How to Travel with Only Carry-On Luggage

Travel with only carry-on luggage SWISS

Friends and family are often amazed that I travel with only carry-on luggage regardless of the duration or destination. After a few mishandled bags and one trip where I didn’t see a checked bag until I returned home from a three+ week vacation, I decided to travel light. Travelling with only carry-on luggage saves time as well as money because I never have to pay to check a bag. Here are a few tips on how to travel with only carry-on luggage.

Choose the Right Bag

If you subscribe to the Luxe Travel Family Newsletter, you may recall reading about my favourite carry-on bags. Since carry-on size and weight restrictions vary throughout the industry, it is important to select a bag that meets the airline’s requirements. Here is how I travel with only carry-on luggage in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Rimowa Salsa Cabin Multiwheel

The 32 l Rimowa Salsa Cabin Multiwheel at 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches and 7 lbs 9 oz is my favourite carry-on. This stylish suitcase is perfect for a trip to Europe or North America. Unfortunately, it is a bit too large for some of the Asian carriers.

Eagle Creek Tarmac International Carry-On

If I require a slightly smaller and lighter carry-on, the 31 l Eagle Creek Tarmac International Carry-On is an excellent option. While not as fashionable as the Rimowa Salsa, this bag is 20 x 14 x 8 inches (expandable to 20 x 14 x 10 inches) and weighs 6 lbs 10 oz. I travelled throughout Asia for almost four weeks with this carry-on bag.

Osprey Ozone

Designed for the fast and light traveller, the 36 l Osprey Ozone is 19 x 14 x 9 inches and weighs a scant 4.14 lbs. My kids use this carry-on bag when we travel to Europe and Asia.

Personal Item

Airlines often allow one carry-on bag plus a personal item approximately 6 x 12 x 16 inches in size. I use either a Louis Vuitton Neverfull or a Lululemon tote bag, both capable of holding a lot. I often tuck a small purse inside my personal item so I have a separate bag for boarding passes, etc.

Think Small & Use Travel Size Beauty Products

Airline passengers are allowed to bring liquids and gels on board, provided each item is no larger than 100 ml (3.4 oz). All items must fit in one clear, resealable plastic bag, usually no more than 1L in capacity.

Many of my favourite brands make travel-size beauty products, and if not, the cosmetics or fragrance counter at a department store or Sephora will often provide samples. I recently purchased a set of  GoToob silicon containers for products that are not available in travel-size containers.

Use small products travel with only carry on luggage

Embrace Technology

To save space, I read novels on a Kindle Paperwhite. If you want to pare down even further, stock your reading material on an iPhone or iPad and use the Kindle or iBooks app.

High-tech clothing is another space and often a weight-saver. Plus, technical clothing looks fabulous even after being squeezed into a carry-on suitcase. Two of my favourite technical clothing brands are Kit and Ace and Lululemon, both from the Lululemon Athletica family. Where Lululemon is a more casual clothing line, Kit and Ace offer a more sophisticated selection.

Do you travel with only carry-on luggage? If yes, how do you do it?

You might also be interested in learning about how to get the best seat on an airplane.

This post contains affiliate link sto Amazon and Lululemon. I only use an affiliate link for products that I use and recommend. If you purchase a product through a link on my site, Luxe Travel Family may receive a small commission. There is not additional cost to you.

24 thoughts on “How to Travel with Only Carry-On Luggage”

  1. Thanks for all the great tips. I have not yet managed to squeeze all my “stuff” into a carry on but it looks like there is no excuse now❤️

  2. You are so right about technical clothing, they’re so light and versatile and dries easily. May I add also to wear your heaviest piece of clothing to save space and weight on your carry on.

  3. I’m a carry-on only girl too. And like you, have multiple carry-on sized suitcases depending on where I’m traveling. I’ll have to check out the Osprey Zone bag since I prefer a small bag. Big fan of breathable clothing. Just wish shoes weren’t so heavy or take up so much space. 🙂

    1. LuxeTravelFamily

      I hear you regarding the shoes! If it is a warm weather destinations, I pack cork wedges because they are super light. I recently bought a pair of light-weight Adidas running shoes – they almost disappear in the suitcase.

  4. If you can backpack you can travel with carry on only for sure. The right bag is critical. So too is keeping your trips focused. If you are hiking, go hiking. If you are going to fine dining and city life pack for it. Packing for a day of everything make for a heavy bag indeed.

    1. LuxeTravelFamily

      So true! And yes, stay focused. I struggled last year because we had a few days of cooler weather (San Francisco and Osaka) at the beginning of almost a month in SE Asia. I bought compression bag for our down sweaters and it worked fairly well.

  5. Wow well done, I would love to travel with only a carry on, unfortunately it just isn’t possible. We are full time travelers and everything we own is in our bags. My carry on had an accident crossing from France into England last month I will looking into your suggestions as a replacement.

  6. Great tips – I’ve never achieved this for a long haul trip, weekend trips obviously are a lot easier – but I’ll try and put some of this advice into action for the next one and see how I go!

  7. Very useful tips! When traveling up to a week, I rarely need anything other that carry-on luggage. Certainly made some adjustments over the years and it’s such a time saving option.

  8. I am SO with you Nancy! I only ever travel with carry-on. It’s the only way to roll, whether for a long weekend or 5 weeks touring Europe. Totally agree with your taste in the Kit & Ace technical cashmere products. I don’t travel anywhere without my K&A cashmere wrap scarf!

    1. LuxeTravelFamily

      Awesome! Kit & Ace clothing is so travel-friendly. I don’t any of the scarves. Hmmmm….I may need to add to my travel wardrobe!

  9. Love how you gave a quick run down on carry-on luggage. The way airlines keep changing their size dimensions its good to know which ones will still get through without checking them in. You have some very useful tips!

    1. LuxeTravelFamily

      Thank you! I am glad you find the information valuable. It can be tough to find the right suitcase when airlines have different carry-on restrictions.

  10. Useful review and very good tips! Good to read about the luggages before buying as I always look out for products that lasts and fits the purpose, that can be very tricky! so thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Since most of my trips are shorter than two weeks I usually travel with just a carry on. Even for a longer trip, I figure I can do laundry at some point and I’d rather not worry about possibly dealing with a lost bag. I’m going to check out some of the clothing you suggested though, because I hate walking around with wrinkly clothes lol

    1. LuxeTravelFamily

      I agree, doing laundry during a long trip is easier than dealing with a lost bag! I hope you were able to find some wrinkle-free clothes 😉

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