As part of our  quest to explore travel bargains, today we look at the pros and cons of packing light and using a carry-on bag only.

For a start, it requires packing discipline, there’s no doubt about that.

But it also reduces baggage hassles and costs; and ends the need for waiting around  airport carousels forever wondering whether your luggage will arrive.

As backpackers have long known, having only a carry-on bag  saves money with budget airlines and also eases handling problems if you are catching public transport; coaches; Uber; taxis; or hire cars.

But is it for you?


The big question is whether you feel the packing discipline involved is worth the benefits of travelling with a small bag only.

It is certainly not for everyone, but it’s a nice feeling to arrive at an airport, grab your bag and head out the door while the others wait for checked-in bags that may or may not arrive

Packing tips

However, here are a few of our basic requirements for trying carry-on only:


Carefully check carry-on bag size and weight requirements for your airlines.  This is vital as the allowances may vary from airline to airline.

Ensure each airline you are using allows a personal item (handbag etc) as well as a carry-on bag. We once struck a hurdle when easyJet refused to allow Sue’s handbag on a flight from London Gatwick to Copenhagen (the handbag wasn’t even as full as usual). This was a ‘first’ for us, but Sue simply put the handbag in her carry-on luggage and all was fine.

So check your airlines to ensure that each passenger is allowed a personal item (handbag, laptop bag etc) as well as a carry-on bag. If so, make maximum use of the personal item.

Go digital

Paper can be particularly heavy, so make maximum use of electronic travel aids.There are some wonderful travel planning apps and incredible online assistance services for travellers.  We are hoping to review these in the near future, so keep watching. However, suffice to say for us anyway, the days of heavy paper itineraries, maps, travel guides etc are passing fast

Most airline tickets – and, in fact, tickets for all transport and just about everything else – can now be stored on electronic devices, which means you need only swipe your iPhone at the gate before getting onboard. If you intend doing a lot of bus, train, ferry and coach travel etc check whether these tickets can be downloaded and stored in advance.


Check the weather

Carefully check weather forecasts for your holiday locations.

For Europe in particular, we use the modern Norwegian forecast service

Line up a washer

Arrange your holiday so that you will have access to a washing machine, laundry or laundromat. This means that you can take less clothing. Simple.

Don’t pack for worst-case scenarios. You can always buy. If there’s a chance you won’t wear it, don’t take it.

Try pants that convert to shorts and coats that convert to layers.


Consider wearing one pair of shoes while flying –  and pack only one other pair (go on – you can do it)

For cobblestoned areas, avoid heels.

Roll your clothes instead of folding them. Vacuum bags make things heavier.

Use T-shirts for layers.

If you are going on a cruise or a place where you may need formal wear, check to see if it can be hired for the night, rather than lugging it with you.

Stuff socks and underwear inside your spare pair of shoes.

Wear heaviest clothes (jeans etc) on the plane.

Consider wilderness wash in place of shampoo, conditioner, soap and detergent. However, it must be in clear plastic containers meeting security requirements (check this online with your airlines)


Use a portable backup battery and universal adapter for iphone/ipad, instead of a tangle of chargers


We put medicines in a clear container, photograph original pill boxes and carry scripts on us. However, it is smart to get a doctor’s advice first.

Beware of underwire bras. Sue has set off airport metal detectors, but that’s another story for another day.

One comment

  1. Great article! I love travelling only with carry on luggage. By far the biggest benefit is knowing there is no chance of your bag being lost, and a close second on the list of benefits is being able to get to the quarantine queue ahead of most who are waiting for their checked bags. It also means you are not lugging around several bags from airport to hotel etc. There are definitely a few things to remember though when travelling only with carry-on. As you have noted, need to remember no liquids / creams etc greater than 100ml and to put toiletries in a clear bag. Also need to remember not to take nail scissors, tweezers – pretty much any pointy metal thing.


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