Traveling with Just a Carry-On Bag

My Carry-On Luggage

I’ve written before about traveling with just a carry-on bag. In fact, in one post, I explain how I traveled through Europe for three weeks with just a carry-on. Things have changed a little in the airline industry, so I can’t always travel as I’d like.

Why My Preferred Method Doesn’t Work

My preferred method is to travel with just a carry-on. Even though I pack in this smaller suitcase, I may not be able to carry it on the plane. The size of my carry-on bag has never been a problem, but I have had trouble with its weight if I pack it too tight.

Rolling my Clothes

In order to fit as much as possible in my suitcase, I use the clothes rolling method.  It’s self-explanatory, but I roll each piece of clothing tightly before placing it in the suitcase. It took me awhile to believe that rolling could make that much of a difference, but it can. I can easily fit in enough clothes for a week and a half or more. (Wash them once and I can go three weeks).

For international travel – which I do often – there are different rules for carry-on luggage, depending on your choice of airline. United and Delta Airlines have no weight limit, while American allows a generous 40 pounds. Some international airlines, however, have a limit of as low as 15 pounds.

It is important to check the requirements for the airline you will be flying. In 2018, I booked a flight through United, so I wasn’t concerned. This flight, though, was a code-share and I actually flew on Austrian Airlines. Austrian has a much stricter carry-on policy, only allowing bags up to 16 pounds. Since I had not researched carefully, I reluctantly checked my bag.

What I Can Do Instead
Luggage Scale

Since that trip, I have acquired a luggage scale. Instead of trying to weigh my luggage on my bathroom scale, I can hang it from the luggage scale and get a more accurate weight.

The Carry-On Bag I am Considering

I love my carry-on suitcase, but I’m considering getting an even lighter-weight model. I’ve had this bag for several years and it’s finally starting to show its age.  On my recent trip, one of the wheels developed a crack. Before my next trip, I will either have to replace the wheel or replace the luggage.

In addition to the carry-on, I take a personal item – a purse, a day-pack, or a small backpack. If I pack strategically, by putting smaller heavy items in the personal bag, I can shift some of my weight away from the carry-on. I can put my portable battery, my camera, my phone, and tablet in the personal bag. In addition, the bag with my liquids can often weigh more than expected, so I could move it, too.

Lightening My Load

Every time I pack for a trip, I try to see if I can pack even lighter. Recently, I purchased some new travel sized bottles for my shampoo and body wash.  A friend once told me she couldn’t travel without her large bottle of shampoo, because she uses so much when she washes her hair. I suggested that she buy a travel sized bottle, fill it up, and see how long it lasts while at home. It will likely last through her vacation. A full small bottle weighs much less than a full large one.

My wardrobe includes several hand-knit shawls and scarves. I need to be careful when I travel to cool or cold climates, that I do not get carried away and bring them all.  Many are bulky. Heavy sweaters are also bulky. It’s better to pack a few thin sweaters – or shawls – that can be layered.

DSLR Camera, Lenses, Tripod
and Other Accessories

On my last couple trips, I’ve left my DSLR camera at home. It is very heavy – and my phone takes great pictures.  The latest phone models take great photos and include up to three different photo lenses. My DSLR plus three lenses would weigh close to three pounds.

When I’m Not Flying

When I travel, I don’t always fly – sometimes I drive. Do I still pack just a carry-on when I’m driving?  For my clothes, yes.  I don’t even own a larger suitcase anymore so I don’t have a choice.

Not Exactly a Trunk, this rental car has a Cargo Area with a Security Shade

When I’m driving, though, and have a lot more room to pack things, I do generally pack more. I don’t pack more clothes, but I pack other things. If I’m visiting my daughters, I bring things to them. If I’m traveling alone, I might bring more knitting projects. I don’t always do activities in the evening by myself, but rather spend the evening knitting in my hotel room.

Since there is so much room in the car, I have a tendency to throw in items that I might use. They aren’t absolutely necessary, but since I have the room…

Traveling with a Carry-On

I will still attempt to travel with only a carry-on and personal item when I fly.  Not only does it make it easier to check in at the airport, but it makes a huge difference when traveling in general.  I hauled a too large and heavy suitcase up the train station steps one too many times. (One time should have been too many).

Do you travel with just a carry-on? Have you tried it?  If you haven’t traveled with only a carry on, try it sometime. You might like it more than you think.


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