Packing for vacation is a stressful endeavor.
What will you NEED? Will you find time to work out? Do you need something fancy or can you make due with only casual? What if it rains the whole time?
Inevitably, all of these questions will lead to over packing. A large suitcase full to the brim (overweight which means extra fees!) as well as a large carry on stuffed with your “just in case” items, 3 books, and all the technology you just can’t leave home without (even though you really should).
Then you arrive on vacation and only use about 1/4 of it all, never even look at your laptop, and don’t manage to get that workout in.
In the last year or so, I’ve started to embrace something I used to look down on; it took me by surprise but now it’s my preferred way to travel: Carry On Only.
As it turns out just because you have less space doesn’t mean you can’t travel effectively. For most trips a carry on bag will suit you just fine, while also saving you money and time at the airport (no baggage lines or fees!).
Of course not all vacations are created equal, sometimes you really do need a suitcase (or two!) but there are 4 distinct scenarios when travelling carry on is really the BEST option:
1) When you have a bunch of connections/layovers
The last thing you want is to be stressed out about picking up your bag and checking it onto a new flight, or worried that the airport isn’t going to get it on the right plane. Save yourself the headache!
2) When you’re traveling 5 days or less
Even if you’re destined for colder climates, you don’t need that much stuff for 5 days. Pack smart and a carry on vacation is WELL within your grasp! In cold weather you might need a good thermal flask to keep your tea or coffee warm.
3) When you’re traveling to warm destinations
Bikini weather = carry on weather! Lets face it, summer clothes take up less room. Most of my summer items fit into a single drawer in my bedroom, so they surely fit into my carry on!
4) When you’re traveling for work
If you’re hitting the runway and then dashing off to a meeting, the last thing you want is to be waiting around for your luggage. Plus how much stuff do you really need in this scenario?
So now we know WHEN to carry on, but how do we do it right? I mean you don’t want to show up with the wrong things (or not enough things!)
Here are my tips for effectively packing your carry on luggage
First things first, check the hotel amenities. Does you room come with shampoo? A hair dryer? Laundry service? Or are you staying at an Air BnB that requires you to bring your own linens. Knowing what will be waiting for you on arrival will help you save precious space!
The next thing to ask yourself is if you’re going somewhere you can buy most of your toiletries when you land. For example if I’m travelling to the good ol’ US of A for a week, I might just grab a bottle of shampoo or sunscreen when I arrive. Saves me stressing about TSA liquid volumes in my bag, and I don’t have to sacrifice space for the ample amounts of sunscreen my skin requires (seriously. tons.)
Buyer beware on this advice though
If you’re going on a beach vacation you’re going to pay a SERIOUS mark up for sunscreen, so it may be worth stuffing as many small bottles of screen as you can into the nooks and crannies of your bag.
Speaking of your bag, what type are you bringing? Duffel bags are excellent for stuffing into overhead bins, but lugging them through an airport can SUCK (especially if you have a lot of layovers). My advice? Get a hard case with 4 wheels, they make travel a breeze. Just remember that the wheels are included in the “height” measurement of the bag, so measure your bag size from the ground when you’re making sure it fits your airline’s regulations for carry on.
OK so we have our bag, we know which amenities are waiting for us, we know what we’re willing to purchase. It’s time to pack.
When packing for a trip, I believe in packing by instinct… and then leaving half that pile at home. You’re going on VACATION. Think low maintenance. You can wear the same shirt or pants more than once (bring enough underwear though), I promise you really don’t need as much stuff as you think you do.
“But Laura” I hear you asking “WHAT about my blanket scarf and my sweater? I’m going somewhere cold!“: Don’t pack it, put it on your body.
I’m sure you know this by now but the age old trick to minimizing bag space is to maximize body space. The last time we went to England I wore my riding boots, sweater, blanket scarf, jacket and wool socks on the plane. I stripped most of it off and shoved it behind me or under my seat but my bag space wasn’t compromised!
So what are the benefits really?
Packing carry on to me is actually less stressful. It may seem like a hassle up front (it’s not once you’ve done it once or twice) but removing excessive options to choose from when you’re on vacation is actually kind of nice. Just grab what you have and GO!
It’s also less stressful at the airport. No waiting in checked baggage lines, no waiting for your bags to get off the plane, no worrying that your bag might not make it to your final destination.
Another bonus? It’s CHEAPER! These days every major airline seems to be charging for your first piece of stowed luggage (a 4.2 billion dollar a year charge for patrons!) HOWEVER, if you wheel up with your carry on, you can usually get it checked onto the plane free of charge!
If the plane is busy, they’ll ask for volunteers to check their bags, gratis. If you’re not making a connection this is a great way to cut travel costs.
Less stress and less money? That’s a travel trick I can get behind!
Whenever and wherever you fly, I hope you’ll consider flying carry on!
Adventure is out there!