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Your Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Just Your Carry-On

There are plenty of reasons why I'm #teamcarryon, but let's talk about the big one: it's cheaper...er sometimes...

You have to go into #teamcarryon fully prepared. Pack light, book accommodations where you can do laundry, and make sure your carryon can fit under your seat if you lose overhead space.

Traveling with just a carry-on is more than just a trend; it's a passport to a smoother and stress-free travel experience.

Consider the amount of time and money saved, maximizing mobility, and experiencing a newfound sense of freedom that only comes with traveling light.

Worried you can't fit everything in? I've got you covered with packing tips and tricks to help you conquer that fear.

Pro tip: Check airline carry-on size and weight restrictions before you pack. This will help you avoid any last-minute surprises at the airport.

Why Should I Embrace #teamcarryon?

This post isn't mean to convince you that traveling light is the end-all-be-all, but there are a number of reason why you should at least consider this alternative way to travel.

It's cheaper.

Ever looked at a Basic Economy ticket and cringed at the cost to check your luggage? What if you didn't have to worry about that at all? I often book Basic Economy with the notion that I'll only need carry-on luggage (and depending on my mileage status, I won't have to worry about getting a middle seat either, but that's a topic for another article).

It's easier to move around.

Imagine your flight lands, you gather your things and disembark, and just head right out the airport. What a breeze!

Or! OR! Here me out...

Your journey has multiple destinations. Instead of lugging around large luggage, you're navigating trains, buses, and/or RyanAir with just your carry-on luggage. It's so much easier to move around this way.

For peace of mind.

Has an airline ever lost your luggage or were you ever concerned about missing a connecting flight, separating you from your checked luggage? Not having to worry about being separated from my luggage gives me peace of mind whenever I travel without checked luggage.

How Do I Embrace #teamcarryon?

You can embrace #teamcarryon by first changing your mindset.

How many times have you overpacked?

Was it worth it?

Which items are commonly your non-essentials?

Try to do this mental exercise for your next planned trip, and if you still need to pack more, then pack away!

But if you're ready to try downsizing, check out these tips.

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead to avoid packing things "just in case."

  • What's on your itinerary? If you don't have a formal dinner planned, there likely won't be a spontaneous one.
  • What will the weather be like? Pack versatile clothing that can be used if your summer holiday requires layers for a cold night out. Travelling during the rainy season? A poncho may be less bulky than an umbrella.
  • Which of your items have multi-purpose uses? My walking shoes are also waterproof and designed for hiking. My second pair is normally a set a flip-flops if (and only if) I'm going to a place that's flip-flop worthy. Sandals gal instead? I can almost guarantee you if you head over to salomon.com you'll find waterproof sandals that are designed for hiking. Great for exploring the more secretive Mexican cenotes!
  • Moar multi-purpose items! Consider a sarong to use as a scarf, beach cover, or dress. Buy a shampoo that doubles as a conditioner (or adopt co-washing for the trip if you can). Double points if it's travel-sized. Triple points if it's a bar instead of liquid.
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Do Laundry

Plan to do laundry sometime during your trip. I often either book an Airbnb with a wash machine or pay to have it done.

A cheaper alternative would be for you to hand wash your clothes, if you're looking to save money.

When I plan laundry into my trip, that allows me to pack way less clothes. Also, underwear is small, so I always make sure to pack enough of those for the entire trip.

  • Ask about laundry services at your accommodation.
  • Purchased travel-sized laundry detergent before your trip, or just purchase some at your location. You can also always ask to borrow the small amount you need.
  • Pack clothes that are easy to hand wash!
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Stuff Your Bag Strategically

Ok, so your bag will be stuffed. The question is how and with what?

Clothes

I've tried compression bags, packing cubes, and rolling my clothes. At this stage in the game, I prefer rolling my clothes. All of my compression bags eventually tore. For packing cubes, they're ok, but better for a suitcase rather than a soft bag carry-on (which I prefer).

Liquids

Buy yourself a reusable container set to store your travel sized liquids, that way you can refill them instead of having to hunt for your favorite products in the right size. After you've filled them up, store them all together in a pocket or off to the side.

Shoes

Hopefully you'll be wearing your bulkiest pair (tennis shoes or boots). What you'll want to store in your carry-on is your flattest pair next (flip-flops, flats, etc).

Outerwear

Need to bring a hoodie? Well you're in luck because planes are cold! Carry or wear this one on the plane.

If you need to pack another one, or feel the need to throw in a blanket too, ask yourself why.

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Tips

Pro tip: Check airline carry-on size and weight restrictions before you pack. This will help you avoid any last-minute surprises at the airport.

Wanna take this a step further?

For those tickets that charge for BOTH checked luggage AND a carry-on, you can still travel with a large enough personal item to fit under the seat.

I've only successfully done this once.

This works best for:

  • Short trips
  • Light, rolled up clothing
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