A Guide to Traveling With Only a Carry-On

Traveling with a carry on

Traveling with only a carry on

Traveling by air is not the easiest thing to do! Traveling with 1 carry-on and 1 personal item can be a difficult task, but I have been managing to do it since July 2013 (aside from one trip which was a stupid mistake…long story). I am no expert, but I’ve mastered it to make it work for me. I’d love to share what I have learned and my successes with you! I travel for months at a time with only my carry-on. I have mentioned this before, but there is something more freeing than flying without a checked bag! I have learned to live with less and realized that I didn’t need as much as I thought. Yes, there are things that I miss and things I wish I had, but I can live without those items.

Traveling with a carry on

I always carry reading material in my carry on for the journey

What’s my go-to travel outfit?

Dressing in layers is key! I usually wear comfortable athletic sneakers, comfortable jeans, knee high sport compression stockings (to help increase the blood flow in my legs when flying and to reduce swelling from sitting for long periods of time), black cotton tank top, black cotton t-shirt, zip-up light-weight athletic jacket, and a cotton shrug over top!

What’s in my Lug purse (which is inside of my backpack)?

First of all, the brand Lug makes incredible travel friendly bags which have a lot of pockets to put all of my travel items in. I love my Lug purse because it has a place for everything including a side water bottle pocket. It’s the perfect day bag. I carry my wallet, passport (not when I am in my destination of course- I leave that locked up in a safe), travel documents, small note book, sunglasses, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, hand cream, nail file, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and Burt’s Bees hand salve (perfect for dry skin on face and hands) in my purse.

Traveling with only a carry on

Purse Essentials

What’s in my LLBean back pack?

I carry all of travel essentials in my backpack from travel accessories (i.e. mini-flash light, dry sac, plug converters, etc…), technology (lap top, mouse, cameras, camera gadgets, cell phone, and ipod- all for documenting my trips and blogging of course), reading material, snacks, scarf, sarong, noise canceling headphones, and water bottle.

Traveling with only a carry on

Traveling with only a carry on

What’s in my roller bag?

I carry enough clothes to go 2 weeks (sometimes more) without needing to wash them!

1 small towel
2 bras
2 sport bras
Columbia strap on sandals (when your shoes need to stay on and your feet get wet)
Havaianas flip flops
Rider flip flop sandals (more comfortable than Havaianas)
Roxy Loafers (perfect day to night wear)
5 pairs of white sport socks
14 underwear
2 cotton beach dresses
2 cotton street to beach dresses
1 small Mountain Equipment Co-op day back-pack
1 short sleeve shrug
2 sport shorts (which I can also use to sleep in)
1 dress pant capri
3 sport capri pants
1 button up shirt
2 t-shirts (can also be used for pajama tops)
1 pair of cotton PJ shorts
2 bathing suit skirt cover ups
7 cotton tank tops
5 bathing suits- mix and match
1 yoga top
1 yoga pant

Yes, this all fits in my roller bag! I have learned how to pack throughout the years and how to make it all fit.

Traveling with only a carry on

My clothes

What can I live without?

-High heels
-Evening wear
-Dressy clothing
-Fancy & expensive jewellery
-Expensive clothing
-Extra purses and accessories

Traveling with only a carry on

What are my must haves?

-Reusable water bottle
-Snorkel and mask
-Bose noise canceling headphones
-Day to beach wear (cotton dresses work well)
-Comfortable shoes: sneakers and flip flops are a must!
-Light cotton clothing
-Mix and match bathing suits
-Athletic capri pants
-A sarong (which can be used as a blanket on the plane, beach blanket, towel, dress, or skirt)
-Hand sanitizer
-Cotton scarf for colder days/nights (which can also be used as a shawl or skirt)

I can’t emphasize enough: comfort, flexibility, and the ability to mix and match~! I won’t have the ability to travel full time forever, so I am taking advantage of living without the extras to travel light and care free. Luxuries are not needed.

Traveling with only a carry on

I never leave without these…

What are my tips for successful carry-on travel?

