Travel the World with One Carry-On Bag

Anyone who has spent any amount of time talking world-travel with me has probably heard my #1 piece of advice: try to travel with just a carry-on. If you pack correctly and make a few adjustments to how you travel it’s really very easy.

When I lived in France as a college student, my friends and I traveled mostly on budget airlines Ryan Air and Easy Jet. Even now as a professional young adult I still am willing to use budget airlines to make my trips more affordable. Traveling on budget airlines means that you pay extra for everything, including extra weight in your carry-on over 15 lb, your checked back up to 30 lb, and and extra weight in your checked bag over 30 lb. For comparison’s sake, on regular non-budget U.S. flights there is usually no limit to the weight of your carry-on, and even if you are paying for your checked bag, it can weigh up to 50 lb.

Having traveled multiple times in Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia for 1-2 weeks using just a 10-15 lb carry-on, I know it is possible to pack everything you need in a small, lightweight bag to avoid extra fees. Here are my top 10 tips for packing just one carry-on for a long trip:

  1. When deciding which clothes to ditch while packing, leave the heaviest behind, you probably won’t miss them!
  2. You only need one pair of jeans and one set of pajamas for your entire trip.
  3. Pack as many non-liquid toiletries as possible: I love the solid shampoo and conditioner bars by Lush Cosmetics and Proactiv’s bar of face soap for exactly this purpose!
  4. I know the general travel knowledge is to roll clothes to pack them. Depending on the bag, I’ve always found I can fit more by packing clothes extremely flat with minimal folding, and sticking things like socks and underwear in the space formed by things like shoes and swimsuits.
  5. If you are bringing shoes with laces (like sneakers), tie them to the outside of your bag to not take up space inside.
  6. Wear your heaviest clothes and shoes on the plane.
  7. Wear or carry all your outerwear onto the plane (jackets, sweatshirts, scarves).
  8. Hold heavy books, iPads, etc casually in your arms as your bag is weighed at the airport if you need extra weight space. You can put these things back in later before going through security.
  9. Re-wear outfits if/when it makes sense: you’re never going to see the people you encounter on your travels again, and friends back home looking at your photos won’t notice or care about a repeat outfit.
  10. Plan to mail things back home if necessary, including heavier clothes and shoes if you are traveling from a cooler to a warmer climate, and souvenirs you don’t have to have with you on your journeys

Finally, I highly recommend investing in a good expandable carry-on so you can pack to go on your trip with it closed, then expand it for all your extra purchases and lazy-packing on your way back!

N.B. This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase an item through one of the links in this article, I receive compensation at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Travel advice on how to travel for weeks with only one carry-on bag.

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