Here's Why You Should Never Check A Bag When Flying Over The Holidays

Flying over the holidays is like trying to navigate — and survive — a really tough maze. After all, airports are crowded, airlines are working overtime to manage the influx of passengers, and delays and cancellations are more common — all while millions of travelers across the country make their way to their holiday destinations. And with this year's Thanksgiving rush taking the crown as the busiest day ever for U.S. air travel, there's really no telling what might happen as we inch closer and closer to Christmas and New Year's.

According to reports from the TSA, a record-breaking 2.9 million travelers were screened across the country the Sunday after Thanksgiving. But what does that have to do with a checked bag? Well, 2.9 million travelers need bags, right? That means that, at any given time, there are thousands of suitcases making their way along airport and security conveyor belts for staff to handle, check, and throw — sometimes literally — on board.

Ultimately, this means that your luggage is at a higher risk of being delayed or mishandled. If you're one of the unlucky ones, it can also mean you won't be reunited with your bag when you land — or, in the worst-case scenario, ever again.

More travelers means more chaos

Let's be honest: Airport baggage handlers aren't known for being the most gentle or careful with checked luggage. And even with all the hacks for keeping your luggage safe and all the tips out there on how to track your luggage, mishandled and lost baggage claims continue to grow as more people hit the skies. In just 2022, 26 million bags went missing from airports after an unexpected travel boom came up against staff shortages and operational disruptions. And while no one likes to deal with a missing suitcase, it's typically airline staff that take the brunt of it.

So what's the simplest solution to making sure this doesn't happen to you? Easy. Don't check a bag. By choosing to travel only with a carry-on, you'll be making your life — and the airline staff's work — a lot easier. Plus, you'll also have the opportunity to skip the never-ending bag drop-off queue and head straight to security — making an already-hectic holiday trip that much easier.

If you can't skip checking a bag, make sure you at least take extra precautions in order to guarantee — as much as possible — that you're not caught in a baggage mishap. That means either pre-paying for your bag, allocating extra time to drop-off and pick up your bag, or avoiding connecting flights.

Pack light for a better travel experience

Whether you're heading home to your parents' house for some holiday cheer or jetting off on a warm-weather winter vacation, one thing's for sure: Nothing beats the ease of traveling with just a carry-on. First, there's the convenience of having everything you brought within reach. This means you can avoid the nerve-racking wait at the baggage claim and also exit the airport quicker, giving you more time to enjoy your trip.

Additionally, many popular airlines, such as Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines (excluding basic economy ticket holders), offer the perk of free carry-on luggage. This doesn't just save you money (especially when checked-bag fees range anywhere from $25 to $89), but also the time and hassle of checking a bag during the holiday rush.

If you're one of those travelers who struggles to fit everything into a carry-on, consider some smart packing strategies. Whether it's using the 54321 rule or making (and editing down) a list, packing light doesn't have to be a challenge. Plus, leaving behind that "maybe" dress or third sweater will seem worth it when you're able to breeze through the airport with just a roller bag in tow.