Choosing Wisely: The Pros and Cons of Carry-On vs. Checked Baggage

When you’re flying, the ordeal of managing luggage is sure to take up a big chunk of your time and attention. What should you pack? How should you pack it? And as the debate rages on over whether it’s better to use a checked bag vs carry on bag, which one suits your needs best?

Stay connected with the best Travel eSIM

Maya Mobile Logo

Checked bags and carry-on bags both have their own purpose. One can’t fully replace the other, but you may find yourself favoring one depending on the type of travel you’re doing.

The Best Parts of Carry-On Bags

Carry-on bags are a staple for most travelers. They’re small enough that they can be brought onto the plane with you, which ends up saving you time, money, and hassle.1 This could include a small backpack, a laptop bag, or a tote bag that fits below your seat – allowing for easy access during your flight – but also could include a duffel bag or rolling luggage that is sized appropriately to fit in the overhead compartment.

Save Time and Money

With carry-ons, you don’t have to deal with the check-in desk, nor are you waiting at baggage claim after your flight lands. If you’re taking short trips or dealing with a crammed schedule, this is a great way of shaving off unnecessary wait time.

Checked baggage also costs more, with some airlines raising prices of additional checked luggage up to $100 or more. Some airlines don’t even have the option for one free checked bag, so it’s much easier on your wallet when you only take carry-ons.

An Eco-Friendly Choice

Having fewer pieces of luggage means the plane burns less fuel making a trip, which reduces its greenhouse gas emissions and lessens your personal carbon footprint. It may seem like a small step, but every tiny bit helps when it comes to preserving the world we call home.

Never Lose Your Luggage Again

It’s a nightmare most seasoned travelers have experienced at least once: a piece of checked luggage going missing. Fortunately, most of them turn up again, and the airlines reimburse those who lose pieces permanently.

Unfortunately, the contents of checked baggage can’t always be replaced. In this case, it’s worth asking “is travel insurance worth it?” and investing in coverage to further protect your trip. Otherwise, if you’re carrying a valuable personal item or possessions that you don’t want going missing—think electronics, travel essentials like SIM cards or travel wallets, and medications—putting them in a carry-on lets you keep them by your side the whole trip.  

When it comes to tiny items like mobile SIM cards, you can replace this fear altogether with a downloadable eSIM card. These allow you to have your eSIM card directly on your device without ever worrying about losing a physical chip.

Ease of Movement in Transport

You don’t have to worry about luggage size or weight when you take stairs, use trains or buses, or explore the airport. Without a big suitcase weighing you down, you’ll enjoy easier maneuverability and the ability to get from point A to point B.

Get connected around the world instantly. With instant activation and connection to 5G networks, travelling has never been easier. Shop now!

The Best Parts of Checked Baggage

While carry-on luggage clearly has its place, that’s not to discount checked baggage in its entirety. Checked luggage offers plenty of benefits to travelers looking for the best ways to get the most out of their packing.2

Extra Space

Do you tend to pack a lot? Are you heading somewhere for a long time? If so, you’ll want the extra space of a checked bag. Most large suitcases can fit up to a month of clothing, which is great for long haul trip takers. To make the most out of your luggage space, incorporating some tried-and-true packing hacks can transform the way you travel.

No Worrying About Restrictions

You can pack items that would be a pain or impossible to take through security checkpoints, like clothing steamers, different types of shoes, and even liquids larger than 3.4 ounces. Additionally, this allows you to bypass the weight restriction that often applies to carry on luggage, which varies depending on the airline and the class of travel.

Peace of Mind

Airlines are having more and more trouble with their overhead storage compartments. More travelers choosing carry-on bags over checked bags means less space for everyone’s luggage. You could be asked to check your carry-on bag at the gate if there’s not enough room, or your carry-on bag might not fit the size requirements. Skip the stress of wondering by checking your bag instead.

Ease of Movement in Airports

You might have to deal with more once you pick your suitcase up from baggage claim, but until then? You’re free as can be. You can travel anywhere in the airport and on the plane without having to babysit your carry-on.

Risks with Checked Baggage

Of course, in the battle of the carry on vs checked bag, both options have potential downsides. Keep this in mind when making your choice.

