How to travel with just a carry on bag

How to travel with just a carry on bag

Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati

With changes to airlines’ allowed baggage and the crackdown on over-sized carry-on bags, it’s harder to pack what you need for vacation and stay within required limits. Here’s how to travel with just a carry on bag and shorten your vacation packing list to fit everything you’ll need for a week away.

Though baggage rules differ between airlines – and sometimes destinations – the standard weight allowed for carry-on bags is approximately 22lbs, with one carry-on allowed and one personal bag per person.

If you’re going on an all-inclusive vacation, you don’t need several outfits for each day: you’re going to be spending most of your time bouncing between the beach, pool, and bar. With proper packing techniques and a smaller vacation packing list, you can get away with just one carry-on bag for your vacation to eliminate worries about lost baggage and unexpected fees at the airport.

1. Do your background work

Pack the essentials first so you don’t forget anything important — and so you have time to do laundry or go out shopping for those important items (you don’t want to arrive on the beach and realize you forgot sunscreen and aloe!). Research what amenities your hotel includes with your room fee: if you don’t need to pack a bottle of shampoo because the hotel supplies soap and shower supplies, don’t waste your space and weight! If you are packing shampoo, squeeze the amount you’ll need for your trip into a smaller bottle rather than packing your large at-home bottle. Be sure to double-check your airline’s regulations for liquids and gels to ensure you’re within those limits and won’t slow down the security process while boarding.

2. Include a few items for different temperatures and forecasts

Your vacation packing list should always show you’re prepared for anything that may come your way. I’m always cold on the plane and am most comfortable in a sweater, long pants, and socks. Wear your bulkier or heavier items to the airport rather than packing them away – a light rain jacket will not only protect you during a storm, but can also act as a pillow for the plane when folded up. If you’re taking several pairs of shoes, wear your biggest on the plane: ballet flats and flip-flops take up less room in your luggage than a pair of running shoes or hiking boots for excursions off the resort.

3. Take advantage of your personal carry-on item

Pack as much as you can into your purse! Not only will this save room in your carry-on for clothes, but it will also allow you to store your carry-on in overhead bins and not have to worry about digging it out for a book, pack of gum, or anything out you may need during the flight. Store your hair brush, a book, sunscreen and sunglasses in your purse so you’re ready to go as soon as you land.


4. Coordinate everything you pack so you don’t need as much

If you plan on taking several items in the same colour, you’ll have more flexibility to mix-up outfits…and need fewer items to do so! Remember, you don’t need a new outfit for every day and night while on vacation. Stick with light weight clothes for during the day to wear over your bathing suit: one pair of shorts can be worn several days with a different top to change up your look. Choose footwear that goes with everything: one pair of flip flops, a pair of heels for the ladies going to the disco, and a pair of flats or comfier shoes that won’t be too hot or too cool. If you’re planning an excursion, you may want to replace a pair of flats with a good pair of walking shoes with more support. Know your trip and what sort of activities you’ll be doing before you start packing: don’t pack under the guise of “I might need this for…” Know exactly what your week entails and know what you need to cater to that. If you wear makeup, you might be surprised how much room your beauty supplies take up in your bag: cut-back for your vacation and understand you don’t want to cake your face while sweating in the sun and splashing in the pool. Take your basics and leave everything else at home — your skin (and baggage weight!) will thank you for it.

5. Organize your suitcase

Don’t leave any space in your suitcase empty: fill shoes with socks or underwear, and put heavier, hard items on the bottom so clothes can be placed around them, filling those air pockets. Lay out your clothes, and roll them together into logs: you can pack these tighter than simply folding and stacking shirts and your clothes will come out a little less wrinkly! Keep copies of your passport zipped in the outer pockets of your carry-on luggage for easy-access, and toiletries and liquids in Ziploc bags between your clothes so they have padding and won’t burst open. Make sure your liquids, though protected, are easily accessible for the security line to ensure smooth sailing when boarding. Also, if you have a carry-on you’ll be rolling through an airport, pack your heaviest items (shoes, etc.) at the bottom end of your luggage where the wheels are: having the weight at the bottom of your bag will make transportation easier as your bag won’t be as awkward when rolling on uneven surfaces.

Before setting out for your vacation, don’t forget to make a list of what you need to take and set out your travel documents so they’re not left behind. Travelling light and only using carry-on luggage is possible, and will make your airport time run smoothly without extra security and checked baggage lines.

Have any tried and true tips on how to travel with just a carry on? Share them below!

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