Travel Travel Tips

How To Travel Abroad With Just a Carry-On Bag

January 10, 2019

carry on packing

The ultimate guide to traveling with only a carry-on bag, because we’d much rather use that extra bag fee money for some yummy cocktails or a beautiful castle tour.

So you’ve booked your trip, and you’re probably flying with one of those super cheap airlines that charge for a checked bag. It’s the best way to travel… that is until you have to actually pack a week’s worth of stuff in a small carry-on. It’s not an easy endeavor, but I’ve got a few tips to make even a higher maintenance traveler pack comfortably for a trip using just a carry-on bag!

1. Opt for hard shell.

Opt for hard shell luggage and not soft. Yes, it doesn’t stretch as much, but it’s still so much better. Hard shell will protect your belongings and withstand lots of travel for much longer.

2. Get the right wheels

Make sure your carry-on has wheels, and not the ones where it has be on an angle to move. The best carry-ons are the ones where it can sit upright and be pushed to move. Instead of pulling it behind you, it can glide beside you. After an hour of pulling luggage, you’ll notice the difference.

3. Plan your outfits

Plan out what you’re going to wear while you’re packing, and pack basics that can be worn multiple ways.

4. Buy spray deodorant/Hand wash clothes

It never came to this for me, but if you’re worried about how clean your clothes are after a couple of uses, these are good solutions. Bring along a plastic or fabric bag to store dirty clothes. This will help keep your clean clothes smelling fresh.


5. Roll your clothes

Everyone has a different “technique”, but I swear by rolling clothes up. It doesn’t wrinkle and is great for utilizing space.

6. Put socks in shoes (and limit shoes)

This is just one example of using every bit of space in your bag. If anything is hollow or has space within it, use it. And speaking of shoes, bring a maximum of two. Wear a pair and pack a pair if you really think you’ll need them.

7. Wear bulkier items

I said the same thing in my first post about packing for studying abroad, but it’s worth repeating. Coats, big boots, bulky sweaters – wear them!

8. Bring travel-sized cosmetics

Buy reusable travel bottles instead of the tiny brand shampoos and body washes. A lot of them will also come with a TSA approved clear cosmetic bag. They also have plastic baggies when you go through security. I actually bulk collect those and use them to organize my bag. Those plastic bags hold up better than the one I bought at the store!

9. Don’t ignore your personal item

Go to the maximum size for your personal item. Don’t just bring your tiny handbag. I have a large hershel backpack that is the perfect size! There’s room for my laptop, cameras, purse, and anything else I may need to pack and keep accessible.

10. Use your pockets

Put your passport, wallet, lip balm, etc in your pockets instead of your personal item. It frees up some space, and it keeps those things at peak accessibility.

The general takeaway here is this: utilize every bit of space, from pockets to empty shoes. 

Coming Up Next:

How to Travel Abroad as a Picky Eater (or with a limited diet): Part 2

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