suitcase - pink

How to Travel with just a carry-on

By: Kayla Farriss
If you’re on this site it means that you’ve been affected by the one virus I’ve never been able to detox: the travel bug. Whether it’s a weekend long get-away or a yearlong expedition I find myself gravitating towards planes, trains, and busses to get me out of town. However, with every little check on my bucket list, my bank account cries a little, and one of the biggest detriments to any travel plans can be the packing. Check-on bags can range from $50 to the high $100’s if you’re packing heavy, and some hostels have minimal space for those suitcases anyway. To help satisfy that travel bug, and to sit comfortably in your wallet, we’ve detailed how to travel with just a carry-on below.
First and foremost, start with the bag. Check in with your airlines maximum requirements to make sure your duffel bag will fit with ease in the overhead compartments, and utilize every inch they give you. If you’re on connecting flights or switching airlines, make sure to find a bag that follows both the rules to avoid any in-airport hassle. A trick I picked up early on is to wear as much as you can, (no, not like the brother from A Christmas Story) meaning travel with a jacket and the bulkiest shoes you want to take (sandals are easiest to cram into a bag). Wear the biggest items that would only disrupt the careful balance you’ve planned for in your carry on, and utilize any and all pockets your luggage comes with.
Second, roll don’t fold! You can save a lot more space by rolling your clothes rather than folding them into space-consuming rectangles. Rolling also creates the necessary pockets of space that are perfect for trinkets or small items you want to include. As a general rule, don’t pack those clothes you never wear but think “oh but this time I might.” Bring those tried and true items you could see yourself wearing for the duration of your stay without getting uncomfortable or tired of the look.
Something I learned from fellow travelers is that some airlines even offer one carry-on and one personal bag (such as a purse or gift bag), so I’ve gotten into the habit of packing a small hand held purse, or an empty backpack, just in case the memorabilia I pick up from my destination doesn’t fit into my carefully crafted carry-on. Another tip is to bring things that can master all trades. Such as Ziploc bags that can be dirty clothes carriers, or underwater cases. These items aren’t glamorous by any means, but can provide a wide variety of useful purposes.
The necessities:
Across the board these are things I couldn’t imagine traveling without just for the basic purpose of hygiene. If you’re going somewhere where your currency value is high, hold off on packing the things you can find in a drug store like shampoo, conditioner or toothpaste. However, if you’re going to a place that care products are relatively scarce, make sure to follow TSA’s guidelines on how much liquid you can bring onto a plane with you. This limit varies by country so be sure to check all the requirements of both the country you’re departing from, and the one you’re entering. If you’re staying in a hotel, don’t worry too much about toiletries and sheets as most are provided for you, however if you’re staying in a hostel do some light research as to what comes included. Sheets and towels may not be on the ‘complimentary’ list so depending on where you booked this list may vary. A basic checklist would include:
-passport and any necessary ID (you won’t get very far without these—- so don’t forget!)
-charger and phone
-hairbrush (as small as can still be useful)
– any medication you’ll need
Although I am not typically a dress-wearer myself, I find dresses and rompers the easiest to pack as it eliminates the worry about not packing one of the pieces to an outfit. Instead of packing both a shirt and shorts, opt for something light and easy that won’t make carrying your luggage around the airport a hassle. That’s not to say you shouldn’t bring shorts at all. I’ve made that mistake before, and hiking in a sundress (while good for the pictures) was horrible for the legs. I’d opt to bring one pair of athletic wear that you wouldn’t mind wearing and washing for a week.
For guys, go with light shorts or cargo pants (wear these to the airport— they’re bulky!) and a few T-shirts. I’d bring at least one T shirt you wouldn’t mind getting dirty in case your trip turns into an ‘off the beaten track’ kind of adventure. One of the easiest ways to cut down the number of clothes is to bring multi-purpose clothes. I use old T-shirts to sleep in rather than actual pajamas, and after a quick wash, they can be used for those outdoor adventure days. Don’t forget underwear or undergarments, and pack at least enough to make it to a laundry facility. The best advice is to follow the ‘wear one, wash one’ rule, although underwear is relatively easy to tightly pack.
This is the area I feel can be cut down the most. Maybe it’s because I usually over plan and end up bringing enough material to keep me occupied till 2050 (just in case), but media outlets can be some of the biggest space wasters. Especially with the capabilities of phones now that act as video and music players in one small rectangular screen—- other attention grabbers are essentially obsolete. Bring a light book if you feel the plane ride might be longer than the in-air nap you plan on taking, but always be open to embracing the place you’re staying in. If the language barrier is a problem, and it’ll be hard to find writing in your native tongue, bring something you wouldn’t mind reading more than once, or perhaps bring a small notepad to write in to get the creativity flowing.

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