Would You Check Your Suitcase In This Situation?

I have a theory when it comes to checking my suitcase versus carrying it on to the plane when I travel.  I call it the “you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands” theory.

There really aren’t too many times I recall willingly checking my bag.  A handful of times over the years I’ve had to expand it (my Briggs & Riley has a convenient zipper expansion).  I encountered a situation recently where I had a choice to make.

We were on our way back from Canada and had purchased some maple syrup to take back with us.  That meant we were checking one of our family’s four carry-on bags.  When my wife thought about our connection in Newark, she decided that she wanted to check the other two carry-ons, leaving just mine.

Her logic was hard to argue against.  Have you ever connected between terminals and taken the bus at Newark?  It generally means walking down two flights of stairs, hauling your bags onto a bus, then off the bus and up two more flights of stairs on the other end.  There is an elevator.  But, given the number of folks in wheelchairs and with strollers, most people choose the stairs.  And, every once in a while, the elevators are out of order just for good measure.

Here’s My Dilemma

I probably could have convinced my wife to carry-on the other bags.  I didn’t push her on it, though.  Once the decision was made to check the rest of the suitcases, now I was the one that could potentially hold us up.  We were already going to be waiting at baggage claim.  We had priority tags on our luggage.  If I gate-checked my bag and it was delayed upon arrival into Newark, we’d be stuck waiting for it until we could head to the bus for our next flight.

Connections are usually pretty tight when we fly through Newark.  We had a bit more time on this one, but there was no guarantee we wouldn’t have a delay getting to Newark.  There was a bit of weather and the previous handful of days had seen hundreds of flight cancellations.  Plus, if we did land on time we had just enough extra time to grab some food for lunch before our next flight (along with circus bus experience).

Airlines are so bad at checked bags.  United at Dulles isn’t known for setting any land speed records, though timing isn’t bad.  Briggs & Riley has a great warranty to fix my bag if the airlines break it.  But, I still strongly prefer keeping my hands (and eyes) on my bag.

What Would You Do?

I’m curious.  Would you check your bag in this situation or carry it on?  I won’t introduce any unnecessary suspense on this small decision.  I did choose to check my bag.  I’m just curious what my fellow travelers would do when faced with the same choice.

You can vote in my Twitter poll and also leave a comment below.  Can’t wait to hear the responses!

The post Would You Check Your Suitcase In This Situation? was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. I have no personal issues with checking bags, especially if coming home. But, a lot has to do with perspective. I’ve often traveled from Boston with items I had to check (including New Hampshire Maple Syrup) or moving the “kid” out of boarding school for the summer. The way I look at it, I’ve never had a bag permanently lost in my 47 years. Airlines really don’t permanently lose that many bags (at least, I don’t think they do). They have to deliver your bag if it doesn’t make it. Heck, when I lived in Amsterdam you had 40+/- steps up to our apartment. I often would hope/wish/pray our bags didn’t make it, since then they had to deliver the bags and carry them up the steps for me. One other side note, is that it’s just a nicer travel experience (especially when going home anyway) to not have to deal with a family trip and everyone lugging their bags around. I believe you made a good point of this with regard to EWR. We also almost always are taking flights where we have some level of immigration/arrivals; so quite often there isn’t much of a wait for our bags once we finally do get to baggage claim. So, I think your wife was right, at least in this instance. When doing a “short” trip alone, I really do prefer to carry on everything. US Domestic (though your example is USA/Canada, which I consider similar) is very lenient with regard to carry on bags. Intra-Europe, not so much. Even ex-Europe. Enforcement of what would be considered “normal” by USA carry on standards is much more draconian. This probably has a lot to do with your mindset and feelings about carry on bags. It’s just rather seamless and convenient, in my opinion, when traveling US Domestic.

    1. Baccarat, great perspective. While we don’t agree in some instances, I respect your opinion here. I’ve had to go hunting for new clothes while I waited for my bag a time or two. I’d prefer not to relive it if I can.

  2. I take perhaps 25 trips by air yearly. When traveling on my own, I strongly prefer not to check bags. I have Precheck, Nexus/Global Entry, UK Registered Traveller and so on. I want to arrive as close to flight time as I can, and when I arrive wherever I’m headed, I just want to get out of the airport and can usually do so without delay.

    When traveling with family on a short domestic itinerary, I feel the same. Weekend in Atlanta? No reason to check a bag.

    However, if we’re on a family trip overseas, the calculus totally flips. As one of the other commenters mentioned, I’ve never permanently lost a bag (I did have one damaged beyond repair but Continental replaced it, at their expense). I’m going to get to the airport with a bit of time to spare – I’m not ruining a vacation to save 30 minutes at check in. Rather than lug overstuffed bags through airports, stressing out over overhead space, it feels like a luxury to check our bags and once we’re checking one bag, we’ll check everything non-essential. We’ll keep anything irreplaceable, valuable, etc with us, but otherwise, I’m happy to check bags. Plus, by the time the whole family gets through immigration in whatever country we’re headed to, there’s rarely a long wait for luggage.

    1. Menashe, well said. My personal experience has been that we can usually get through immigration before our checked bags. I wish airlines could be relied upon to do the right thing when they lose your bag. But, I think I’ve been there a few times too many to just trust that they’ll make it right in a timely manner.

  3. I always check my bags because I don’t like dragging things through the terminals or airport lounges.

    Over the past three years I flown just under 300 segments with United – often with flight changes at ORD or IAH that are under 60 minutes. Only once has there been a problem with my bag routing, but it was my fault; I voluntarily changed my itinerary during a connection and did not see my bag until the next day.
    One drawback to checking, of course, is the wait for your bag… IAD, for example, seems to be insanely slow about getting bags from the plane to the carousel. To remedy this, I usually stop in the lounge for a coffee or cocktail when I arrive at the slower airports (ORD, EWR, IAD, and – oddly – MSY).

    There are times I have HOPED THAT THE AIRLINE would mis-route my baggage because I’d like to – just once – take advantage of the generous baggage coverage with my credit card.

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