Packing is always a challenge. Packing carry on only is even more so. Now throw a kid into the mix. Impossible? Possible! We routinely travel carry on only with a toddler, and remember, under 2’s do not get their own carry on luggage allowance. We want to share with you just how we do it. This guide is for everyone, whether you travel with little ones or not, these tips will help anyone.
Why travel carry on only?
There are a couple great reasons for travelling carry on online. The first obvious reason is budget. Most airlines these days charge fees for taking luggage with you on your journey. And sometimes these fees can be absolutely ridiculous. If you are going to be hopping on and off tons of different planes, then these fees can really add up.
The other major reason for travelling carry on only? It’s way freaking easier! Even if you are just going from the airport to the hotel and back again, doing it with tons of luggage is a pain. First you have to get from the airport to the taxi or train, and many airports only provide trolleys if you pay some exorbitant fee. And if you are going to be doing any overland travel, well forget about it. Luggage is the ultimate pain in the butt when you are trying to move from one place to another.
And of course, it’s quicker. No more standing around the luggage carousel, counting down the seconds until it starts slowly rotating. Then of course, there is the trying to squeeze through the horde of people, all elbows out, when you finally see your bag come around. Nope, none of that. You just walk off the plane and out the door.
Consider what bag you are taking carefully
Instead of jumping straight to the “what the pack” question, first you need to consider what bag to take. And consider it carefully. I like to chose smaller carry on bags. The first thing to do is check the requirements of the airlines you are travelling with. Some airlines have smaller carry on allowances than most. Usually airlines will allow you to take one carry on bag, and one “personal item.” The definition of personal item is fairly loose, but it usually means something smaller – like a laptop bag, small backpack, purse, or garment bag.
Personally, I tend not to buy carry on bags that are the maximum carry on size, and there is one really good reason for that. The weight allowance that airlines are allowing for carry on’s is steadily decreasing, and the policing of these limits is quickly increasing. You wouldn’t believe how easily it is to make even a small carry on bag quite heavy. I find that no matter how big or small of a bag you choose, you always end up filling it. You could be going on the exact same trip, but somehow you will always find a way to fill the bag to the top. So the bigger bag you chose, the more you run the risk of having an overweight bag.
When Dan and I travel carry on online we will usually have one large backpack (our camera bag) which is full of the camera gear and the laptop. It’s pretty easy for that bag to meet the maximum weight on it’s own. The other bag we take is a small roller case with a carry strap. I like bags that I can carry as well as roll, cause something you need to be able to move fast. And in some places, you are not actually allowed to use a roller bag.
When it comes to personal items I normally carry a large purse. Purses easily quality as a “personal item”, and luckily, some purses can be quite huge. The second item we take as a “personal item” is an ingenious travel case called the Rolo. You know those toiletry bags with all the little pockets that you can roll up and throw into your suitcase? Well this is like that, but for your clothes. You would not even believe the amount of clothing you can get into the Rolo. Once you have it all packed up, you simply roll it up rightly, snap the straps and pull them tight, and you are off. And when you are at your destination, it has a hook so you can hang it in the closet and have easy access to your clothes but without having to unpack at all. We are huge fans of the Rolo.
What to pack when travelling carry on only?
Less is more. But seriously, you don’t normally need that much when you travel. Have you ever completely over packed and then ended up carrying around the extra pair of shoes, or that spare outfit, and then not wearing it even once? I know I have. Of course what you pack depends on where you are going; the climate, what style of travel you will be doing, and how long you will be away for. If you are going somewhere in a cold climate you will obviously have a bit more to pack than if you are going to a beach destination.
I generally try to take 3 or 4 outfits only, and I hand wash my clothing as I go. This is where it takes a bit of thought and planning. I try to only pack tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched with each other, therefore achieving what seems like 5 or 6 different outfits instead of just 3 or 4. I also always travel with at least one warmer outfit – even when travelling to a hot destination. Why do I do that? Airplanes are freaking cold!
What about toiletries? You know those little refillable plastic 100ml bottles? Yeah, well those will be your best friend when travelling carry on only. Firstly, that’s the maximum size you can take when travelling internationally anyway. Secondly, it’s cheaper to refill the bottles than buy the little mini bottles. Lastly, they are easiest to pack!
And this is my top trick. I obsessively collect the little mini soaps and shampoos from hotels when I travel. So far I have accumulated an entire drawer of them. So when we travel internationally for a short period of time, say a week, I will grab enough of the little toiletries to last me. As I use them up, I toss them (or recycle them if I can). So by the end of the trip, I effectively have nothing left in my toiletry bag, therefore freeing up space for the little bits and bobs I have collected during my trip.