The pain of checking a bag
Earlier this month I took a trip to New Orleans for a work-related conference and had to check a bag for the first time in many, many years. I made few mental notes about the experience from the perspective of someone who never checks luggage:
1) The process takes up a lot of time.
On the way back home, we had an 8 AM flight out of New Orleans airport. We got there early — around 6:20 AM — just to be on the safe side since instead of just walking through security, we had to actually stand in line at the ticket counter to drop the bag off. Even with such an early morning flight on a Tuesday, we ended up waiting in line for 35 minutes. I was honestly surprised at how long it took to simply drop a bag off. We were already checked in, had our boarding passes, and were otherwise ready to go. That 35 minutes could easily mean a missed flight for people who don’t get to the airport super early, and for us, that could have been an extra half hour of sleep in the morning. Then on the back end, there’s the hanging out at baggage claim to retrieve the bag once we got back home. Overall, this one checked bag added over an hour of time at the airport just standing and waiting around. I imagine in peak travel times, the additional wait would be significantly longer than this.
2) It’s expensive.
Unless you travel a ton for work or churn rewards credit cards (I do neither), then you’re likely going to pay a checked bag fee like most normal people who fly. For Delta, it was $25 each way. Since this was a work-related trip, my boss paid for all travel related expenses, so it didn’t affect my wallet at all, but still. 50 bucks roundtrip just to put a bag on the plane is a lot of cash that I’d rather spend on a nice dinner or 25 cans of PBR at the local dive bar.
3) It stinks.
Given that we were already going to take the huge suitcase anyway, I figured that instead of taking only my usual quick-dry travel clothing, I’d pack some normal everyday clothes and not worry about doing laundry every single day. While it was nice not having to do a daily small wash, by the end of the trip the luggage contents smelled, well — like dirty laundry. It wasn’t too bad since we were going directly home, but this would be a huge problem for me if I was on a multi-destination trip and had to constantly be transporting around worn, smelly clothes. With my usual packing routine, everything in my bag is always clean.
In the end, the experience reinforced my decision many years back to keep my luggage to a minimum and simplify my travels. No way that I’d ever want to go back to traveling with more stuff.