Unless I absolutely have to (read: I'm flying with booze), I always do whatever I can to not have to check a bag when I travel. Besides the fees associated with handing your bag over, the worst part of the whole experience, in my opinion, is having to wait after a long flight for your suitcase to come around the carousel. That wait is typically full of regret for me about buying that bottle of whiskey in the first place and delaying my trip home by 20 minutes.
If you're like me and hate waiting for your bag, Travel + Leisure recently offered a few suggestions on how to ensure your bags are some of the first off the plane. The key is to make sure your bag is one of the last loaded on. That way, as they're uploading the plane yours will be one of the first off.
So, how do you do that?
T+L has two suggestions. The first is to simply gate-check your bag. Since bag handlers have already loaded on all the luggage that was checked by people when they arrived at the airport, your gate-checked bag will likely end up being put on the plane last, which means it will probably be first off and one of the first on the carousel when you arrive.
Clearly, this trick only works when you have a direct flight. If you have a connection, then your gate-checked bag is going to end up right back in the mix on your next flight just as if you had checked it when you arrived at the airport.
T+L's second suggestion is a little more interesting and involves checking your bag like normal, but asking for it to be labelled as fragile. T+L says that fragile bags are loaded onto the plane last, which means your bags should come off first.
Even better, this trick should work even if you have a connection and are switching planes, and that fragile sticker is free.
Another less-easy way to get your suitcase first: gain status in an airline's frequent flyer program or purchase a First or Business Class ticket, VIP's bags are often given priority consideration and will come off the carousel before bags belonging to people who flew economy class or that don't have status with the airline.
And as T+L notes, every airline and airport is different, so these tricks might not work all the time, but they're certainly worth a shot.