Ever traveled with only carry-on and no checked luggage? I’ve traveled with both on multiple occasions but have lately started to strongly favor carry-on-only traveling even for trips that span several weeks.
Over the last couple years, I learned to limit myself to the most essential things. There is no room for ‘that might be good to have’. No ‘this could be useful in this one specific situation that likely will never occur’. And most definitely no ‘I’ll take it with me just to be on the safe side’.
I have dragged along bags stuffed with unnecessary things enough times to have learned my lesson. But others haven’t had the same experience yet, so traveling with only a carry-on can seem daunting.

Overpacking is something that happens to everyone. Oftentimes you even know you’re doing it and still can’t stop yourself. You know you won’t need five shirts but what’s one more shirt, right? You also know that you don’t need a flashlight as long as you have your phone, but it’s so small and light-weight, so it doesn’t really make a difference, right? And what if the hotel doesn’t have a hair dryer, better bring your own! Right!? No. If you can’t combine it with the rest of your packed wardrobe, leave it at home. If you can replace it with something else you’re bringing, leave it at home. Just leave it. If you end up missing something – there are stores everywhere in the world. Everywhere. Trust me. And if you can’t find your brand, or your size, or your style – then see it as an opportunity to expand your horizon. Wherever you’re going, people there have been surviving just fine. Keeping an open mind and positive attitude is the key. And reading labels. Always be sure to read the labels on local products. Or you might end up buying whitening lotion in Asia when all you want is getting a tan.

For those unsure about luggage size, here are my favorite reasons or traveling with only a carry-on:

  1. It saves time | No more arriving way too early at the airport because the check-in counter closes an hour before boarding. And no more waiting at the baggage claim long after your flight has landed.
  2. No lost luggage | No more standing around, watching the baggage belt go round and round, hoping to see your suitcase come through those plastic flappy thingies any. Minute. Now. No more watching other people walking away with their luggage while you don’t even know whether your bag made it to the new airport. With carry-on luggage you always know that it is 100% with you on your flight and won’t get lost between one airport and the next. This is especially reassuring when it comes to short flight connections.
  3. Easier to move around | If you’re only traveling with a small carry-on suitcase or a backpack, it’s much easier to maneuver in unknown surroundings. You won’t have to drag around heavy luggage – there is a big difference between carrying 20 vs 40 pound, especially when being on foot. You also won’t need to part from your luggage during rides on taxis, buses, trains, etc.
  4. Always ready | You always have everything with you. And the contents of carry-ons are usually easier to sort through even if you need something that’s at the very bottom of the bag. With checked luggage, however, you either don’t have it with you (after check-in at the airport and during the flight) or there tend to be too many items to sort through, especially when in a public area where you don’t feel like taking everything out of the bag for everyone to see.
  5. Buy local products | Trust that wherever you’re traveling, the locals use similar products. Again, there are pharmacies, drug stores, supermarkets, clothing stores, etc. everywhere in the world. You might not recognize a brand or it might end up tasting different to what you’re used to, but you’ll survive and might just end up finding a product you love. Like the eyelash curler I found on a trip seven years ago and still use.
  6. Put more thought into your luggage | If you don’t have as much space, you will inevitably put more thought into your packing list. You will look up the weather and the temperatures. You will look into the mosquito situation and local customs for dressing. You will make sure that all your clothing items can be combined with each other. And that all your shoes are appropriate for the trip. And do you really need the big sleeping bag or is the silk one enough? And what about an adapter for your plugs? And can you use the same charging cable for all your electronics or do you really need different ones? What about plastic bottles, jackets, swimwear, towels?
    Make sure your list of items matches the particular trip. And don’t be afraid of leaving things at home. It’s all part of the adventure that is traveling.
  7. More space for souvenirs | If you already leave your home using 100% of the allowed weight of your luggage, you limit yourself when it comes to spending ridiculous amounts of money on souvenirs. But if you travel with carry-on only, then you have 100% of the checked luggage free for new things you want to take home with you.
  8. Save money | While most airlines don’t charge extra for checked luggage, some do. And it’s becoming more and more common, especially with budget airlines. So why not save money by deciding against checked luggage.

I travel with only a carry-on whenever possible and it doesn’t matter if the trip is one day or several weeks. How about you? Also an avid fan of carry-on traveling? Or maybe you would like to defend checked luggage? Let me know in a message or down in the comments!

PS: The longest I traveled with a carry-on was one month. But hopefully I’ll get to top that in the future.