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Go ahead, check a bag

Go ahead, check a bag


The carry-on queens can’t feel virtuous unless they have you to compare themselves to — so do them a solid.

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I’ve read a lot of recommendations over the years from so-called travel pros who tell you to take a carry-on. There are reasons to recommend carry-ons! For instance, most airlines don’t charge for them. But also, a carry-on bag is for the poor shlubs who are coming up with a “packing plan” and using “packing cubes.” The people who suggest you get an Airbnb so you can do laundry. They’re repackaging their shampoo and conditioner and lecturing you about “editing” your wardrobe. They’re explaining that you should roll your clothes, not fold them, to save space. How virtuous! How boring.

Check a bag, you glamorous beast.

Ideologically, I am strongly against doing laundry in my hotel sink

On my last trip, which was a two-week jaunt to five places on the East Coast, I brought four pairs of shoes, some finery for a wedding, a set of workout clothes, two linen shirts, three pairs of linen pants, jeans, two tank tops, a T-shirt, a jumpsuit, two sweaters, a jean jacket, pajamas, a dress, and every toiletry I could possibly need. This is to say nothing of my electronic devices, their various charging cables, my sleep mask, and my earplugs. 

I packed enough underwear for the whole trip, plus enough socks for the whole trip because, ideologically, I am strongly against doing laundry in my hotel sink. Honestly? I did bring extra socks because nothing is worse than wet socks. I also brought gifts for the people who were hosting me, a few protein bars and apples in case I needed snacks in transit, a purse, a tote bag, and a fanny pack. 

One day on the trip, I wore three different outfits. 

Yes, my suitcase was large. Yes, it cost me $30 to check the bag. Yes, I had to lug it around. But you know what? I wasn’t without anything I needed. I didn’t have to make any compromises. The dress I wore to the wedding didn’t get balled up or wrinkled. It’s true that I only wore the heels I packed once — at the wedding — but when you aren’t up against space constraints, that doesn’t matter. 

While it’s certainly cheaper, in dollar amounts, to pack a carry-on, you pay for it elsewhere

There was a time when I did carry-on only because it meant I didn’t have to do a lot of waiting around at the baggage claim. (I am nothing if not impatient.) But increasingly, I noticed airlines would “gate-check” my carry-on — which meant I had to wait at the baggage claim anyway. That was especially annoying because I’d already done all of the work to ensure I met carry-on standards, I’d lugged my stupid bag through airport security and around the terminal, and I didn’t even have all my prescription medicine and face creams handy anymore; the reward, insofar as there was one, was that the checked bag was free because I’d meant for it to be a carry-on. 

Packing your clever little carry-on is an awful lot of planning, an awful lot of work, and an awful lot of compromise — that is, it’s awful. And while it’s certainly cheaper, in dollar amounts, to pack a carry-on, you pay for it elsewhere: in setting out your little outfits, editing down your necessities, leaving your toiletries behind and breaking out, having to buy stuff you didn’t pack, ironing out the wrinkles you’ve pressed into your formal wear, and… well, it’s not like those packing cubes are free, are they? The question is not whether you’re going to pay — it’s how.

So I’m happy to let the virtuous carry-on queens brag about how clever they are with their little travel hacks for taking less and thinking more. Me, I’m going to do a costume change halfway through the day and not worry about it. Because I checked a bag.