Everyone has their favorite items when traveling and everyone travels differently. Some people fit everything they need in a backpack and some take three suitcases with them. I would classify myself as an in-between traveler. While I try to not check luggage often, with everything I need to take it is just not possible. So I am the traveler who tends to check one bag (big or small), take a small carry-on, and a backpack. Each piece has a purpose, and while I wish I could just travel by carry-on I have run into some problems lately that has me changing how I travel. This is in regards to hard or soft when it comes to a carry-on.
Now and days everyone tries to travel by carry-on and personal item only, but when everyone does that then the overhead bins get full and they start checking bags. Sound familiar? I’ve been on enough planes in the last year and I have been stopped, forced to put my carry-on in the sizer before boarding the flight. I usually travel with my Samsonite Carry-on DK3 Spinner and absolutely love it…for traveling inside the United States.
Okay, so I would consider my Samsonite DK3 Spinner Carry-On a hard carry-on because you cannot smoosh it into a space. While I love it, this suitcase naturally sticks out making it look oversized even though it fits a lot of airline dimensions for carry-ons. Still, for the last four times I have flown with it I have been asked to please try it out in the carry-on sizer before boarding. Let’s be real, this is a hassle because you have your hands full with a boarding pass, phone, personal item, and maybe even a coat. It fits every time, but since it looks big they always stop me and this led me to evaluate my carry-on choice.
Overhead space-filling up
Now back to flights overhead space-filling up. I am sure you have probably been on at least one flight this has happened on. While you do not pay when they check your bag at this point, there are other things to think about. Many people use their carry-on to store medication, electronics, and other important pieces they want to keep with them on the flight. When you are forced to check that bag you must make the choice on whether you are going to take those important pieces out and where to put them, or trust the airlines to be gentle with it and not lose it. In my observance, hard carry-ons are the first to be checked over soft carry-ons.
Domestic vs. International
Flying in the United States the airlines tend to have more relaxed restrictions when it comes to carry-on sizing. But just look at some of the international airline dimensions of carry-ons, and you might be getting your saw out to chop a few inches off your carry-on. International airlines in my experience tend to be stricter, because people flying international typically are trying to save a bit of money and not check a bag.
Recently, I just got a Lo and Sons Catalina Deluxe Small soft weekender bag. You can smoosh it into the overhead bin and it should easily fit in most international airline overheads. However, my key piece of advice is always check the dimensions of the airline you are booking with before you book or buy a new piece of luggage.
Why is it worth it to go smaller?
The reason I think it is worth it to check one piece and have a smaller carry-on is because I truly hate having a huge backpack when traveling. I prefer a smaller like 15L daypack so when I am at my destination I am not lugging a huge backpack around. Then to compensate for the smaller backpack I take a smaller weekender bag to fit those few important things.
The reason I would rather take two smaller bags is because I have bad luck. Whether I end up with long layovers or get put in a hotel through the airline I hate getting caught with only the clothes on my back. It’s uncomfortable and just all around not a great time. And of course, this always happens when my carry-on ends up getting checked.
Is it worth checking bag?
While I wish I could travel with my Samsonite all the time, I am trying to size down in hopes of traveling heavier in my checked bag rather than having to check the carry-on anyway. With some airlines you get one free checked bag and sometimes you pay $25. In my experience the $25 has worked out better for me in the long run.
Overall, the choice is yours, but that is my experience and I would consider myself pretty well-traveled.