How to travel carry-on only

There are numerous benefits to flying carry-on only. You save yourself the exorbitant cost of checked baggage, there’s no queuing to check your bags in and no waiting to collect them off the carousel at the other end. Plus there’s no chance your baggage will go missing en route as it’s with you at all times.

But the idea of paring down your holiday garms enough so they fit into an overhead locker is enough to bring some people out in a cold sweat. However, it may actually be easier than you think. Here’s our top tips on how to travel carry-on only.

Get the right sized luggage

The starting point for going carry on only lies in selecting the right sized piece of luggage. It’s up to you whether you take a bag or a suitcase (though bags provide more flexibility and tend to be lighter), but whatever the choice, it needs to meet the airlines requirements.

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Not only do airlines impose weight restrictions on carry-on luggage, there are also usually baggage size limits. Check with your airline what their guidelines are and select a bag that fits in line with them.

Make full use of your allowance

Something that many fliers are completely unaware of is that most airlines actually allow you more than just a single bag as your carry on. In fact on many airlines you can get away with all manner of luggage meaning you can probably pack way more than you imagine.

In addition to your main carry-on bag you may also be allowed to carry a personal bag like a handbag or small backpack, a laptop bag, a portfolio (whatever one of those is), or a musical instrument. Check what your airline allows and make the most of it.

Pack efficiently

Packing properly is a bit of an art, but once you master it you’ll be surprised how much you can fit into a small space. The standard tips like rolling your clothes instead of folding apply, but our number one piece of packing advice is to invest in some packing cubes.

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We go on about packing cubes a lot, but they’re truly an absolute godsend when it comes to packing. They’re like having a chest of drawers in your backpack or suitcase and help both with organisation and saving space.

Plan in mix ‘n’ match outfits

Rather than planning a whole outfit (or two?!) for each day of your vacay, think in terms of items that you’ll be able to mix and match with each other. This way you’ll be able to pack less stuff but still look different each day.

Remember, you can always do washing while you’re away, if necessary, whether it’s in your hotel bathroom sink or at a local laundrette. Plus most people who pack huge cases don’t even wear everything in them during their vacay.

Change your toiletries

One tricky aspect of going carry-on only is complying with the TSA rules around liquids. All of your toiletries must be under 100ml and they all need to fit in a single, see-through bag that’s no larger than 20cm x 20cm. One of the best ways to make sure you don’t fall foul of the rules is to decant your toiletries.

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You can get sets of 100ml bottles, tubes and containers specifically designed for purpose meaning you can just squeeze your regular stuff into them. Another alternative is to opt to switch to solid toiletries, you can get everything from shampoo to deodorant in solid form.

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