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The Carry-On Only Challenge: Packing Light for Your Next Adventure

The Carry-On Only Challenge: Packing Light for Your Next Adventure

Travelling with just carry-on luggage is the best. It’s cheaper, easier, and incredibly liberating and you never need everything you pack in a big suitcase anyway.

But I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult!

You’ve got to be organised and ruthless when you’re packing carry-on only. You need to know exactly what you’ll be doing while you’re away so you know what clothes to pack and you can’t pack any ‘just in case’ items.

The majority of my trips are weekend breaks. I’m away for 2-3 nights and I usually travel wherever I can find the cheapest flights, often for under £50 return for my flight ticket. It’s for this reason I travel with carry-on only, because I can’t bring myself to pay more for my luggage than I have for my flight!

Over the years I have perfected the art of travelling with a carry-on only and today I’m sharing my top travel hacks if you want to travel with a carry-on only too.

10 travel hacks for travelling carry-on only

Check what size bag your airline allows

Every airline is different when it comes to carry-on luggage allowances. Some airlines allow a small suitcase, other airlines only allow a tiny bag.

Don’t struggle with a tiny, under-seat backpack (free on Ryanair) if you’re allowed a good-sized cabin suitcase (free on Jet2).

Check the dimensions of the bag you’re allowed and get one that is those exact dimensions to make the most of every centimetre you have.

I like Cabin Max for affordable yet good-quality cabin luggage.

My favourite Ryanair carry-on luggage is here and my favourite easyJet carry-on luggage is here.

Plan a rough itinerary

It’s much easier to know what to pack when you know what you’re doing. Plan a rough itinerary for your trip so you know which essentials you’ll need. If you know you’ll only go to the beach once you’ll only pack one swimsuit, but if you’re going every day you might want to pack more.

Don’t pack extra shoes

This isn’t always possible and can depend on the activities you’re doing while you’re away but, if you can, don’t take any additional shoes other than the pair you’re wearing.

I recently got the Elle Backstrap sandals from Keen and I love them. They’re comfy and supportive enough to walk in all day but they’re nice enough to wear in most (warm weather) situations. When the weather is cold I prefer to wear Dr Marten boots and when it’s in between I’ll wear trainers.

Decant liquids into tiny pouches and pots (not 100ml bottles)

You probably already decant your bigger toiletries into small 100ml bottles or at least buy travel miniatures for travel.

But to really save space in your carry-on I recommend decanting your liquids into pouches and tiny pots. With a pouch, you can squeeze out the air so it’s even smaller than a bottle and some pots can be tiny. Eye cream for example can go into a tiny 10ml pot rather than a chunky 100ml one!

Read more: How to pack your toiletries for travel

Plan your outfits

Don’t pack random clothes, pack outfits. Having your outfits fully planned stops you from over-packing because you know exactly what you’re wearing and when and you won’t start stuffing ‘just in case’ items into your carry-on bag!

For example, don’t pack two pairs of jeans, two tops and two jumpers. Pack a ‘hiking outfit’ and a ‘fancy dinner outfit’ and a ‘sightseeing outfit’. 

This will ensure your clothes all match together and it stops you from packing that skirt you love but you didn’t actually pack a top or shoes or the correct underwear to match.

Wear your bulkiest items on the plane (even if you plan to take them off as soon as you sit down)

This especially applies to winter travel when you’ll have bulky coats, jumpers, trousers and boots. Wear them all on the plane to save space in your bags.

It does apply to warmer travels too and don’t be afraid to board the plane with lots of layers! You can take everything off as soon as you sit down!

I often like to travel with a foldable tote bag so I can stuff my jumpers into it while I’m at the airport. Then put them on to board the plane and take them straight back off again!

Wear the same trousers

For many of us, the bulkiest items we pack are our trousers so save space in your carry-on by not taking any extra trousers.

I know it feels a bit wrong but no one is going to notice/care if you’re wearing the same trousers for 2-3 days. I like to wear black jeans when I do this as they don’t show any marks if they get dirty and they’re fine for almost all situations.

Don’t be afraid to re-wear

Speaking of wearing the same trousers for your whole trip, don’t be afraid to wear the same thing again and again. You’re on holiday, not a fashion show. If you’d wear the same things at home then do the same on holiday.

This is something I did when I was backpacking in Asia. I ended up wearing the same outfit almost every day and it was so liberating that I stopped caring if anyone noticed.

DON’T use packing cubes

Contrary to popular belief, packing cubes doesn’t save space in your carry-on.

Packing cubes keep things organised but they rarely save any space. It’s better to not use them and squeeze smaller items into the gaps between larger items.

Make the most of your coat pockets

And finally, if you’re still short on space in your carry-on, use your coat pockets! If you’ve got big pockets you can get loads in there so make the most of them!

There you have it, my top tips to pack light for your next adventure. If you have any more tips to add to the list then please do share them in the comments below!