Take a Flight With Only Carry-On

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We have traveled to many places in the world and I can think of only one time that we checked in our luggage. We went to Bhutan and we had to pack walking sticks – not allowed in the cabin. Otherwise, I have managed to pack us for ten-day trips to Spain, Hawaii, South America, and Uganda. Name it and I will fit all we need into carry-on. Let me explain why carry-on is so important when you travel and then I will share with you how you can pack for it.

First, when you have carry-on you never have to worry about the airline losing your luggage – unless you leave it behind when you pick up your Starbucks and walk to the gate!

Second, when you have carry-on you can move from flight to flight without an issue if there is a problem. Once you check in a bag for your flight, you are committed to that flight. If the flight is delayed or cancelled you have to wait until you receive word of your new flight or wait for them to unload your luggage. With carry-on, if your flight or connecting flight is cancelled or delayed, you can just walk yourself to a gate and rebook onto another flight. I remember innumerable occasions when we left frustrated passengers in the dust as we boarded a flight happily carrying our carry-on.

Third, when you have carry-on it forces you to not over pack for the trip. One of the biggest struggles for most packers is editing. I always ask myself -“Am I really going to wear four pairs of shoes in the three days in Paris?” or “Am I going to need those three sweaters for four days in London?” “Do I really need my pillow?”

There are three simple principles – lots of play clothes, not a lot of evening wear and three to four pairs of shoes max. Start out writing down what you will be doing on each day. I know this sounds like a drag, but if you write down what you will be doing, you will get a better sense of what you will need. For instance, the biggest mistake everyone makes is shoes. There seems to be this idea that you have to pack shoes for every occasion. How many pairs of shoes do you wear in an average week? I would say two maybe three if you can wear a pair of sneakers. So, you probably only need to pack one pair of dress shoes, one pair of day/walking shoes and a pair of sneakers or boots. Pack the dress shoes and sneakers and wear the bulkiest of the shoes onto the plane. See, your bag is already lighter!

Next, look closely at how much evening wear (for me that means nice jeans and a top) you are going to need. An example for me is three or four pairs of jeans and tops for 10 days, 2 to 3 for 4-7 days. How can I last 10 days with three or four? Most of the time, when you get back to your hotel from a day of exploring you are going to clean up from the day (I hope) and change into your evening clothes. Now for me, that means dinner and maybe a show. So, I’m wearing these clothes for maybe four or five hours? How dirty can my jeans get in four or five hours? I have been packing this way for years and I have never run into a problem with clean clothes for the evening. Also, I have never been told I smell….I’m just saying.

Now, packing for a hiking trip may seem like it takes more clothes, but if you wear the light quick drying type of clothing, it’s certainly easier to pack.

You will notice in the video that we pack a little backpack. This is another one of those secrets. Packing a small backpack allows you the freedom to have a small day pack while you are sight seeing and not have to worry about having it to count as a personal item when carrying on.

The most important piece to focus on is that you don’t wear everything in your closet when you are home, so you don’t need to bring your closet with you when you travel. The old saying – “keep it simple” applies to packing.

Like I said before, for me evening wear is a pair of nice jeans and a top. If you do need to go fancy – there is plenty of room to dress it up if you have to!! Most good quality suitcases (I use the Briggs and Riley expandable wide-body carry on) have a separate place for hanging clothes or dresses. Hanging clothes fit into the top on the bag and seal flat. I am convinced that this will not impact your carry-on capability! Dress shoes? Put them in a shoe bag and they can be tucked into the suitcase or your second carry-on piece. The second piece is also a Briggs and Riley and it’s called a Cabin Duffle. This is the bag I use to carry our shoes, our toiletries and personal items such as our computers, reading material and items that we want to be able to access quickly, i.e. passports, cash, medications, etc…

10 Days in Belize – Carry-On!!!

So, to sum up this magical way of packing – edit your shoes, plan your clothing for day and night and DON’T BRING YOUR PILLOW!!!


  • Reply
    August 21, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    haha – okay okay I’ll leave my pillow at home! Sarah this is brilliant!

    • Reply
      August 22, 2019 at 12:46 pm

      I am a convert .

      We will not travel with our pillows ever again !

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