In some respects, this airplane trip was better than the last in terms of getting my equipment on the plane with me and to my destination. As I've said, I can't take the risk of having luggage handlers playing Catch-N-Oops with my delicate camera gear (and by extension my career), so I cannot check it. This, however, means that I can only take one camera body, one prime lens, and one telephoto lens. I also need to have my netbook to download my shots and to do preliminary culling of images, my external hard drive to serve as immediate back-up storage, by Hoodman (a small device that fits over the viewing screen on my DSLR so I can view shots while in bright sunlight), my SB-600 flash, batteries for my Nikon D90, its charger, batteries for the flash, and two SD card cases with SDHC cards. Add to that the cords and cables I need and a sun it, and it all fits quite neatly into my Lowepro CompuDaypack. This is the lightest and most compact I can pack, but what if I need my wide angle lens? What if I want to bring an extra camera body? And schlepping a backpack is bad for my back, which means I have to look for a luggage cart, which means paying extra money at four bucks a pop if I can't score an abandoned one. I actually had an airline ticket attendant fight me over a stray one the moment a passenger dumped hers. I didn't know they were in such short supply at MIA.
I thought I'd solved these problems by getting a rolling backpack that meets airline carry-on specs (in fact that was the main selling point that made me pay as much as I did for it), but every time I've traveled with it, unless I'm seated in the back and can get on early, more often than not I have problems trying to stow it. It does get stowed with me inside the cabin, but not without a lot of drama. I've also noticed that I'm not the only traveler that has problems with rolling carry-on luggage that should be small enough to fit on planes in the overhead compartments or under the seat. It's getting so that the only way you're going to be able to have luggage with you on your trip is to ship it ahead to your destination - and I've heard of people who've actually done that.
I think a large part of the problem is that air carriers are booking (and overbooking) flights to the fullest capacity they can. It used to be less of a pain to fly and more of a pleasure, and now it's the other way round.