I write this post as recovering over-packer; someone that used to check a 50 pound suitcase on just about every trip, no matter how long or short. For me, going carry-on only has been liberating. Checking a bag is likely to add stress to your trip. You’re always left to worry if your bag is going to be lost or damaged.
Travel is best enjoyed when spontaneous and without the stress (and expense) of checking a bag, spontaneity only becomes easier. Here’s my 12 easy ideas for ditching the checked bag and going carry-on only:
Invest in a High Quality Carry-On (That Fits Too!)
Spend a little extra to invest in something nice that will be durable for years. There’s a lot of fantastic brands out there like Delsey, Rimowa, Travelpro, and Samsonite with something for every budget. Currently my go-to carry-on is The Bigger Carry-On by Away Travel. Also ensure to invest in a carry-on bag that’s airline approved to be carried on. Most airlines have maximum dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches. If you find a bag that’s within and inch or so those dimensions, you should still be fine. My Bigger Carry-On by Away Travel is 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 inches and has fit without issue, every time on a mainline aircraft.
Make a List
I know, travel is supposed to be spontaneous, but when it comes to packing light, it pays to be efficient. Making a list before you start packing keeps you on track for your packing goals and help get it done faster. When I make a list, it helps me stick to a plan and avoid throwing unnecessary extras into my bag.
Forget the Packing Cubes
While packing cubes claim to keep you organized, they end up taking up more space than they save. Sure, they keep your suitcase nice and compartmentalized, but they don’t save space.
Looking for Accommodations with a Washing Machine
I’m a big fan of Airbnb because of the variety of localized and unique options available around the world. Plus, most Airbnb homes come with many home-like amenities that you won’t find in a traditional hotel. Having a washing machine allows me to pack lighter as I do a quick load of laundry mid-trip. Just keep in mind that if there’s no dryer in the home, you’ll need to plan out a day or two of air dry time.
Stick to Essential Toiletries
Do you really need 3 varieties of moisturizer and 2 kinds of shampoo? Stick to the essentials and keep all liquids to 3 oz/100 ml or less. Look for travel size container as well. Often items like deodorant will contain liquid less than 3 oz but the packaging take up half your toiletry kit. It’s not a bad idea to invest in in a clear security-approved toiletry kit. That way you can breeze through security around the globe without issue.
Bring a Dirty Bag
Keep your shoes and dirty items separate from your clean clothes! A lightweight laundry bag will do just fine.
Prepare for Rain
Bring a lightweight rain jacket because well…..being wet sucks! But you can probably skip the umbrella. Cheap umbrellas can be bought almost anywhere but if you must bring one, invest in a small travel-sized umbrella that fits nicely in your carry-on bag.
Coordinate Your Outfits
Not for fashion’s sake but to be practical. If you only bring one pair of tan shoes, coordinate your shirts that match. This way you won’t need to worry about mismatching outfits or the bulk of bringing additional pairs of shoes. Go with the same idea for jackets. Bring one practical jacket that will go with all your outfits so you can pack less.
Pick Light Layers Over Heavy and Bulky
Sweaters, wool, and bulky coats take up a disproportionate amount of space. Of course in extreme cold, you can’t avoid bringing a heavy coat. But if possible, bring light layers of long sleeve shirts, lightweight rain jackets, or pullovers. Leave the bulky sweaters at home. Not only do they take up more space, they’re uncomfortable to travel in.
You Can (Almost) Always Buy Something You Forget
Travel can be unpredictable and it’s most enjoyed when spontaneous. Sometimes we’re human and we forget something. But don’t sweat it. Unless you’re climbing Mount Everest or trekking in Antarctica, there’s more than likely going to be stores where you can buy any essential. Just don’t forger your passport!
For most people, packing is likely one of the least favorite parts of traveling. Over time, it should get easier and you’ll learnt to become more efficient. As you travel more, you’ll learn how little you actually need on a trip. Soon you’ll realize that in fact, you won’t wear 14 outfits a day on your vacation.