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6 steps to perfect travelling with just a carry-on bag

Want to impress your friends with your travel savvy? Become a carry-on only traveller. Seriously, it will change your life. No more worrying about lost luggage, waiting for hours at baggage carousels or having to lug around big, heavy suitcases once you reach your destination. Travelling with just a carry-on will be your savior and can be easy if you follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Edit, edit, edit

The only way to make things work without checking your bag is to channel your inner minimalist. Really think about what your plan is each day and pack accordingly. Many of us are guilty of bringing along pieces that we never wear at home in the hopes that a beach or new city may be just the inspiration we need to finally break it in. But let’s be real, that’s not going to happen. 

  • Create a clothing itinerary that works through what you will wear each day and night of your trip.
  • Pack pieces that can be layered or worn multiple times (without ruining your pictures) and only give yourself maybe one or two extra options total – just in case.
  • Stick to a similar colour palette so that pieces can be mixed up if unexpected weather or occasions arise.

Remember, if you end up needing something more, it’s a perfect excuse to do a little retail sight-seeing. Checking a bag to come home is way less stressful than having a checked bag for your entire trip.

Step 2: Choose your liquids wisely

Not being able to squeeze all of your liquids into that tiny plastic baggie is the reason most people give up and opt to check a bag. Ask yourself: do you really need all those liquids? There’s a reason beauty brands have made an industry out of creating mini versions of their most popular products.

  • Pull together all of your liquid necessities so you can see what you’re dealing with. If you’re staying at a hotel, you likely don’t need shampoo, conditioner or body lotion (tip: hotels often list complimentary room toiletries on their website so check here before you start packing).
  • See if you can get a mini version or invest in some of those handy travel containers where you can transfer just enough liquid to get you through your trip. If you’re going on a beach vacation and are worried that one travel-sized container won’t be enough for your sunscreen, pack multiples.
  • You can swap out any liquids for alternatives. For example, moist wipes often don’t qualify as liquids and can be used instead of makeup remover or face wash.

Step 3: Limit shoes to three pairs

When it comes to shoes, three is the magic number. That gives you space for a pair of comfortable walking shoes, dressy shoes and a pair of specialty shoes (this includes athletic, hiking or water shoes). Save all other pairs for your next trip.

Step 4: The rolling method

Rolling your clothes like you’re back at summer camp will not only maximize the space in your carry-on but it also helps keep wrinkles at bay.

Step 5: Skip the bulky electronics

Before you throw in the clunky GoPro, SLR and multiple lenses, think about what you will actually need. These days, most people stick to using their smartphones when it comes to travel photography because of the convenience. Instead of bringing all of your devices, it may be worth investing in small accessories for your phone, like a waterproof case or specialty lenses that clip on and will take up no space in your suitcase.

Step 6: Invest in a good quality carry-on

Not all carry-on bags are created equally. Do a bit of research to find the perfect bag to suit your needs. Most airlines will allow a carry-on that measures around 9 by 15.5 by 21.5 inches (including handle and wheels) so pick a bag that maximizes on that. Some people find it useful to have lots of separate compartments while others prefer one big open space. Try out a few options in store to see what works best for you.