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Laura Yuen: How to travel with just a carry-on — and a few tips if you can't

Laura Yuen, Star Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily News

If you love something, set it free — by packing it into your checked bag.

Meaning: You might not ever see it again.

Flying with checked luggage is a gamble this summer, especially if you're traveling internationally. Airport staffing shortages during a summer of pent-up travel demand have not only delayed and canceled flights but are conspiring to foil the intended journeys of suitcases containing all of our favorite things.

"I would tell travelers who are flying to or connecting through major airports like London Heathrow, Amsterdam and Paris that you might as well flip a coin as to whether your bag is going to make it to where you're going," said Kyle Potter, editor of Minneapolis-based Thrifty Traveler.

Social media is rife with horror stories about bags that have permanently vanished, been sent to faraway locales, or were reunited with their owners weeks after they returned from their vacations. In May, nearly six out of every 1,000 checked bags were "mishandled" — either lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered — according to the most recent federal data available.

While that doesn't sound terrible, it "doesn't capture the true start of the summer travel season," Potter said, "and it also doesn't capture just how bad things have been in Europe."

 

Earlier this month Delta sent a plane from London to Detroit with zero passengers — but about 1,000 pieces of lost luggage, which were then shipped to where they needed to go.

The advice that travel experts keep dispensing this summer is to pack only what you need in a carry-on. If you can pull this off, you are a deity in my book. Other than the period in my 20s when I was backpacking through Asia and washing my socks in hostel sinks, I tend to prepare for every possibility when I fill my suitcase. It's even worse now that I have kids because I fear moral judgment if I've failed to plan for the improbable.

I asked Potter and other carry-on crusaders for their tips on minimalist packing. Here's what they said:

Wear the bulkiest items on the plane

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