How To Travel With Only Carry-On

I am a fan of traveling light, and that means traveling with only carry-on luggage. You spend less time worry about your own gear and more time observing the place you are visiting. You spend less on baggage fees and have less gear to keep track of. At the end of the day it just makes packing and carrying your bag around some much less of a hassle.

So how exactly is it done?

1. Begin With The Right Sized Bag

Buy the right sized bag BEFORE you decide what to bring – in this case the right size bag means one that fits just under the carry-on baggage limits. If you buy a bag larger than this you will be prone to filling it, whether or not you need to take it all.

The most common carry-on baggage size limit is 45 linear inches (the sum total of the length + width + height of your luggage) or 22″ x 14″ x 9″. Though you will also be allowed to carry one personal item (a handbag, laptop case, small backpack etc).

The slightly unfortunate thing about carry-on is that any curves in the bag are creating wasted space. Meaning if you want the most efficient carry-on, you need to essentially carry around a square box. Any curves in the shape of your luggage likely mean wasted space.

One last bit about your bag, front loading backpacks are much more accessible and praise worthy than top-loading bags.

2. Pack Only What Is Actually Necessary

If you followed step one and now have the right sized bag – you aren’t going to have much choice but to follow this second step. Generally if you are erring about whether you really need something – then you don’t need to bring it. With only a few exceptions, if it is not something you will be using every day (or every few days) – forget it. And don’t pack what you can easily buy there. Two weeks into your trip revise what you have taken, reconsider things you haven’t even contemplated using.

3. Compress Your Gear

Get some compression bags. These are great, not just for reducing the space of your gear, but also having packing cubes can be a very handy way to organise your gear and stop you going insane.

4. Have A Few Tricks Up Your Sleeve

There are a whole bunch of tricks on how to fit more in, here are some of the top ones:

  • Stick your underwear and/or socks inside that empty space in your shoes
  • Wear the bulkiest items in transit
  • Replace liquids with powders and oils if you can
  • Chase the summer! (not always practical, but winter layers gear can be bulky)
  • If you are headed somewhere cold – consider taking several layers, which gives you more options, than one big jumper/jacket

The thing about most of these tricks is, if you are traveling long-term or having to re-pack your bag a lot, you might not want to rely on them to be able to fit everything in your bag – as you will tire of the process.

6. Include Smart Multi-Purpose Gear

Embrace technology. A smartphone can potentially be your phone, clock, map, internet, skype, alarm clock etc etc; embrace this as much as possible.

7. Keep Note Of A Few Negatives

Travelling with carry on isn’t all glamor and late night parties.

  • You have to wash your clothes more often (in theory at least)
  • You will have less choice in clothes you can wear
  • You will have less room to carry souvenirs

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1 Response

  1. Great tips! Packing in only a carry on is always one of my goals. I love packing cubes–they are so great for keeping things organized. I love solid shampoo as well, it’s nice to not to have to think about as many liquids!

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