Why You Should Never, Ever Check Your Luggage on a Plane

If you check luggage on your flight, you're inviting disaster along for your trip. It's not always that dramatic — sometimes it's just a mere inconvenience — but other times you're asking for more trouble than those extra pairs of shoes that made you upgrade to a larger bag are worth. As a frequent traveler, I avoid checking luggage at all costs — because I've learned the hard way. Unless I'm going on a trip spanning several weeks in the dead of Winter and need bulky sweaters and jackets to stay warm, I'm flying stress-free with just my trusted carry-on. I've had my luggage damaged. I've had my luggage lost and received it days later. I've had to switch flights/airlines last minute in order to make a connection at my next destination city and would not have been able to do so if my luggage was already on its way to be loaded onto my original plane. I've experienced the Hunger Games-like rush to grab my bag off the belt in order to make it through customs at an international airport so that I could catch the next leg of my flight. I've dealt with it all, and you probably will too if you check your bags frequently.

I know, there are exceptions to my "no checked bag" rule — if you're traveling with young children who can't lug their own bags (start them young, I say!), then you may not be able to avoid checking. Strollers, car seats — I get it. There are understandably circumstances when it can't be avoided, but if you can avoid checking, don't hesitate to. It's possible, I promise. Here's why you should keep your luggage with you on your next flight.

1. You save money.

This is a pretty significant reason to skip checking a bag, especially depending on what airline you're flying. While some airlines (looking at you, JetBlue and Virgin!) let you have your first bag (as long as it's not oversize) for free, many costs range from $25-$50 per bag for checking. Paying for a bag you have to wait in a long line to check (and one that may get lost or damaged) really feels like adding insult to injury.

2. You'll get through the airport faster.

Carrying on your luggage means avoiding the lines for checking your bags before you go through security. Many airlines allow you to check in to your flight 24 hours ahead of time (international flights can have different policies since passports are involved). You can get your mobile boarding pass and skip the wait to drop your bags by breezing past the kiosks and heading straight for security. Getting through the airport will be much less painful.

3. Your belongings are in safe hands.

You can rest assured that your valuables are in safe hands, because they are in your hands. When you need to bring items on your travels that have great worth to you, you'll have peace of mind knowing where they are at all times because you'll have control over how they are stored and transported.

4. Your luggage itself will be more protected.

It's no secret that your luggage isn't necessarily being handled with care. It's tossed on a conveyor belt and haphazardly transferred (after a roller-coaster ride) to the underbelly of your plane, where it will be crammed among countless other bags. While it's normal for luggage to go through some wear and tear on your travels, carrying it on means keeping it in better condition for longer.

5. It's easier to travel with less-bulky items.

If you plan on traveling from destination to destination instead of staying in one place, having a small carry-on bag is much more manageable than toting around a 50-pound bag full of things you probably don't even need.

6. You are forced to bring only what you need.

Not checking your bags means becoming a smarter packer. Because you have to optimize your bag space, you'll be more inclined to pack just the basics. You can avoid bringing along things you will inevitably realize in hindsight were unnecessary, and soon packing will be like an art form to you. Having an efficient packing system can make air travel so much less stressful.

7. You have everything you need for delays and long layovers.

If you have to camp out in the airport due to unforeseen delays, flight cancellations, or long layovers, having a carry-on with all of your belongings means having access to everything you could need during that time.

8. You don't have to wait for your bag once you deplane.

After hours of a long flight, the last thing anyone feels like doing is waiting around for that beautiful (or shrill, depending on how you look at it) beeping noise that indicates your bags are on their way down the belt. It seems like no matter how early or late you arrive to check in luggage, your bag is always the very last to come trundling down the slide. If it comes at all. Skip this process altogether and head straight out of the airport with your carry-on.