Luggage: weighing in on the carry-on only debate

As I started consolidating and packing up in preparation for my departure from New Zealand, I was reminded of the carry-on vs checked luggage debate. It’s a hot topic in the travel blog community and everyone has their own preference.

Before the start of my round-the-world trip, I was a firm proponent of checking bags. Why would I want to lug my bag all around the airport when I could pass it off at check-in and really relax while waiting for my flight? It’s particularly frustrating to lug a bag when traveling solo cause it has to be lugged into every bathroom when en route. Duty free shopping is also a lot more comfortable without a large pack on your back.

Admittedly, I’ve been lucky that my checked bags have never been lost, stolen or delayed on a flight. *knock on wood* Aside from that, the main passenger complaint is that checked bags take too long to roll out on the carousel. I find more often than not this wait time is small. Interestingly, it seems slower in big first world airports than in others.

When researching packing light before I left home, I found everyone saying a big benefit of packing light is that you can carry-on your luggage. You can carry it on planes, buses and trains and always have it right by your side. Even with an appropriately small pack, it can still be a big fight with a bus driver to bring it on with you and I feel that it’s just not worth the fight. But, again, I’ve never had my bag stolen from under a bus. *knock on wood* In the spirit of being extra safe given that my whole life is in my bag on this trip, I left Canada with a carry-on backpack only.


My well loved Minaal backpack.

It was immediately clear that a backpack was a mistake given that I was dealing with sciatica when I left Canada and carrying weight on my back was exactly what I shouldn’t be doing. I’m pretty stubborn though and I persevered by carrying my pack in my hands instead of on my back as much as possible for the first five months. It took a few days after each flight for my back to recover from the transport. Finally when opportunity knocked to get a cheap rolly case in Vietnam, I gave in (thanks Frank!).


My back-saving rolly case

Now I’m traveling with just my rolly case which is basically the same dimensions as my original backpack – still counts as travelling light! It’s still quite easy to get around with in buses, taxis and when walking. In theory I could carry it on a flight but given that the case itself weighs quite a bit the full weight is over most airline carry-on limits. This means I’m back to accepting checking a bag on every flight. Although it is the best decision for the health of my back, I’m also just happy to once again leave my bag in the hands of the airline so I can relax and enjoy my flight. There’s something so satisfying about sitting down by the gate with only my purse and I feel much more secure and stress free while waiting to board.

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