Flying in itself is stressful enough, but then there’s the added issue of how to deal with your luggage. There is so much to consider: the details around checked bags vs carry-on bags, extra fees vs no-fee luggage, size of both carry-on and checked bags as well as the weight of both carry-on and checked bags. Although it’s not always possible, if you’re on a shorter trip, it’s so much easier to fly with a carry-on bag only.

For years when I flew out on 4 or 5-day business trips, I could get away with a taking just a carry-on bag. The benefits and simplicity of flying with carry-on are numerous: some advantages are obvious and some more subtle.

The Advantages

1. The most apparent benefit of taking carry-on only is that you arrive at your destination 100% certain you have everything you packed right there with you. For me, it’s a lonely feeling being the last one left standing at the luggage carousel seeing that the final bag has dropped and it’s not mine. When that happens, it’s off to customer service to report my luggage issue. Here are tips for when that happens: Luggage Lost and Found.

2. With a checked bag, if you have a tight connection between flights, your bag may not make it to your next flight in time. With a carry-on, all your bags are with you – as long as you make the connection, your luggage will too.

3. If you’re in transit and need to alter flight plans quickly, it’s not possible with a checked bag. That bag is already routed through following your original itinerary. With carry-on only, changing flights at the last minute is easy.

I used to fly regularly on the red-eye from San Francisco to Toronto and then on to Ottawa. Flights leave every hour from Toronto to Ottawa. Often, my SFO flight would either be late getting to Toronto or it would be early. No problem, with only my carry-on luggage, I was almost always able to switch flights with no additional charge and no hassle.

4. There are advantages of having your change of clothes en-route with you. Once, my husband and I were traveling together and I spilled hot tea on him while in flight.. and I don’t mean just a little tea – the whole cup of HOT tea. OMG, not good. After a few minutes of sitting there totally wet, it dawned on us that he had a change of clothes in his carry-on. Thankfully, he was able to change right away and have a comfortable trip. Though there wasn’t much conversation between the two of us for the rest of that flight!

5. Even if you get onto your plane late and there’s no space left for carry-on in the overhead bins, you can still check it at the gate; right before you head through the door of your plane. And, though you’ll want to make sure electronics are out of that bag, at least your belongings will be on your flight and will be one of the first bags unloaded and waiting conveniently at the plane door when you disembark.

6. Finally, with only a carry-on bag, there’s no need to wait at the luggage carousel. When you arrive at your destination, you can breeze through the arrivals area and if you’re taking a taxi, be the first one in line at the cab stand.

Most of my trips these days are longer in duration and usually for pleasure vacations, so I don’t get carry-on only opportunities. I do miss the luxury of traveling with just a carry-on bag and a laptop case. I didn’t think I’d ever find an advantage to business travel, but it seems I just did!

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