Traveling with just a carry-on is a liberating way to fly. However, there is an art to getting it right. You need to be able to fill your carry your bag with everything you need, tote it around comfortably and make sure you can find what you want without everyone seeing your unmentionables. People who have the knack make minimalist travel look like magic. We’ve highlighted the secrets to carry-on-only travel so you too can have your own bag of tricks.
Invest in the Best Bag
You have to work with the space you have, so the first step to success is getting the right bag. It’s going to need to adhere to the size restrictions airlines have in place, so check before you purchase. Once you have the size sorted out you’ll need to pick a bag that helps you make space out of thin air. Look for an option with multiple sections and pockets, if possible, and use packing cubes to make the space even more efficient. Pockets on the outside of the bag are a big plus, as they offer easy access to liquids and travel documents. The fabric is important too. Consider something other than a hard case so it can expand a bit if you stuff it.
Don’t forget that you’re allowed a personal item on the plane in addition to your main piece of hand luggage. Pick a duffle bag or daypack and you’ll have even more space for all your essentials.
Become a Packing Ninja
Once you’ve got the best bag at your disposal, it’s time to learn how to pack. Try to establish a system where everything has its place. Then stick to it. Finding specific items is much easier with a system in place. Roll your clothes instead of folding them to reduce the space taken and wrinkles added. Stuff small items like socks and trinkets into hollow items like shoes. Keep all your liquids together and in a Ziploc bag in an outer pocket. Use mesh bags and packing cubes and revel at your new-found organization.
Know What You Need
To pack light and embrace carry-on-only travel, you need to learn to make sacrifices. We’ve all found ourselves guilty of overpacking and taking more than we need. What tends to happen is that you don’t make a dent in the collection of random things you thought you'd need. Your best bet is to only take what you must have. Think about your core wardrobe, those items you wear all the time; they are the ones you’ll need when you’re traveling. If you do need anything you haven’t brought with you, chances are you can buy something to fill the gap. Just think of the money you saved on not checking luggage.
Pack for an Average Week
Regardless of how long you're traveling for, don’t pack for more than a week. A week is a manageable amount of time; you should be able to visualize what you need. If you are traveling for more than a few days, then you’ll have to prepare to do laundry, you can hand wash your basics for short trips or use laundromats or cleaning services for longer trips. Remember that doing your laundry will be cheaper than checking in luggage and you’ll feel light as a feather when you don’t have to lug everything but the kitchen sink along with you.
Add the Right Layers
Layers are your friend when you’re traveling light, as they take up less space than bulky items and give you way more flexibility. If you’re heading to somewhere cold, consider a thermal shirt or wool base layer. If you need to take bulky items, then don’t even think about packing them. Wear big boots, coats or a suit if you need one. Bulky items can fill up a case all on their own, so don’t give them a chance. If you’ve got the right layers, you should be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you.
Fabricate More Clothes
Multi-functional clothing is a great way to create more outfits from the same number of garments. Perhaps lending itself more to the ladies, the sarong is the epitome of multi-functional. One simple piece of fabric can be not only a skirt but a blanket, dress, scarf or even a privacy curtain. Items that can be worn multiple ways are key.
While you’re thinking about fabrics, try to choose items that will dry quickly. This will help if you run out of clothes and need to wash something. It will also help should you get caught in the rain and need to wear an item again the next day. If you can mix in wrinkle-resistant fabrics, you’ll be on to a real win.
Keep it Simple
When it comes to your color palette, simplicity is best. If you can choose three core colors, your entire wardrobe will match, and you’ll find yourself with infinitely more combinations to choose from. Choose individual pieces instead of complete outfits. Then, when you come to pack, make sure everything can mix and match. Use accessories if you need some quirky colors or zany patterns. That way you can still have your own style.