Whether you squeeze in a last summer trip, plan a fall getaway or head to family for Thanksgiving, this tip – it’s actually a series of tips – will help save money, time and energy. Maybe even a little heartache. It all boils down to three little words:
Grab and go.
What is grab and go?
Grab and go: This is my term for a carry-on bag and before you say, ‘Nope, not gonna do that’ hear me out because carry-ons have many important advantages.
What are the biggest advantages of grab and go?
–Cheaper: Most airlines charge $50 round-trip for a checked-bag fee while carry-ons are usually fee; surely you have better ways to spend fifty bucks.
–Safer: No worries about losing a bag or thieves rifling through it, not with a piece of luggage that travels beside you.
–Portable: You can get them with wheels like I have, tote a big pack-pack or a try the should-strap model so you don’t have to worry about wearing your arm out.
–Easy to stow: Shove them into the overhead bin and under a seat (the latter is best with squishy, duffel-type bags). Plus grab and go carry-ons are so much easier to wrangle on public transportation (in the U.S. or Europe), especially on subways/metros, buses and trains.
–Faster: When your plane lands, all you have to do grab your bag and go. No waiting around at the baggage carousel, no waiting for vacation to begin. Bonus: You’re first in line for a taxi, or first to grab the Uber or Lyft.
Does grab and go work with every airline?
Yes: However, you won’t always save money because Spirit and Frontier charge for all bags (prices vary) but other advantages of grab and go are reason enough to use a carry-on.
Why should I do it if my airline gives me a free checked-bag?
Your choice: If flying overseas or flying Southwest, you will get a free bag and you can lug a checked-bag. However, you’ll still need some kind of small grab-and-go carry-on for things you can’t be separated from like expensive jewelry and electronics plus must-have personal items like medications or eyeglasses because when checked-bags get lost or delayed (it’s happened to me), these things can be difficult and/or expensive to replace.
How can you fit what you need in grab and go luggage?
Easier than you’d think: Ditch non-essentials; for example, wear one pair of shoes, pack just one more, and don’t pack ‘maybe’ outfits, only items you know you’ll wear. Also, no big bottles of shampoo (buy such things at your destination) and no big appliances like hair dryers (even modest hotels have them). As for arranging your items in your bag, some swear by the sit-and-zip packing method: tightly roll up each item of clothing (so it’s shaped like a stubby cigar), then put it into a zip bag and sit on it ‘til all the air whooshes out, and zip it up. Result: an easy-to-pack flat package. A woman who works for me used this method to pack dresses, nice slacks, even a jacket for a wrinkle-free ten day holiday in Italy.
Grab and go is more than just a packing solution; it’s a way to make travel easier, cheaper (sometimes) and ultimately more convenient. Give it a try.
Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site