If you’re one of those people who believes they’ll never be able to ditch their checked bag, you may have met your match. And with all the madness and chaos of summer air travel right now, it’s a pretty good time to at least give it a try.
I’ve traveled to the far corners of the globe, often for extended periods of time, with nothing more than carry on baggage. If you try, even just a bit — you can too.
In the ever evolving process of stripping out the unnecessary and refining packing technique, I’ve come to learn that it’s as much about what you don’t bring, as it is what you do. In fact, what you don’t bring may be all the difference.
And frankly, now’s a great time to try. Time at baggage claim is time away from trip enjoyment, and as social distancing continues to be the flavor du jour, avoiding large crowds wherever possible is nice!
Here are a few tips to help you ditch the checked bag, and avoid the pesky fees that come with them, forever. For a start, there’s two major questions to ask.
What Can You Get?
Maybe I’m spoiled, but I’m yet to meet a hotel which doesn’t offer complimentary shaving or toothbrush and toothpaste kits as a courtesy for those who request them.
Add on that most hotels and even many Airbnb’s offer shampoo, conditioner, hair dryers and body wash as standard in rooms, and that’s a whole lot of liquid and space not to worry about.
A toothbrush might not make or break needing a checked bag, but all those tubes for toothpaste, hair products and beyond certainly can. Before you commit to packing all your toiletries, find out what you absolutely can get for free at your destination.
You might even get slippers, too!
What’s Cheaper To Buy Than Bag?
If you’re a flyer with elite status or an airline credit card that covers a checked bag, this is less relevant, but if you’re not — it’s a vital question.
A checked bag typically costs at least $50 one way or $100 round trip when purchased separately to the ticket, so it’s always worth asking: what should I just buy when I get there, in order to avoid checking a bag?
The answer: pretty much anything that remains under a grand total lower than the round trip baggage price. If you need a $30 worth of cosmetics, gels, machines or any other products, that’s still cheaper than checking a bag, if not bringing them makes the difference.
With the expansion of Amazon prime and other super fast shipping options, I’ve even regularly just shipped wishlist items to my hotel, with them arriving the same day as I do. No hassle, yet significant savings. Once, even some running shoes!
Have I Exhausted My Allowance?
If hockey goalie pads look bigger than they did in the 90’s, that’s with good reason.
Every effort has been made to maximize every legally allowed inch of pad space. If you want real success with avoiding checked bags, investing in a world class carry on is a big first step.
People constantly forget that with few exceptions (such as European low cost airlines), most economy tickets allow both a full sized “roller” carry on bag, and also a “small” personal item.
In practice, this typically means a roller bag and something the size of a backpack, or anything else that can fit under the seat in front of you, like a purse. Now taking this even further, if there’s one larger item, that won’t fit – wear it?
I see nothing wrong with dressing like an eccentric country club person, or 90’s grunge act, and wrapping a heavy sweater or hoodie around you for flight and boarding. This can also create a nice pillow or blanket in flight, in addition to saving a checked bag.
Roll It Up And Flex It
Yes, rolling clothes is more space efficient than folding. Yes, you can manage to bring more than one pair of shoes and still go carry on only.
If all the above efforts have been exhausted, and you’re still over on space, you need to think strategically about your attire. Flexible layers — also known as things which can work both as formal and casual wear — are travel gold. This allows you to be prepared for any occasion, without redundant items.
When it comes to shoes, it’s the same.
What pair of shoes solves most attire situations on a trip? Is there a pair of workout shoes that are suitable for running and gym work? The more that can be condensed into one, the better off you’ll find yourself in pursuit of never checking a bag again.
And finally — packing cubes work. They may seem silly at first, but once you start compartmentalizing your things into neat little compartments, you realize how much more you can fit in, without busting the seams!
Last Chance: Ship It?
With all the same logic as above, if it’s cheaper and easier to ship some stuff, it’s not a bad option at all. Shipping means things will reach you without having to carry them, or maneuver them on public transit or through airports.
As shipping rates become more competitive, yet checked bag prices do not, the value in a little advanced planning can be huge. You might even be able to bring more stuff than a standard checked bag would allow.
For longer trips, this can be particularly useful, and can actually bring extra home comforts to places far and wide. Basically, you probably never need to check a bag again.