In less than one week, Justin and I are taking off on our 5 month adventure that involves some leisure travel over my winter break, and then my capstone residency project for my doctorate degree. More on the second part later. It's a whirlwind right now, but we still like to plan ahead. I have already laid out my items, and yes- it will all fit in my carry-on bag! I highly recommend to any traveler to stick to carry-on for so many reasons. Read on below.
Lets first clarify ‘carry-on only’. This means one 45L bag, plus a personal item such as a purse or day-pack. It’s important to maximize the personal item and bring a larger day pack that you can carry kangaroo-style while your main bag is on your back. Why travel carry-on? Because it saves time waiting for your bag, removes the risk of losing luggage, and simplifies travel. Trust me, the last thing you want to be doing is lugging a huge suitcase in the alleys of India or the cobblestone roads of Europe. The tricky part of this game is that budget airlines overseas sometimes will not allow carry-on and you are forced to check your bag. In that scenario the best you can do is cross your fingers your bag arrives with you, and keep all valuables in your personal item.
Now that you’re sold on carry-on, this is how you play the minimizing game.
1. Lay everything out so you can visualize what you are bringing. This will help you remove what is unnecessary and reduce to the bare essentials.
2. Eliminate bulky clothes. Coats and hoodies can take up a lot of room, so replace this with an alternative or just stick to one jacket. Anything bulky should also be part of what you wear on the airplane to free up luggage space and can double as a pillow.
3. Roll up your items. If you read the book “The Japanese Art of Decluttering” you won’t question this technique. Not only will it save you space to roll your clothes like sushi, it will bring you happiness.
4. Packing capsules are everything. Baggu made the first capsules that I knew of a few years ago, and now they are everywhere. This helps immensely with organization so you don’t have to rummage through your bag looking for something, and some of them compress your items.
5. Stick to the rule of 3. That means 3 pants, 3 tees, 3 long sleeves, etc. You will find that you don't need more than that if you stay within one color scheme.
6. Use a backpack. Let me paint a picture for you – you are navigating the cobblestone alleyways of Granada with a rolling suitcase that is tipping off balance with every step. Or, you are walking to your hostel in the Souks of Marrakesh over trash and feces. Would you rather have your luggage on the ground or off?
7. Choose one color scheme. Black and neutrals are ideal because they don’t show dirt or sweat, and it goes with everything. It’s also better not to stand out as a tourist depending where you are.
8. There are a lot of blogs that talk about how to pack your make up. But let’s get serious for a minute – do you really need make up? Do you want to stand out that way, especially if you’re traveling through a developing country? Toss in your favorite lip gloss and mascara and call it good. Eliminating your make up bag frees up space, weight, and liquids in your carry on.
Let's take a closer look...
This list is relevant for traveling through developing areas. A water filter is not necessary for most of Europe, but if you want to leave India unscathed, you better pack it. A recap of where Justin and I are traveling is the following: Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, and Fiji.
1. Microfiber towel. Hostels are notorious for either not having towels or having a scraggly rag that doesn't even fit around your body. You will be SO happy if you pack this.
2. Camelbak All Clear Purifier. Getting sick while traveling is a big downer, and most frequently happens through water or food. Eliminate half the risk with a water filter. Truly, this is the most important item that should be packed in your bag.
3. Gaiam Travel Yoga Mat. Designed specifically for light-weight travel, this one is for the yogis.
4. Kis Peppermint Oil. The best way to avoid staunchy smells overseas is dabbing this under your nose. Don’t let nausea ruin your trip.
5. Down or Synthetic puffy jacket. The best part about this jacket is that it doubles as a pillow and can compact down to fit in your hand. Jackets are often the most bulky item while traveling, and this one has never failed me.
6. North Face Base Camp Duffel. The size Small is carry-on approved and holds 50L. The casing is highly durable and water resistant and can definitely withstand the elements of traveling through a developing country.
7. Raincover. If you're going to the tropics, this will obviously keep your stuff dry. But it also doubles as an extra protective piece to pick-pocketers. I've been in a busy bus station before and watched a fellow traveler's bag get unzipped from behind. It also covers up any showy colors or brand names.
Did I miss anything in this list? I would love to hear what other travelers find essential while overseas or how you squeeze all your belongings into a carry-on bag!
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.