It’s been said before that there are two types of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
But you’re still not convinced, are you? Here are the most amazing things about one-bag travel and why you may never want to check a bag again:
Nobody can lose your bag.
Every year, over two million bags are lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered, according to the Department of Transportation. Even though that amounts to a relatively small percentage (less than 6%) of passengers, the fact of the matter is that if you give your bag over to an airline, the possibility exists that your bag will take a different flight than you do. As the handling of luggage gets more digital, bags that do travel on their own itinerary are fewer, and easier to find. But you never know if the new baggage handlers are as trustworthy as they should be, or if the well-worn conveyor belt with that wire sticking out will puncture your new Samsonite. And you never know when your bag will be one of the two million that don’t show up according to plan.
You can move quickly.
When I landed in France in the summer of 2018, I had pre-purchased my flexible train fares to continue from Paris to Agen. I didn’t want to take the late train, after a full day of travel, getting to my destination at about 11pm. But I knew that getting to the station in time for the earlier train would be tight. Thanks to my passport-check in Iceland, and strangely not having to go through customs, I was able to catch an even earlier train than I had ever thought possible! SCORE!!
They say that on average (with wide variation depending on many things) it takes around 20 minutes for bags to get to the carousel after landing. But no matter how long the walk is between the airplane and the baggage claim, it seems like there are always people standing around and waiting. And me, walking past them, on my way to catch my Uber or shuttle.
You can go anywhere.
I’ve taken kids to Europe and Latin America. And I’ve discovered a variety of surfaces that pass for sidewalks and streets. In the good ol’ US of A, we have pretty consistently flat sidewalks and evenly paved roads. But in continental Europe, I’ve seen narrow streets paved with medieval cobblestones–that cars still use, often making pedestrians hug the walls or step into doorways. And sidewalks that handle elevations, not with inclines but with actual stairs.
These are inconvenient with even a small roller bag (hence my preference for a backpack-style suitcase), but to navigate with a large bag, no matter how advanced the wheels are, in addition to a carry-on and/or shoulder bag moves from inconvenient to darn near impossible or possibly even dangerous!
Of course, not all trips will involve treacherous terrain. My student trips often involve smoother surfaces…until we get to the homes where we stay. Many times I watch students heading off to their home stay, not sure if I’m hoping (for their sake) that the family lives in a ground-floor flat or hoping (out of a devious sense of schadenfreude) that the family’s home is the top level of a 4-story walk-up. My little bag? No problem getting that up the stairs!
You can keep track of your things.
With a smaller bag, you have to bring fewer items. And with fewer things, it’s a lot easier to keep track of them all. You’re less likely to forget shoes in the hotel room’s closet if you only have one pair. Picture it, you’re getting ready to depart and the taxi will arrive at 7am. You could get up extra early to have time for running around, checking in all the drawers, trying to remember which items were in which of your bags, forgetting where you stuffed the large bottle of sunblock and hoping it was in the bag you’re going to check and not your carry-on, and half-way out the door you remember you left your charger on the nightstand, only to see your jacket on the foot of the bed where you were totally going to remember to grab it. OR, you could get up, tuck the few things you had out back into the one bag, and when you notice it isn’t quite as full as it should be, grab the things you forgot, head downstairs and grab a coffee before the cab arrives. I’m a LOT less frantic when I have fewer things to deal with.
A bonus extra reason: People will envy you.
You’re going to be that cool traveler who breezes through the airport, never struggling to wrangle a large and small wheeled bag, because you forgot how difficult THAT can be! (And, on the way home, if you want to check your small bag and just carry the absolute essentials in a tote or backpack, you can move through the airport easily and quickly, knowing your stuff will get home, probably, when you do. And if it doesn’t, you’re going home, which is where all your other stuff is, so a lost bag delay probably won’t ruin anything.)