Money and travel expert Clark Howard famously doesn’t check a bag when he flies. Even when he’s going on a long international trip.
He’s emphasized that advice even more in the aftermath of COVID-19, which caused all sorts of issues for airlines.
The sudden drop in demand led companies to offer pilots early retirement in an effort to cut expenses. But when demand roared back, many airlines no longer were properly staffed.
“You’ve got to hate yourself to check a bag” right now, Clark said in July 2022. He’s repeated a version of those sentiments several times since.
One listener wondered about the logistics of needing to transport all your clothes on your person or in your carry-on. Specifically as it relates to clean underwear and socks. What does Clark do?
Can Clark Fit All the Clean Underwear and Socks He Needs Into His Carry-On Luggage?
How does Clark make sure he has enough clean underwear and socks for a trip since he doesn’t check any bags?
A Clark listener recently wanted to know the dirty — or clean — details on that subject.
Chris in Louisiana asked: “I understand why you don’t check bags. But what do you do for clean underwear and socks when you travel?”
Fortunately, those items are low on Clark’s list of trouble spots when trying to fit everything he needs into his carry-on luggage.
“Socks and underwear take up almost no room at all. So I take the number of days I’m traveling and I put in a pair of underwear and a pair of socks for every day of the trip plus three extras,” Clark says.
“Now if I’m on a trip longer than 14 days — because 14 is what I can do in a carry-on without much sweat — then I do laundry.”
A few pairs of extra shoes can take up more room than some socks and underwear, even though you can stuff other items inside them. So Clark tries to limit himself to a single pair of shoes for the entire trip.
“If I’m going to a place where there’s a possibly heavy chance of showers or snow, then I take an extra pair of shoes. Otherwise I just take one pair of kicks,” Clark says.
“One pair of tennis shoes, running shoes, whatever. And that’s all I take for the time I’m gone.”
How To Protect Yourself if You Must Check a Bag
Every few weeks, there’s a new viral video or dramatic headline about an airline that lost a bag.
As far as Clark is concerned, you still need to avoid checking a bag at all costs.
“The carry-on thing is becoming bigger and bigger because the number of bags the airlines are losing — unreal,” Clark says. “I mean, the problems with checking a bag are insane. Just terrible.”
Have to check a bag? Buy an AirTag (iPhone) or SmartTag (Android) and put it in your checked luggage. That way, even if the airline misplaces your luggage, you should be able to find it.
“If you do feel like there’s no way you can take a trip without checking a bag, then as I’ve said repeatedly over the last year and a half, please put in an Apple AirTag or the equivalent type of device to track your bags,” Clark says.
“The airlines hate it that you know where the bag is when they don’t. But you’ve got to protect yourself.”
Clark uses a simple system to pack clean underwear and socks in his carry-on luggage.
If the trip is 14 days or less, he just packs one pair of each for every day he’ll be away from home — plus three extras of each. If the trip lasts for more than 14 days, he plans to do laundry at some point on the trip.
You have to pack smart, and minimalistic to a degree, to fit everything you need into a carry-on for a one- or two-week trip. But Clark does it every time and seems to not encounter any issues.
Right now, airlines are losing checked luggage at a high rate. So check a bag at your own peril. But at least put in a tracking device so you can monitor the location if you do check a bag.