Travel Packing Hacks – Ultimate Guide To Travelling With Only A Carry-on

Avoid crazy luggage costs! Avoid long waits at the luggage carousels! Never have anxiety about a lost luggage again! Get around at your destination with ease, without carrying a big luggage! All of this and more is possible if you follow these travel packing hacks. 

I have been travelling for over 15 years – with only a carry-on – and I know it may seem impossible, but I promise, it’s not! If you’re an avid traveler and want to learn how to pack more efficiently then you are in the right spot. 

Discover the best travel packing hacks in this guide. In this post I will share tips and tricks to ensure the packing process become less tedious and that you can travel efficiently with a carry-on.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through my link it will send a bit extra my way… at no extra cost to you!

Get your packing list here!

Need some help packing for your next trip? Grab this printable packing checklist with all the travel essentials to help with the process. Never forget to pack anything again. 

Why use these travel packing hacks and only travel with a carry-on?

  1. Never wait in long lines to drop off your luggage at the airport 
  2. Never stress about your luggage not arriving at your final destination
  3. Save time upon arrival and never wait for the luggage offloading
  4. Avoid airline checked baggage fees
  5. Improved mobility at destination and throughout trip

Here are some resources that can help you with your planning and packing process:

Digital & Printable Travel Packing checklist: Pack and Jet Checklist Template
Digital & Printable Travel Planners: Pack and Jet shop on Etsy
Travel Essentials: Shop all travel essentials from my Amazon shop

Most people take trips for 1-2 weeks, while others may only travel for a weekend and others for months at a time. I truly believe it is possible to travel with a carry-on no matter the length of the trip by packing . 

 

Here are the essential travel packing hacks to start with:

 

1. Choose the best carry-on for you

With airlines becoming more strict on the carry-on size, it is important to know exactly which carry-on is best for you. Not all carry-ons are the same. 

Make sure you choose a light carry-on that is good quality. Durability is very important as you don’t want the zipper or the wheels to break easily. Hard-case carry-ons are the best choice as they are usually made of lighter material and more durable.

Samsonite for me has been the most reliable brand throughout the years. Of course there are many companies with excellent quality products. You have to find what is best for you.

If you’re moving around quickly throughout your trip, going to multiple destinations in a short period of time, island-hopping or walking through cobble-stone streets/alleys and taking a lot of stairs, then a travel backpack (30-40L) might be best for you.

Note: Always double check the airline size limits on carry-on baggage from their website.

 

2. Maximize the use of your on-board personal item

Most airlines allow passengers to bring a personal item alongside their carry-on. This item can be a foldable backpackwhich can later be used for day trips, hiking or going to the beach at your destination. 

If you need to have a laptop, you can find a backpack that has a laptop pocket but still has space for other essential items. 

Use this travel packing hack to include items such as a foldable travel pillow, your electronics (which can be packed neatly into a travel pouch) and personal care items. 

Note: This item should be small enough that it fits under the seat in front of you.

travel couple at airport - backpack travel - wandrd backpack - travelling with carry-on
hiking backpack - travel essentials - carry-on travel

3. Use compression bags

One of the most important travel packing hacks is the use of compression bags. Of course tightly rolling your clothes allows you to take advantage of all the space in your suitcase, but compression packing cubes help maximize space even more. Packing cubes also help in organizing and compartmentalizing. 

If you need to pack bulkier items such as sweaters in the winter, it would be beneficial to invest in vacuum bags with a hand-held pump. This will allow you to shrink the size of the heavier clothing items.  

compression bags for travel- essential packing tips - travel light

4. Only pack the essential clothing items

Footwear

Footwear usually takes the most amount of space. It is a good idea to wear a pair of sneakers for daily walks. As your second pair, you can pack a flip-flops that will be worn at the beach or even in the hotel room. In the summer for the ladies, a pair of sandals that can be dressed up or down can be a great addition. If you pack one pair of either white, black or brown sandals, you can be sure that it will match all the outfits. 

A pair of light, waterproof shoes from Vessi can be the perfect item to wear on a trip or pack as your go-to-footwear.

To help with the packing process, wear your heaviest pair of shoes to the airport and pack the lighter pairs.

hiking shoes - running shoes - light travel
sandals packing light travel
Clothing

Pack only clothes that you can mix and match. This is your chance to embrace a more minimalist style. Stick to a colour scheme that can ensure each piece of clothing can be worn more than once. 

White t-shirts are sometimes the most versatile item. They can be worn with pants, shorts, under a cardigan or over a bathing suit. 

Rely on layers when travelling to colder destinations. This is when travelling with a carry-on becomes trickier. Colder destinations require you to have a jacket. A good option is to go with a packable light jacket, or a rain coat such as this Vessi waterproof jacket. 

Packing a scarf is always a good choice as it can be used as a warm layer and also convenient to have at religious sites where covering of shoulders or knees are required. 

My biggest tip here is to not pack jeans. Jeans are bulky and heavy and technically not the most comfortable piece of clothing to walk or travel in. Instead, go for cotton, cargo or chino pants.

how to pack travel essentials - how to travel with a carry-on

5. Invest in travel-sized toiletries 

Since you are not checking in any luggage, you have to ensure that your liquids do not surpass the 100mL allowance on flights. It is wise to invest in travel-sized versions of your favorite products or transfer your products into reusable containers. This will eliminate unnecessary weight and ensures you are compliant with the regulations. 

Ensure all your toiletry fits neatly into a small toiletry bag. The size can vary depending on how many items you are taking on your trip. For a larger bag, I recommend a foldable organizer. Or you can choose something with a softer, more flexible material

packing toiletries - packing light - travel essentials
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
travel size toiletry - packing light - travel with carry-on
Photo by pmv chamara on Unsplash

6. You can do laundry at your destination

This is an important tip to remember when you are going on a longer trip. You don’t always need to have one outfit for each of the days you are travelling. In many cases, there are options at the hotel for 24-hour laundry service. In some countries, such as those in Asia, laundry is much cheaper than expected and they provide a great service. 

Of course this becomes even easier if you are staying at a vacation rental, where they might have a washing machine and dryer for use.  

laundry during travel - packing travel essentials
Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

7. Prioritize essentials 

Last, but not least, don’t pack items you can buy at the destination. This includes toiletries that you might not specifically need. Hotels usually have the necessary items such as shampoo, conditioner, soap or body wash. 

Remember to only pack what you think are travel essentials. The best rule is to pack items for a week and work around those items for the rest of your time. 

Along with these travel packing hacks, I have created the list of essentials you should always pack. This will help you with every trip and ensure you don’t forget anything again.

With prices for baggage becoming more and more expensive and airlines limiting your carry-on size even further, now is as important a time as ever to start thinking about the travel essentials you must pack for your next trip using these travel packing hacks.

By following the above steps, you can stop over-packing and avoid the stress of baggage costs and lost luggage at your destination, especially when you have a connection. 

Hopefully, by following these basic steps you’ll find a way to make carry-on travel a breeze. I hope this makes the packing and travel process more efficient. 

Let me know in the comments if you have any tips and tricks that you use. 

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