How To Travel Light: 8 Easy Hacks For Travelling with Carry-On Luggage

Travelling with a giant suitcase filled with almost everything you own is great if you’re going on a prolonged trip to a beautiful holiday resort (and you’ve also got money to burn).

For those who are travelling to multiple different destinations, don’t enjoy lugging around 14 suitcases and want to save on checked baggage fees, travelling light is a much better option.

Going on an extended trip with just your carry-on luggage is economical, practical and… sometimes a bit of a challenge.

I think of myself as something of an expert in this area. There’s nothing I hate more than having to carry excessively large bags around airports or on trains, so I’ve learnt how to travel very light.

Last year, for example, I travelled around Canada for a month with just my little carry-on suitcase. Yeah, I’m pretty proud of it. I was certainly not going to be checking in a big suitcase on all 3 of my flights.

I thought I’d share my tips here as some inspiration for other wannabe savvy travellers. This is how to travel light!

1) Limit your outfits

picture of clothes
Photo by Junko Nakase on Unsplash

Sorry, fashionistas, but this is a must. If you’re going away for more than a week, you’re not going to need a new outfit every day.

I’d recommend taking enough clothes to wear for between 5-7 days, including a couple of nice options for the evening. And no, that doesn’t mean 5-7 completely unique daytime options. I’m talking about a couple of pairs of bottoms (jeans, shorts, skirts etc.) and some tops to mix and match. This step is essential to learning how to travel light.

If, like me, you want to make sure you really like each outfit, it’s worth doing a bit of planning (in your head or otherwise) to ensure you bring what you need, and nothing else.

2) Plan laundry stops into your trip

picture of laundry facilities, washing machines
Photo by Kolar.io on Unsplash

Yes, it can be a bit of a nuisance taking an hour or so out of your adventurous day to wash your clothes, but it’s essential to do it regularly if you want to learn how to travel light.

It’s especially essential if you follow the previous tip and only have enough clothes to see you through the week. Don’t you go running out of underwear because you forgot to do the laundry!

To make it a little easier, try to stay in accommodation that has laundry facilities there. For my big Canada trip, I made sure every other Airbnb I stayed in had a washer-dryer, which made it super easy to keep on top of the laundry.

3) Buy your toiletries when you’re away

picture of shower products
Photo by Curology on Unsplash

The cost of buying some cheap shampoo/conditioner/shower gel at your destination will be a lot less than the cost of checking in a bag full of your heavy products. It’s also a lot more practical than buying teeny tiny miniatures, which you have to use super sparingly for weeks on end.

Sure, there will be some makeup/skincare/medical products you’d prefer not to live without. But shampoo and soap will most likely be readily available at your destination, and it shouldn’t be expensive.

When you eventually move on, you can just leave your new products for future travellers to use and enjoy. Who knows, you might even arrive at your destination and find that shampoo is provided.

4) Unpack your toiletry bag and start again

picture of makeup bag
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Speaking of toiletries, don’t just chuck your toiletry/makeup bag into your suitcase and think ‘that’s that’. Doing so is a great way to waste space and maybe carry something completely pointless half way around the world.

These little bags are notoriously full of random things you definitely wont be needing on your trip.

That novelty green eyeliner that’s been in your makeup bag since Halloween probably isn’t going to be essential for your tour of Southern Europe. And you can probably survive without 19 different types of makeup brush if you’re trying to cut down on space.

If you want to be savvy and know how to travel light, you’ll empty these bags and only put back what you’ll actually need for your trip.

5) Wear your bulkiest items on the plane

picture of airport
He’s got the right idea. Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

If you’re going somewhere chilly and you need a coat, wear it on the plane. The same goes for any bulky items you need to take with you.

Yes, you might look like a bit of a muppet wandering onto the plane with your big coat, chunky boots and bobble hat on. But it will save you a lot of space in your carry-on case.

Besides, you can de-layer and shove it all in the overhead locker once you’re on the plane.

6) PUT DOWN THE SHOES

picture of blue high heeled shoes
Photo by Md. Zahid Hasan Joy on Unsplash

Stop! Think about this. Put down the shoes and put your hands where I can see them!

Shoes are massive space-hoggers, and it’s so easy to pack too many pairs.

A key principle to grasp when you’re learning how to travel light is: only take the bare minimum. For most of my trips, I usually bring just one pair: my trusty white Converse. If I’m visiting a hotter country, I would also bring a pair of flip flops.

At the very most, all you’ll need is a daytime shoe, an evening shoe and some flip flops. And remember, if they’re bulky, wear them on the plane.

7) Make the most of your airline’s ‘personal item’ policy

picture of woman with tan backpack
Photo by Maid Milinkic on Unsplash

On top of your carry-on case, many airlines now also allow you to bring a ‘small personal item’ onto the plane. If you’re struggling to get all your things into your case, make the most of this extra space!

Always check out your airline’s policy. If they allow you to bring a bag that’s 30cm x 20cm x 10cm, don’t just bring your teeny weeny handbag.

Make sure you check the policies of all the airlines you’re flying with, though. I’ve been caught out before when EasyJet told me I wasn’t allowed a personal item at all. Frantically stuffing my little rucksack into my already stuffed suitcase was not that fun.

8) Bring a tote bag

picture of tote bags
Photo by Guido Coppa on Unsplash

My final tip for how to travel light is something that’s almost essential if you follow the other advice I’ve given here.

If you’re wearing extra items and planning on buying toiletries when you arrive at your destination, you’re going to need somewhere to put everything. A handy little tote bag, sneakily packed away in your suitcase, is perfect for this.

Uber practical and often quite the fashion statement, a tote bag is a must for travelling light.

How to travel light every time

There’s no real secret to knowing how to travel light. It just takes a bit of planning, preparation, and some very brutal culling of the contents of your makeup bag.

Try it for yourself and you might also fall in love with the freedom that comes with living out of a small carry-on suitcase. Good luck!

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Charlie Semmence

Posted by Charlie Semmence

Seasoned traveller, writer and food-lover from Essex, UK. Loves city breaks, adventurous trips to distant lands, and writing all about them.

10 thoughts on “How To Travel Light: 8 Easy Hacks For Travelling with Carry-On Luggage

  1. Great tip on the shoes (that’s definitely something I struggle with) and making the most of your personal item – so important!

  2. I am slowly but surely getting more into packing light. I spend quite a bit of time planning outfits so that I don’t take to much and I can match different items. But it is sooo worth it! 🙂

  3. Great post! I always try to pack, unpack, and pack again in order to see what I reaaally need! I’m guilty of being an overpacker – whoops! These tips are awesome, especially the tote bags!

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