Not too long ago, I read an article on that debated the wisdom of checking a bag at the airport versus simply using carry-ons. Two CNN travel staffers made their cases.

Maureen O’Hare argues that we don’t need as much stuff as we think — our destinations will gladly sell or provide shampoo and sunscreen. Also, it’s easier and fun to breeze by the poor souls waiting for their luggage in Baggage Claim. For her, carry-ons are the way to go.

On the other hand, Channon Hodge points out that there are things that must go with you and a carry-on will only hold so much. Lifting that bag above your head to put in an overhead compartment is hard on your body. And having to do so just delays others trying to get in their seats. Checked baggage for her.

Me? If I were asked to pick between checking my bag or just using carry-ons, my insightful answer would be two words: “It depends.”

For example, I flew to Baltimore last month to attend a weekend convention. Left on a Friday, returned on a Sunday. In my mind a checked bag wasn’t necessary. I could stuff my clothes, my CPAP, and a few books (long story) in a carry-on and with my trusty backpack be ready for whatever.

True, because I am short and not the strongest human being, getting said bag in and out of an overhead compartment was a mini adventure. But I managed, thanks a couple of times to the kindness of a taller stranger.

However, I will be flying to Las Vegas in September for a weeklong writing workshop. One of the things I will have to bring with me if possible is a printer.

I have a very nice travel printer that is approximately the size of a large trade paperback. While that is small for a printer, it’s still pretty big to stuff in a carry-on or my backpack. Add paper, the cords I need to work it, and clothes for a week and we are for sure looking at checking a bag.

“But Laura,” you may ask. “Aren’t you worried someone will steal it out of your bag?”

The short answer is no. It’s not worth much, and so far in all the years I’ve traveled with a small printer in checked luggage (we’re talking since 2005) I’ve never lost one. I’m sure it has TSA workers wondering about it, but so far, so good.

However, TSA workers have found far more interesting things in checked luggage that my travel printer. Recently, TSA agents in Baltimore came across an unusual item: a missile launcher.

I am not kidding. According to the article, also on, the agents found the thing in the checked bag of a man coming back from Kuwait. They of course questioned the owner of the bag, who turned out to be a member of the military. He was returning from Kuwait and wanted a souvenir of his time there. So, he grabbed a missile launcher.

As TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein quipped on Twitter, maybe he should have settled for a keychain.

The device was not active. However, it violated TSA rules, since military weapons are not allowed in checked or carry-on baggage. They confiscated the missile launcher and let the soldier go on his way.

Looking at a picture of the weapon, I must ask how big his suitcase was. This is not a small item. He got it into a standard suitcase? He must be a packing genius.

Hopefully my checked baggage will not raise alarms in September. I promise not to bring weapons. Just leave my printer alone.


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