How To Travel With Just Carry-On

woman at airport holding luggage

There are a lot of travel destinations on our wish list; the Island of Lost Luggage is not one of them! Like you, our feeds have been full of horror stories of missing luggage. That’s why from here on out, we’re only flying with carry-on. You can, too, with these top hacks.

We checked in with the experts from Monos, a Canadian-based luggage brand for their tips on how to travel with just carry on. I incorporated these very tips on a recent winter holiday. Guess what? They worked! I packed with just carry-on and a backpack for a full two-week trip and I didn’t even wear every item I brought.

So, just in time for March break travel, we unpack how to travel with just carry-on. Read on!

One dress for 10 days? Challenge accepted!

1. Meet your new travel friend, cubes

Packing cubes are definitely an efficient way to strategically pack, say the folks at Monos, because they keep things neatly organized and compressed. The travel hack is not to overstuff them. You want to leave a bit of space so that the cubes are easy to press down. What I love about the cubes is that they encourage strategic thinking about what you’re packing. Instead of throwing things in a bag willy-nilly, you’re starting with intention. It really helped me think through my needs.

5 things to sneak in on your next trip to NYC.

2. To roll or not to roll, that is the question

There’s no doubt that rolling is a good solution for saving space and keeping items from wrinkling. But you need to pay attention to the material you’re trying to pack, say the experts. “If it’s something light and airy, like a fluffy sweater, it’s more efficient to fold it flat because it’ll easily compress when you close your suitcase. If it’s a heavier fabric like denim, it’s best to roll it up instead.”

The elastic waist pants you need to embrace (and no, they’re not sweats).

3. How to travel with just carry-on: PLAN!

For me, this is the most important of the travel hacks for carry-on success. Of course, you don’t want to plan for every minute of the day – you’re on vacay and that means rolling with the moment – but even so, you can plan loosely for activities and events. So, when you think about your wardrobe, start from the bottom and work your way up. Nothing kills the carry-on vibe like footwear – they’re bulky, heavy and awkward to pack. Really think about what you’re going to need and where you can reduce, or what you can reuse. I found that walking shoes, sandals that went easily  from brunch to cocktails, and flip-flops for beach days was all I really needed.  Extra points if you can plan your travel outfit so that you can wear your walking shoes on flight day – that’s one less thing to pack. The experts also suggest thinking in neutrals for maximum versatility. Sure, your hot pink kicks are super adorbs, we get it, but they’ll restrict your times-per-wear opportunities.

As for clothes, the Monos experts suggest picking (and sticking) to a palette of the same three colours. “That way you can mix and match pieces and pack lighter!” This is especially true with your bottoms: pants/skirts/shorts. If you keep your bottoms neutral, you can put more of a focus on your tops. And because tops are lighter and smaller, you can pack a few more colours and styles. Also, don’t forget about the magic of scarves, bandanas and playful jewerly to instantly change your look from day to night or beach to brunch.

Could you wear the same outfit for 10 days? One of our editors took the challenge.

Finally, check with your host destination regarding dry-cleaning or laundering facilities. If your stay is more than a week, a washday might be in order. Not the most glamorous way to spend holiday time, but hey, a two-hour visit to the laundry mat in Venice Beach isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Stylish shoe storage solutions, according to sneaker collector Hawley Dunbar.

4. Be prepared

How to travel with just carry-on also means you need to consider that different airlines and foreign countries may have unique security requests and screening procedures, so check ahead. First and foremost, check your airline’s weight and sizing requirements for carry-on luggage. Not all carriers enforce the same rules, and your bag may be denied when you get to the airport.

Why you need to jump on the Lucky Girl Syndrome bandwagon

Also, take note of what you’ll need to have screened at security and make sure it’s easily accessible in your carry-on bag. No matter which airline you travel with, there are always strict limits on liquids. The travel hack for that, says Monos, is only pack what you need. Check ahead with your hotel or airbnb, they will probably supply shampoo and conditioner, shower gel, and body lotion. As for sunscreen, buy it when you arrive. Sure, it may cost a bit more than at home, but the dollar differential is more than covered by the peace of mind that you have your luggage.

  • sleek hard shell wheeled carry-on luggage
  • zippered backpack with top handle
  • four zippered packing cubes for travel
  • hard shell wheeled luggage
  • two-toned carry-on bag
  • set of silicone bottles for travel

The essential packing list for your next vacation.

5. Practice the 3Rs

“Reduce, reuse, recycle” is a great motto for carry-on travel. We’ve already covered reducing what you pack and reusing what you have, but how do you recycle? By sharing! If you’re travelling with friends, make a plan to share books and magazines. Read yourself and then recycle to a friend. Better still, leave it at your destination for someone else to enjoy. That way, if you end up buying a few trinkets (and let’s be real, of course you will), you’ll have a little extra packing space for the trip home.