Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequenting airports can take a toll on even the savviest travellers. Whether you’re going for business, leisure, or hey, maybe even bleisure travel, chances are, you’re bringing a bag with you.
Back in the good old days, the majority of airlines offered one complimentary checked bag, one complimentary carry-on bag, and one personal item.
But now, with many airlines charging travellers a fee upwards of $25 on the first checked bag, travellers are rethinking the way they travel.
READ MORE: Checked bag fees up at Air Canada & WestJet
The decision to pack light really depends on the type of person you are. I once travelled with a woman who informed me that she had packed six pairs of shoes in her roller bag—while I was sitting on my tiny carry-on, struggling to force it closed—all the while sporting the only pair I would wear all week!
In the end, it’s your choice. Here are the pros and cons to not checking a bag.
You’ll save money
When you decide to travel light, the savings are real. The following is a list of the current costs of several popular airlines out of Toronto, with Economy Class selected:
Air Canada: If you’re flying within Canada, you’ll pay $33.90 (each way), unless you booked before Aug. 21, 2018—then you’ll pay $25. Fees vary by destination: Cuba and Mexico travellers pay $30 each way, whereas travellers to Kingston, Jamaica still have one free checked bag. Use this baggage fee calculator to plan your trip and estimate your exact costs.
Air Transat: Transat packages and Transat Cruise packages include one piece of checked baggage. However, Transat’s flight-only option in Economy Class charges $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second checked bag, and $200 for each additional piece.
WestJet: WestJet’s Econo baggage fees range from $30-$35.40, unless you booked before Aug. 24, 2018—then you’ll pay $25.
- Sunwing: Sunwing Vacation packages and Sunwing Cruise packages include one complimentary checked bag. Travellers who select the flight-only option must pay $26.25 for the first checked bag.
On average, each individual will spend an extra $50 should they wish to check a bag. For many, that’s money better spent in the destination itself—more money for street food, anyone?
If you're planning on hostel-hopping, or staying at multiple hotels abroad, travelling light will be your best decision yet.
You won’t lose your luggage
Although it’s a rare occurrence, it does happen. Sometimes, after anxiously scanning the baggage carousel, your luggage just doesn’t come through. Not only will you have no clean clothes, but if you packed valuables or gifts, it can be stressful not knowing when you’ll see your belongings again.
When you travel with a carry-on, you can rest assured that everything that’s on your person will be travelling with you.
Sometimes, it can take days to have your lost luggage returned--your trip might even be over before it reaches you!
You’ll save time and energy
One of the best things about only travelling with a carry-on is that you save so much time. If you’ve got a connecting flight with a short window to board the next plane, it’s a blessing to breeze past the security check point and head straight down to the gates. It’s especially handy not worrying about your luggage if you’re in an unfamiliar airport and you’re strapped for time.
Upon returning home, travelling sans-luggage also means you won’t have to wait at the carousel for your bags to come out.
Catching a connection is easier when you're not worried about grabbing your luggage.
Your souvenirs will be limited
If you’re like me, when you travel light, you’re still maximizing every inch of that carry-on. You can try rolling your clothes, or placing them in vacuum-sealed bags, but if you plan on bringing home souvenirs, remember to leave enough room. What you can bring home will also drastically change if you choose not to check a bag. Keep in mind that a carry-on bag only permits liquids of 100mL or less—if you planned on bringing home a bottle of wine, that’s out. Any food or alcohol products can then only be purchased at the duty-free shops, after getting past security—sadly, the cheese in the duty-free just never compares to the good stuff you’ll find at authentic cafes!
Everything you buy depends on space. If you can't pack it, don't buy it.
You might have to make sacrifices
It doesn’t matter if this is your first time travelling, or your hundredth time travelling. It’s important to be comfortable, and what you bring with you will make or break that. When you only bring a carry-on, you’ll need to prioritize what you actually need versus what you want. Prioritize what you can’t live without, and what you’re willing to buy once you land. Remember to buy travel-sized hair and body products, because you can’t bring a full-size in a carry-on.
The time of year you travel might also affect whether you choose to bring a carry-on. It’s incredibly easy to roll light-weight fabrics for a trip to the Caribbean, but seriously, how many pairs of jeans or sweaters can you roll for a trip to Europe in the fall or winter? If you’re okay with doing laundry, all the power to you. But, you also need to remember that carry-on bags come with a weight limit.
These are the carry-on weight restrictions for the following airlines:
Air Canada: 10 kilograms (22 pounds); 46 linear inches (21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in) or 118 centimeters (55 x 40 x 23 cm) including handles and wheels.
Air Transat: Applicable to all destination: 10 kilograms (22 pounds); 9 in x 16 in x 20 in (23 cm x 40 cm x 51 cm) including handles and wheels.
WestJet: Must be light enough to lift into the overhead bin without assistance; 53 cm x 23 cm x 38 cm (21 in. x 9 in. x 15 in.)
- Sunwing: The weight of the carry-on item cannot exceed five kilograms and must be no larger than 23 cm x 40 cm x 51 cm (9 x 16 x 20 inches).
Once you book that plane ticket, it's ultimately your choice on whether or not you're bringing that checked bag. But, if you've never travelled without one, I encourage you to try it—at least once.