Hello there fellow budget travelers! Today I’m tackling the carry-on bag, one of the most essential pieces you’ll need for your upcoming trip.
I prefer traveling with just a carry-on for several reasons. First, I have an unhealthy fear that my checked bag will get lost. I know, it’s unlikely, but the thought of being in a foreign country without my clothes, toiletries and clean underwear unnerves me.
Second, traveling with a carry-on only maximizes your time. With limited vacation days, I prefer to spend 20 minutes at a coffee shop in Paris, not at baggage carousel #2.
Finally, and mot importantly, airlines are charging an arm and a leg these days for checked baggage. Some international airlines still cut you a break and allow you to check a bag for free, but forget about domestic travel. And I hear even free carry-ons are on the chopping block in the near future. I’m gonna take advantage of my sole remaining airline freebie for as long as possible.
That said, traveling with a carry-on alone is not easy, especially when you’re a girl or you’re taking winter attire or going for longer than a weekend. But it can be done! Take my word for it, I’ve been all three.
Here are some trips to get you through as quickly and frugal as possible!
1) You get one carry-on and a personal item
I emphasis that “and” because the personal item you chose makes all the difference. I personally have a weekender bag that I purchased at the TripAdvisor Store with some credit that I got for booking a hotel through one of their promotions and it is absolutely perfect. It fits underneath the seat in front of you and the material has some give so you can squeeze in extra souvenirs if need be.
Definitely leave that tiny purse tucked away and please don’t squander your personal item! Backpacks are an excellent choice as well.
2) Embrace the magic of space saver bags
I purchased space saver bags on Amazon knowing I was going to need to pack winter attire and couldn’t afford the bulk. They were a lifesaver! I didn’t need a vacuum or anything like that, they worked just by squeezing the air out of vents at the bottom.
3) Beware outside pockets
You want to avoid making outside pockets bulge by cramming extra things into them, makes it harder to fit into an overhead compartment and many international flights don’t actually have gate check–it goes to the doomed baggage claim if you can’t make that overhead work. If you must use the outside compartments, save them for flat souvenirs like postcards or smaller things like your toothbrush.
4) Pack wisely
Don’t bring your own blanket for an international flight–they provide those. If you must bring a pillow, make it compact and attach it just outside your personal item. Don’t waste valuable space on a bulky pillow. Limit the number of shoes you bring and plan your days accordingly. Check out the weather ahead of time. In most cases you shouldn’t need more than one hat/pair of gloves/scarf.
Check to see if your lodging provides a hairdryer and avoid bringing your own. You may want to bring snacks for the trip. Keep everything you want and absolutely need (not including clothes and shoes) in your personal item, just in case you need to check your bag for any reason. Sometimes, no matter how well you pack, smaller planes just can’t hold roll-aboards.
5) Wear all your heaviest and bulkiest things
Got a coat? Knee high boats? Wear them, at least to board and depart the plane, in order to avoid the extra weight/space in your carry on. I usually wear a light outer jacket and my wool winter jacket on board, along with any winter accessories in the pockets.
Don’t fret, there’s always a way to get all your essentials overseas without paying the equivalent of an airline ticket for your bag. Worse case scenario, hunt for an AirBnB with laundry access and wash some clothes throughout your trip.