– #1, check airline restrictions for Carry-On luggage. Most airlines are similar. Here are two airlines I use often:

  • Delta– large bag size: 22inches x 14 x 9
    Air Canada– large bad size: 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 ; small bag size 13 x 17 x 6

-Become a master packer
-Be creative when packing
-Pack things within things
-Buy travel size accessories: i.e. Flash light
-Buy small travel size body products
-Use “liquid-less” face and body products (i.e. moistened face wipes, baby wipes, dry cleansing clothes which you just add water to)
-Utilize all the space you have
-Only bring what you need for the days you are away (i.e don’t bring a full bottle of Advil if you don’t think you will need it all)
-Research what is expensive/cheap in the places you plan to visit. Wait and buy the products you know will be cheap in that destination.
-Find a carry-on bag that suits your needs (I am still searching for the perfect bag).
-Benefits of a fabric bag: you can fit more in them, but they bulge (sometimes wider than airline measurement restrictions) when packed to the max (which I do)
– Benefits of a soft shell bag (as pictured above): although they hold slightly less, you can be sure that the bag will not bulge and change size when packed full
-Figure out what your must haves are and pack those first
-Always pack less than you think you need
-Learn to live with less
-Enjoy the freedom of traveling with on a carry-on

Traveling with only a carry on

If you have any questions I’d love to tell you more!

42 thoughts on “A Guide to Traveling With Only a Carry-On

  1. Very good guide for those travelling with lowcost companies. I always travel with only carry-on luggage and I was always wondering how other people manage to pack all their belonging into these tiny suitcases

  2. Try the medium sized carry on bag from Swiss Army(Wenger actually).Its a super easy to use,spacious with great pockets and attachments soft luggage with wheels..also available in backpack with wheels model.I recently discovered and simply loving it.

  3. I’m here trying to plan my next packing list! Glad to see another travel agrees with packing more than minimal clothing. I love looking nice regardless of where I am on the face of the planet! Happy Travels~

  4. I have been trying to find a wheeled backpack, but they are all so big..standard carry-on weight for european airlines is half, so no more than 22 pounds. If the bag is big it weighs too much. Have you tried any off the wheeled backpacks?

      • At this time of my life, I don’t travel far away, only with the car and around here. I have my old cats, and they don’t like to travel and the big puppy is always following.
        But before I tried to pack so little as possible, not to carry too much. So I found also inspiration in your post.
        When you bring animals or kids, you need to bring so much more at travels, they always need extras.

      • I love car trips! They are the best. You can stop whenever you want and see what you want to see. Not to mention go at your own pace! Traveling with less in a car is also convenient !

      • You are right. I appreciate also car trips. In periods we are driving a lot in the nature, where I also love to take photos. I live in a mountain area, which is a nice area to walk in with the dog every day. We enjoy a lot.

  5. Still trying to learn how to pack ,,thanks for the help will try your tips on our trip to Florida in a couple of weeks ..Safe travels xo

  6. My travel and photography gear fits the 45L Lowepro backpack, the longest trip with it is about 3 weeks. So I need to do laundry everytime possible.

      • Well I bring quite a complete gear one fx body, with 3 big lenses (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200) incl chargers, extra battery and some filters. All fit into the gear compartment. The notebook compartment not used as I do not have lightweight one. It leaves not much for attire, but fine with my travel.

  7. I plan to travel With only carry on next trip to Casablanca and Barcelona. Just a tip about the cost of cosmetics when you visit Australia. They cost a lot more there than in Canada or
    The US.

  8. I love this! I am a frequent traveler to Atlanta from Detroit because of my boyfriend living down there and this is great! All I can ever bring is a carry on {cause I fly standby} and these are such great ideas for this!

  9. It’s a challenge! My handy tip is to carry only one pair of shoes (apart from the one you’re already wearing) or if you are lucky enough to be traveling with your husband stuff his bag with your things. 🙂

    • One pair of shoes would be very difficult for me…because I definitely need flip flops for the beach (and comfy ones at that), and sneakers for hiking, but strap on sandals come in really handy for water sports… Hmmmm I will think on this one.
      It’s too bad I don’t travel enough with my boyfriend or putting a few items in his bag could be an option! I’m the one with all the electronics and camera gear, haha!

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