensive in other places. No shame in checking in bags of stuff that you want around you. After all, we aren’t home for a good chunk of the year/ever like me. haha.
Oh mu goodness! You are soooo funny! And so right #guilty Thank you for sharing 🙂
haha, thank you, Dominique!
I only travel with a small & light backpack, small enough for under the seat size. I am fed up with the “Hold” situation and upper storage full. Yeah I have to wait at the destination for my luggage, but I usually use that time to change clothes anyway – as in another climate that I departure from.
Totally! Plus, when you’re crossing borders you need to go through immigration and usually, the bags have been waiting for you rather than the other way around. 🙂
Ah, I love it when someone takes on another perspective. Duffel bags ARE the worst!!
THE WORST!!!! :-p haha thanks, Justine!
My wife is totally team check-in, while I am completely team carry-on. I used to be team check-in, until I realized the 10 reasons why it’s wrong:
1. Packing for all seasons? Seriously? What kind of vacation are you going on that you will need a parka AND jungle gear? (Full disclosure: I did a month in Nepal and Tibet where I went to both a tropical rain forest AND the Himalayans. I was still doing check-in, and had a HUGE duffel with straps to carry on my back. I needed about 15-20% of what I brought).
2. Leg room: We flew across country recently. I stuck my pack with my week’s worth of stuff in the overhead. Easy-peasy. The only time I don’t have legroom is when I fly with my dive gear and camera equipment. Which all fits in an overhead plus a personal bag. A couple of years ago, when I was on a 2 week dive trip, I was the only person not freaking out when our flights got cancelled and re-routed that I would end up on a dive boat for the week without any gear to dive with. Once we landed, we were boarding a boat and sailing off – no chance to buy new gear, or way for the airline to get bags to us once we were underway!
3. The hold – I’d rather pay extra to board early and have my stuff nearby than pay to have them stick it under the cabin. And if it DOES have to go into the hold? No charge at the gate. I’ve already got my iPad, headphones, and book out since I’ve been sitting around waiting to be called.
4. Once I stick my bag in the overhead, it’s living there. If it’s way in the back (which has only happened once), I’ll just wait till the plane clears out and grab it. I’m still leaving the terminal before the lame people waiting at baggage claim even see a single bag!
5. Some airline charge more than others for the bags. What if you have 2 bags one of them is a hair over 50 pounds? Are you going to pay through the nose or spend an eternity playing Tetris with your bags to get them both under 50? (which we did when I was still team check-in). Meanwhile, my bag will fit in any and all overheads.
6. OK, when I carry a full dive trip’s worth of gear, I’m moving more slowly. But outside of that, my 20-25 pound pack is nothing. Whereas when I went to Nepal/Tibet, even the porters at the hotels were groaning about my luggage!
7. What am I wearing? Something light and comfortable. Listen, unless you are there for a fashion shoot, or are/have a baby, you don’t need a new outfit for all occasions like some kind of landed gentry in Edwardian England waiting for the king to visit. Plus, half the fun of traveling is getting new clothes that remind you of the trip.
8. Listen, if you MUST have another little tchotke, I guess you do you. Honestly, if you are traveling somewhere with souvenirs, you know what else they usually do? Ship stuff. Seriously – they can do that! Crazy, I know. Worst case scenario – buy a cheap bag to check on your return trip – even if it gets lost, you’ll be home, and they can find you! And if people want to know I thought of them, here’s a bunch of t-shirts that I could squeeze into the carry-on (seriously – I’ve brought back shirts and small wooden carvings on my trip to Palau for 8 people, all alongside the aforementioned dive gear)
9. What hell-hole are you going to that doesn’t sell lotions/soaps/shampoos? Not to mention when the air pressure changes in the luggage hold and your precious goos and potions end up ALL OVER YOUR SUITCASE? Again – dive boat- south pacific – all day in the sun when not underwater – no checked bags… Plus if I am somewhere that the sun is going to melt my flesh, I’m pretty sure I WANT the heavy duty local sunscreen, not my pasty fleshed north american stuff.
10. Oh, look at you, traveling completely unencumbered! Well, la-dee-dah! Of course, when we DO arrive, while I’M hailing a cab to get to the hotel and wash off the grime and germs from excessive close contact and taking a nap to deal with the jet lag, YOU’LL be standing around with your new friends from the plane, staring longingly at a big hole in the ground, and muttering the magic incantations – “Is that my bag? Do you see my bag? Can you grab my bag?”
Of course, if your spouse is traveling this way, you still get to stand around, even if you were cool and smart enough to travel light.