I used to take great pride in travelling super light. Friends and colleagues couldn’t believe their eyes when when they saw I could travel with only a carry on bag. But once I learned how to pack light for a weekend, I realised the same rules applied to almost any length of stay. Especially if you are staying in one place with the same weather temperature throughout. The warmer the place, the easier it is!
Since having a baby, my light and breezy travel habits have gone by the wayside, but I want you, dear reader (if you are travelling without a little one) to benefit. It’s very liberating to pack light and actually use everything in your bag, rather than finding you’ve dragged around double what you need.
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1. Choose wisely if you only want to travel with a carry on bag
You may already have the perfect carry-on but if you are looking to buy a new one, choose wisely. My carry-on is actually a little heavier than I’d like and that means precious wasted kilos before I’ve even put anything inside! You want a sturdy but light bag as airlines really vary in their requirements. The objective is to be allowed to take your bag on board without paying extra fees (or having it taken off you last minute and stowed). Check some airline weight and measurement requirements here but double check with your airline upon booking, as they can change frequently. A great carry-on is the Flymax which comes in various colours.
2. Double check the personal items allowance
The personal item allowance can be quite different for each airline so do double check before you start packing. Often airlines allow you to take a laptop bag and/or handbag on top of your cabin bag so ensure you max it out. You can load up your smaller bag so you have everything you need for the flight while your main bag is stored in the overhead locker.
3. Be strategic with your liquids
Most airlines restrict you to one little plastic bag with each liquid limited to 100ml. This means you have to be creative. Strip down to what you really need and decanter your full size items into small travel bottles. Or buy travel sized products. You could even take a non-liquid version of products like a solid shampoo bar. Remember you will have basics like soap in a hotel or can buy things there. You could even buy essential full size items like suntan cream at the airport when you’ve cleared security. But bear in mind you won’t be able to bring any full sized leftovers back.
4. Roll, squeeze and cram into every corner
Try rolling your items rather than folding them. This not only saves space but also means your clothes will be less creased. Take advantage of every gap and corner you can find. Shove socks and light items into shoes and any crevices available. It feels a hassle to roll but it’s well worth it to pack more in. It’s a crucial step if you want to travel with only a carry on bag.
5. Pack for a few days, or a week at most
I’ve found that it doesn’t really matter whether I am going away for two days or two weeks; I can fit everything into a cabin bag because you only need a few day’s worth of clothes. For work trips, I would use the hotel laundry service but if I was travelling on a budget, there is always a cheap local laundry service around. You could even hand wash a couple of items to keep you going. Try to pack light layers and clothes that dry fast.
6. Buy or borrow what you need once there
If you are visiting friends or family, you could always borrow bulkier items like towels or warmer, thicker clothing. If the trip is going to extend and it gets colder, you could get a couple of things and pass them on to friends/family, donate or have them packed and sent on separately. I tend to check beforehand what is going to be available. Hotels always have hairdryers and other things like an iron, if you ask at reception.
7. Limit your shoes
Shoes take up a lot of space and you will often find you don’t need more than two or three pairs. I tend to take trainers or comfy walking shoes, sandals or flip-flops, and then maybe a smarter pair of shoes that pack well. Wear your heaviest, bulkiest shoes to the airport (as well as the clothes that will take up the most room such as jeans and a jacket).
8. Go light and digital with your gadgets
Gone are the days of having to carry around multiple heavy books! Load up your Kindle or iPa/tablet reading application with enough to keep you entertained. Go for light wireless headphones and other compact gadgets like a super small speaker if you know you need it. Just don’t forget your charging cables and adapter plug.
9. Share the load with others
If you are travelling with colleagues, friends or family, make sure you don’t duplicate on certain items and share the load. Someone can bring the gadgets while another brings the hair tools! This works particularly well if you are travelling with a friend with similar style and needs. You can then swap accessories and share products.
10. Check the packed weight before you go and re-assess
You might be surprised by the weight of your bag after cramming everything in. It’s best to identify this in good time and not be surprised at the airport! It’s also an opportunity to reassess if you’ve been strict enough with yourself or if you should be leaving out a couple more items. Challenge yourself to use less and manage without certain items while on a trip.
Now you can travel with only a carry on bag!
I decided to stop checking in my luggage whenever possible after both my own and my mum’s luggage went missing, forever, on separate trips. I felt I couldn’t trust my baggage out of my sight anymore. Once I got to grips with ways to travel light and keep things compact and cabin sized, travel became less stressful. And of course, you save so much time when you don’t need to check or wait for your luggage the other side! Try travelling with only a carry on bag with these tips and reap the benefits.