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I'm packing for a 10-day business trip (across the US) and I'm on the fence about if I want to check a bag or not. I thought I was being clever by saving money and choosing a flight with 2 layovers, but now I'm worried that if I check a bag, there's more of a chance it could get lost in the layover shuffle. What I mean is I'm essentially doubling the chances of something happening to the bag, right? Should I check the bag or suck it up and try to squish everything (and dump all the liquids I wanted to bring) into a carry on?

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    A better question, I think, is "What is your plan if the bag doesn't turn up?" Then you can decide if you want to take the risk. – Calchas Aug 12 '15 at 17:03
  • Just be aware that if you're late to board, you might find all the overhead bins are full, and they gate-check your carry-on bag to your final destination anyway! – Gagravarr Aug 12 '15 at 17:08
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    Do you actually have a reason to check a bag? I, and many others, prefer to travel with carry-on only, regardless of cost and "risk" of losing a checked bag, just because it's so much more convenient (and then you have less stuff to haul around, too!) – Flimzy Aug 12 '15 at 17:09
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    I have a lot of liquids (toiletries, maybe a gift for a host) I'd like to bring, and as was already mentioned below, I need a ton of clothes so I don't look dirty for the conference I'm attending. The final thing is that I'd like to bring my multitool/pocket knife (single woman traveling by myself for part of the trip), which can be checked but not carried on. If I was backpacking or camping, I'd be fine (and actually prefer!) traveling with just a carryon, but because I'm trying to look professional and network I think I might have to risk checking a bag... – pocketlizard Aug 13 '15 at 15:17
  • if the transit time is long enough then its safe to check in your luggage instead of have it in your hand on the whole trip! – yaya Aug 15 '15 at 22:50
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Sure the risk is increased (doubled, perhaps, but I imagine some connections are worse than others). Probably less risk if all your flights are with the same airline. If there's a large variation in connection risk then two may be almost the same as one, statistically.

The right decision depends on a bunch of factors. If (say) your first stop is in city X and you're immediately getting into a rental car and driving 4 hours to city Y to make a presentation to a key customer then a delayed bag containing important stuff might be a real issue. If you arrive the night before and your bag doesn't arrive until noon the next day, then you're scuppered. Otherwise it might just be an inconvenience.

Personally I would not (probably could not) take a 10 day multi-stop business trip with just a carry-on. Time is money when it's for business and I would try to avoid hotel laundry more than once. If you're just going to a fixed location such as a conference, have some free time, and the airport is reasonably near your hotel (usually they'll deliver a delayed bag), the risk is minimal.

The risk of complete loss is pretty low, but you can decrease it by not putting anything that looks valuable in your bag. Most likely nobody wants to steal your clothes and reading material.

  • On top of that, obviously you shouldn't put any business documents that you might need at a meeting into your checked-in luggage. – downhand Aug 12 '15 at 17:50
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Indeed, there is a risk and it does double. The shorter the connection, the more risk the bag has to miss the connection. I've had this happen and they sent the bag on the next flight which can be a hassle if you are not close to the airport at your destination, although twice they courried the bag so that I did not have to return to the airport. It depends on the airline, I guess.

Using a carry-on is a safe bet for multiple reasons. As long as you can make it fit, go for that. It also helps because if you miss a connection, they do not usually let you access your bags. Sometimes this means you must stay overnight, so it is good to have your belongings.

Addendum:

It should be obvious but, as others have noted, you can always opt for both. The carry on is for what you depend on and the checked luggage is for extra comfort.

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    If you can put nothing but clothes in your checked case, and have a basic set in your carry on, you can risk not seeing the checked case till you come back home. It is rather unlikely, but some luggage is delayed. All you need for the first 24 hours of your trip should be in your hand luggage. – Willeke Aug 12 '15 at 17:20
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Adding two points to consider:

  1. On some international segments passengers are required to manually re-check their luggage, which pretty much eliminates the possibility of bags getting left out. This probably does not apply OP flying all domestic segments.

  2. Most low-cost-carriers treat each leg as a separate flight. So on an itinerary A-B-C-D, if your bag misses the B-C connection the airline will at most send it to A, your listed home address and not to where you are going.

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