I love traveling and I will seize the opportunity to travel every chance I get! Because I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, I like to think that I am starting to get quite good at it. One of my favourite travel talents is that I am now something of a packing ninja. So much so that I have two long (3+ weeks) multi-destination trips under my belt, across South-East Asia and a road-trip around California, armed only with my carry-on… How did I manage that? Read on for my packing ninja top tips!
Many people don’t believe that it’s really possible but there are so many benefits of only traveling with hand luggage. For us, it was necessitated by some extremely tight connections – any checked luggage simply would not have made it with us to Los Angeles (one of our connections was only 45 minutes! I like to live life on the edge…) But whether it’s ease of transportation or just less hassle and waiting around at the airport, whatever it is that motivates you to try traveling with carry-on just go for it and embrace the simplicity!
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:: Lists –
This style of packing only really works if you’re super organized. Because of your smaller luggage space you can’t just throw everything in and hope for the best. Lists will be your best friend.
Think carefully about the items you want to take and how well they pair together. You’re going to want your shoes (3 pairs max – one pair trainers, one pair flip flops and one pair heels or smarter sandals) and handbag(s) to go with as many different outfits as possible, for example. Curate your travel wardrobe carefully. Think about items that can be layered, mixed and matched, worn more than once. Include versatile items that can do double duty – scarves, sarongs and kimonos are great for this.
Write a list of everything that you want to pack and then edit it down. This will better help you visualize exactly which outfits to bring.
Remember also that you’re probably going to find a few super cute items while you’re on your travels which are always a lovely souvenir and also a chance to switch things up a bit if you’re tired of the things that you brought with you.
:: Wear your bulkiest items on the flight –
I like to travel in super comfortable athletic wear, which is practical for two reasons. Firstly, as already mentioned, it is super comfortable which is exactly what you need for a long flight. Secondly, they are usually the bulkiest items that I am taking, my trainers, my sweatshirt, my jacket (if I’m taking one), my big scarf. By wearing these instead of packing them all it saves some serious packing real estate in my luggage.
:: Luggage –
Choose your luggage carefully. I like to use a structured cabin-sized wheelie case and then a duffel bag. The case is my hand-luggage and then the duffel is my personal item. My little handbag will then go inside the duffel when we board the flight. (Bonus: the duffel bag doubles up as an excellent large day bag/beach bag once I reach my destination.)
This system works for me because I can rest the duffel bag on my wheeled suitcase and I don’t have to carry it everywhere. To make this even easier I use my super dorky, but infinitely practical, bag bungee. (Note: this might look like it came straight out of an infomercial or an irritating sponsored post on Instagram, but people actually come up to me in airports and ask where I got it from, it really is useful!)
Always research your airlines luggage policy to ensure that your carry-on will comply and that you won’t be forced to check-it at the gate (totally defeating the point of the whole exercise!)
:: Packing Cubes –
I’m only going to say this once – you need to invest in some packing cubes, or use gallon ziplock bags as an alternative. I am a packing cube convert (and I will try to convert everyone else!) I now cannot travel without packing cubes. My favourites are these ones because they are super durable, and these ones because they have a cute cactus print. Not only do they help save a ton of space when you compress down all your clothes, but if you’re super organized when you pack them they mean that it is really easy to find whatever you need without tearing your bags apart at every destination.
I use one cube for active wear and casual day-wear, one for dressier items, one for underwear and swimwear, one for toiletries (more on that later), one for dirty laundry and one for tech items. When I’m looking for something I just grab that cube and leave everything else neatly in it’s place. It’s life changing.
I also have little bags for jewelry and prescription meds – it’s like a Russian doll for bags inside my case…
:: Roll – don’t fold –
Speaking of packing, make sure that you are rolling your clothes instead of folding them. I am sure that you are aware of this already but rolling your clothes reduces the space that they take up as well as minimizing wrinkles – win, win!
:: Toiletries –
Just don’t take ‘em! I hate traveling with toiletries, apart from the fact that they take up a huge amount of space, I also then worry about bag explosions. I try to take as few as possible with me. This is especially important when you are traveling with hand luggage since (a) you have limited space and (b) all your liquids need to go through security separately in their own clear bag. I carry a few travel-sized mini essentials (toothpaste, moisturizer, sunscreen, perfume, face wipes etc.) along with my day-to-day make up (7 items) and then I rely on the fact that either my hotel will provide the necessities (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion) or that I can pick them up when I reach my destination.
Note: I carry all of my travel toiletries in my smallest clear packing cube and have never (touch wood) had any trouble taking them through security. But, for that one TSA agent that I will likely one day cross paths with, I make sure that all my liquids will fit inside one of their baggies should they need me to.
:: Minimize your electronics and tech gear –
I am probably still guilty of taking more tech gear than I need but I am getting better. One of the things that has saved me on recent trips is my travel charger (I have it in white) – with multiple usb charging ports it enables me to charge all my devices on the one interchangeable plug.
Lastly, my kindle is one of my favourite travel companions enabling me to take my whole library with me, while taking up hardly any space!
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Duffel Bag | Bag Bungee | Clear Packing Cubes | Cactus Packing Cubes | Kindle | Travel Charger | Apeman Camera | Dual Head Cable
So there we have it – my 7 golden rules for traveling with only your carry-on. Totally do-able! Do you think that you would be tempted to give it a try? Which top tips do you have for me to try next time? And, most importantly, where are you off to on your next adventure?