Checked bags often:

  • Have baggage fees – As mentioned, baggage fees are high, especially if you’ll be switching airlines. Each airline can charge you for the same checked bag, which can eat into trip funds beyond what you may expect.
  • Cause stress with layovers – Not every airline has an agreement to move checked baggage. This means that you may end up in a situation where you have to retrieve your luggage from baggage claim and check it in with your new airline. If you have a short layover, this can pose a problem.
  • Eat up time after the flight – When you get off of a long flight, the last thing you want to do is stay in the airport. But if you’re waiting on checked luggage, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing at baggage claim. It can take some time for the ground crew to offload its cargo, too.
  • Can be hard to travel with – Needless to say, having a big, heavy piece of luggage makes it much harder to get around. This may become a problem at your destination, especially if you’ll be using a lot of public transport. You may also be charged for luggage storage.

But if you go into your trip knowing that you may run into these issues, you’ll be able to prepare for them or mitigate them.

The Downside of Carry-On Bags

Likewise, you’re looking at some notable hurdles if you decide to go with a carry-on bag. This can potentially include:

  • No space for non-essentials – The smaller your bag, the less space you have to pack. This means you’ll have to pick the most important items you want to travel with and cut down on excess, which can include additional cute outfits or in-flight entertainment.
  • Babysitting stress – You’ll have to keep your eye on your carry-on the whole trip, from the moment you walk into the airport to the moment you reach your destination. This can be a headache, especially if you’re the type who likes to explore airports.
  • Overhead bin struggles – If you sized your bag incorrectly, there’s a chance that you make it onto the plane and are unable to fit it in the overhead bin. Not only can this take up a lot of time, but if there’s no way to make it fit, you’ll have to check it for an extra fee. Plus, there’s the ever-present risk of a plane running out of room in the overhead bins.
  • More time in security – When TSA agents have to check your carry-on bag, it may take more time to get through the security checkpoint. This is especially true if your bag is crammed full or packed messily, since they might have trouble seeing individual items with their x-ray.
  • Less space for purchases – If you’re going on vacation and you’re just packing carry-on bags, you may run into a conundrum if you buy gifts or souvenirs. If you don’t have enough space to store them, you might have to ship them to yourself or even buy another piece of luggage.

Again, as long as you know what to expect, these are issues that you can easily prepare for or avoid entirely.

Carry On vs Checked Bag: What’s Right for You?

Ultimately, when deciding between a carry on vs checked bag, you’ll want to examine your own travel situation. Your answer could change depending on those details.3

You may want to check your bag if you:

  • Are going on a longer trip and have a lot of clothing to pack
  • Are going to a colder destination and packed thick clothing
  • Have travel limitations that make it harder to navigate the airport with a bag
  • Already have a lot to keep an eye on, as is often the case with traveling parents
  • Have access to free checked luggage
  • Want to get through security faster

On the other hand, you might want to consider traveling with a carry-on if you:

  • Need to spend as little time as possible getting in and out of the airport
  • Want to avoid  checked baggage fees
  • Want to avoid the possibility of lost luggage
  • Are taking a short trip and can afford to pack light
  • Have short layovers and don’t want to deal with the hassle of checked bags

On one trip, a checked bag might suit your needs best. The very next, you may only need or want a carry-on. Ultimately, there is no “right” answer—only the answer that suits your situation. 

Start Your Trip Right With Maya Mobile

When it comes to taking a checked bag vs carry on, your options are fairly even. Both cater to certain types of travelers and situations.

Are you heading somewhere for a long time and need to pack as much as possible? Go for a checked bag. Will you value easy maneuverability at your travel destination and don’t want to deal with the bulk of a full-sized suitcase? Carry-ons are your best bet. 

Regardless of what you choose, decide what you want out of your luggage and what you’ll be planning for with an international travel checklist before you ever start packing your bags. That way, once you get to the airport, you’ll be fully prepared for any hurdles you may run into, and can enjoy the exact benefits you want. 

From there, ensure you arrive at your destination with everything you need to be online and mobile with Maya Mobile’s downloadable eSIM cards


  1. New Rebels. The benefits of traveling with hand luggage only: minimise stress and maximise freedom.
  2. Travelpro. Pros & Cons Of Using A Carry On Vs. Checked Bag.
  3. The Points Guy. Carry-on vs. checked bags: Which is the better choice?.