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How to Travel with Just a Carry-On

How to Travel With Just a Carry On

When it comes to packing for a trip, the phrase “less is more” certainly seems to ring true. One of the biggest mistakes travelers make is overpacking their suitcase.You want to make sure you’re prepared, but that doesn’t mean you need to pack your entire closet. Follow these tips on how to travel with just a carry-on and your next adventure will be less stressful.

Benefits of Carry-On Only Travel

  • Simplicity. You probably don’t need everything you think you do when you travel. Packing with a more minimalist approach helps keep things simple. You won’t have as much stuff taking up valuable luggage space. It will also make deciding what to wear in the morning much easier.
  • Less Airport Hassle. You can rid yourself of many airport troubles by traveling with just a carry-on. You can simply get your boarding pass in advance and head right to your gate when you arrive at the airport. (Well, you’ll still have to go through the unavoidable security.) If you have a layover, you won’t have to worry about possibly needing to get your bag and recheck it again, saving you valuable time and sanity. Also, no worrying about lost luggage!
  • No Waiting for Bags. Carry-on only means no waiting at baggage claim. It’s a great feeling to be able to jump off the plane and continue on your trip sooner than everyone waiting for their luggage around the conveyor belt.
  • Ease of Transportation. Traveling carry-on only makes you more mobile. It’s much easier to get on a crowded subway, bus, or train with smaller luggage.
Benefits of Carry-On Only Travel

What Are the Airline’s Carry-on Restrictions?

The standard size restriction for carry-on luggage seems to be 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, with some airlines having smaller or larger restrictions. Skyscanner has a useful chart listing the size and weight restrictions for the major airlines. One thing to keep in mind as well is that smaller planes often have small overhead compartments. If an airline allows a personal item in addition to your carry-on bag, try to put your heavier items in the personal item, since they often aren’t weighed. 

On the Plane

If your carry-on bag is closer to the high end in size, try your best to board the plane as early as you can to make sure there’s enough room for your luggage above your seat. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but certainly don’t be one of the last ones to board. Whatever you do, don’t be the traveler whose bag is clearly too big and is trying to cream it into the overhead compartment.

travel with just a carry-on

How to Travel with Liquids with a Carry-on

Liquids can cause a big problem with traveling carry-on only, but it’s a problem that can be dealt with fairly easily. Take a look at the products you regularly use. How much do you really use each day? Also, think about what you actually need to take with you on your travels. When it comes down to it, how much you really need will probably fit in those 100ml (3.4 ounce) bottles.

Tips for How to Travel with Just a Carry-On

1. Choose the Right Carry-On Luggage

Don’t choose just any bag or suitcase for your carry-one luggage that will fit into an overhead compartment. It’s important to think about its practicality.

Most important is the size of your luggage. Size restrictions can vary from one airline to the next, and international and domestic airlines sometimes have different size restrictions. Always check the airline’s size limitations to make sure your carry-on bag will fit.

Not only do you want to choose the right size of luggage, but you’ll want to choose the right type for your trip. Backpacks are much easier to manage if your adventure leaves you frequently on the go, such as island hopping in Thailand. They’re also easy to squish into small spaces since they’re soft-sided. 

With that being said, don’t pack a backpack with more than your back can stand. Rolling suitcases, however, cause less physical strain, allow you to keep things more organized, and are more durable, but they’re often heavier and more inconvenient to get around with. If going the suitcase route, make sure to choose one that’s light so it doesn’t take up too much of the weight limit.

choose the right carry-on bag

2. Pack for a Week

You probably won’t have any problems fitting all of your clothes into your carry-on bag if you’re only traveling for a few days. If your trip is longer than a week, however, you may find it more difficult. One way to make this easier on yourself is to pack only a week’s worth of clothes. You can always do laundry during your trip (even if it’s washing them in the sink). This also means that you should try to pick clothes to wear during your trip that are easy to wash and air dry.

3. Roll Your Clothes Instead of Fold

Even though packing just a week’s worth of clothes is a good tip to follow, that’s not to say that packing more than that into a carry-on isn’t possible. This is where the tip of roll instead of fold comes in handy. I’ve used this method of packing to fit two weeks worth of clothes into a carry-on suitcase. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them makes your clothing more compact and saves space. It also helps you avoid annoying creases that happen when you fold.

4. Choose Clothes Your Can Layer

Traveling with only a carry-on means you’ll have to be more selective when it comes to what clothes you bring on your travels. Bringing clothes that are able to be layered is key to packing light. Multiple layers will take up less space than a coat and will leave you better suited to handle a variety of situations (like traveling to different climates) and give you more options for outfits. 

5. Use Packing Cubes or Compression Bags

Packing cubes and compression bags can help you keep your luggage organized and save even more space. Packing cubes keep all of socks, pants, shirts, and other items neatly organized into individual cubes. With compression bags, you simply put your clothes in the bag and deflate all of the air out until it’s flat.

packing cubes for carry-on only travel

6. Be Selective With Footwear

Packing the right pair of shoes for a trip isn’t always an easy task, especially when it comes to packing a carry-on since most shoes are bulky. The key is to bring comfortable and versatile shoes and just two pairs will probably be all you need. Bring one pair for hiking or walking and another pair that can be either dressed down or dressed up (like flats or sandals). As for packing shoes, make sure to pack the smaller ones and wear your bulkier pair on the plane.

7. Choose the Right Toiletries

You probably already know that you can’t bring a full-size bottle of shampoo in a carry-on, but there are a few other tips you’ll want to take advantage of when it comes to toiletries. Most hotels provide shampoo and conditioner you can use, and many also have toothbrushes, toothpaste, and razors available from the front desk. You can also bring solid toiletries, such as laundry detergent, soap, or even cologne. Then, there’s always the option to leave your own toiletries at home and just buy any basic things you need once you reach your destination (in most cases).

8. Wear Bulky Clothes During Check-In

One of the best ways of how to travel with just a carry-on is to wear what you can onto the plane. By wearing your thickest sweater, bulky shoes, or coat, you’ll free up valuable space in your luggage. You can always take them off once you’re on the plane, but remember that airplanes are usually cold, so you may be glad you have that jacket with you.

9. Take Advantage of Personal Item Allowance

In addition to a carry-on, most airlines allow you to bring a smaller personal item, which should be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Keep your passport, electronics, and any other valuables in this bag. Don’t waste the allowance on a purse. Instead, bring a small backpack or messenger bag that can fit more things in it (including a small purse).

By following these helpful tips, you won’t have any problems next time you want to travel with just a carry-on. You’ll be free of stress and free of the burdens that come with larger luggage.

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