To Carry-on or not to Carry-on…

Now that I’ve figured out how to select the right clothes for travel (lots of knits, sweaters, and t-shirts, i.e., things that don’t easily wrinkle and all in a complimentary color palette), I enjoy traveling  carry-on, once again.

I began traveling with carry-on only years ago.  I never liked being in airports, and hanging around, waiting for my flight made me antsy. My preferred style of travel meant timing my arrival at the gate to coincide with the last call for passengers.  If there was still a line of people ambling toward the plane, I was too early.  I cut it pretty close several times, but never missed a flight.  Carry-on meant  could race past the skycap at check-in and and later, at arrival, breeze out of the airport, clucking with sympathy for my fellow travelers waiting for their bags at the carousel.

Several years later, traveling with children, I found I crammed just about everything I could think of into our family’s suitcases. Too many clothes, too many toys, too many books, too many what ifs.  Once my kids were responsible for the own luggage, they led the way by paring down to carry-on size over-night bags or duffles.  They even eschewed wheels!  I began to rediscover my carry-on roots.

While I still much prefer to travel carry-on, it is not as care-free as it was in the beginning.  Now we all need to pay attention to luggage size, and on some European flights, luggage weight as well.  In addition to my rolling carry-on suitcase, I still need a second “cabin” bag.  Why? Well, because now I travel with so many extras such as my cell phone, my laptop, my iPad, a camera, noise cancelling headphones and all the chargers that these devices need.  Not only would all this take up too much space in my clothing case, but I want all these things easily accessible for the flight.

For the most part, while I find there are enough benefits to travel carry-on, such as never having to deal with lost luggage, being able to by-pass the luggage carousel at arrival , being able to easily handle my bags if traveling by train, and having a smaller, more manageable bag in a small hotel room (hello, Europe!), there are some drawbacks as well.  For instance, with airport restrictions on liquids, you can’t bring home wine or  any other drink. You could, of course, check your wheeled bag on the way home, but, and this is a big one for me, it would mean carrying that heavy electronics-laden cabin bag on your shoulder all the way through the airport.  What I do now is to place the cabin bag on the roller and breeze my way through, so checking my bag would put a big crimp in my method.(Though I am looking for a wheeled cabin bag that would sit on my suitcase – I haven’t found one I like yet).

Other drawbacks are having to manage both bags off the plane.  In most cases, this is just fine, but I’ve found that several European airports forgo the typical jetway found in the U.S. for stairs off the plane on to waiting shuttle buses (Frankfurt, Munich…I’m looking at you).  And once you get into the airport itself, you may have to manage stairs there, too, instead of the escalators that are usual in the States.

But on the whole, I find packing small and packing light is a plus.  I have a tighter edit on the clothes I bring, which enables speedy dressing, leading to a faster, happier start to the day when traveling.  One less decision to make is a plus.  It means I’m more fluid to change flights if needed and it means I am self-sufficient and do not have to rely upon the kindness of strangers to move my stuff from point A to point B.





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