Traveling carry-on only might seem restrictive and difficult to do, but I believe NOT checking luggage provides me with more freedom. Whether you’re trying to avoid checked bag fees, you’re worried about the airlines losing your luggage, or you just want to travel lighter, packing carry-on only is something you can easily do too. I’ll show you how to do it in my How to Travel Carry-On Only series!
Aside from the amount of stuff you pack, liquids might be the biggest hurdle to packing carry-on only. But it’s a problem with solutions if you really don’t want to check your luggage.
Stocking up on travel sized supplies
Go to your local Target, pharmacy, or any other store that sells toiletries. They should have a travel or trial size aisle where you can find all sorts of things in travel sizes, which is perfect for carry-on only. Occasionally they have things that are small but still over the allowed amount (100ml or 3.4 ounces) so be aware of that. Buy yourself some toothpaste, shampoo, and anything else you use regularly. Usually you can find refillable containers too, but again, check the sizes.
How much do you really need?
Don’t worry about having enough to get through your trip. I wear contacts, and a 60ml (size found at Target) bottle of contact solution lasts me around 5-6 days. Even if I brought two bottles, that wouldn’t last for a two week trip. But I know I can buy some on the road, which saves me space and allows me to go carry-on only.
In the US you can find contact solution almost everywhere, from pharmacies to grocery stores. Outside of the US it’s a little different, but you just have to know what to look for. In most other countries, you will need to look for an optical boutique.
You might not need as much as you think you do. Test out your travel sized items ahead of time. How much shampoo or toothpaste do you use in one week? My travel shampoo bottle is one ounce (about 30ml) and even after a two week trip, I still had a little left in the bottle.
Consider non-liquid alternatives. I usually don’t travel with shower gel because it’s just one more liquid taking up space in that small bag. Instead I use the hotel’s soap or shower gel, and I bring a bar of soap as a back-up in case I stay somewhere that doesn’t provide toiletries.
Dry shampoos and shampoo bars are available too, but you might want to try them out ahead of time to see how they work with your hair.
Look for any exceptions to the TSA (or the agency for whatever country you’re traveling in) regulations. In the US, and many other countries, liquid medications are exempt from the limited amount, allowing you to bring more in your carry-on luggage. But the rules vary by country, so do some research. For example, I have found that in the US contact solution is considered medically necessary, so technically you can bring your full-sized bottle. However, Germany does not consider contact solution a medical necessity.
If you want to pack lighter, cut back on the amount you bring and reevaluate the amount you actually use per day. Buy toiletries as you travel and consider non-liquid alternatives. Don’t let liquids hold you back from traveling carry-on only!
Read more in my How to Travel Carry-On Only series where I’ll show you how to skip checking luggage and travel lighter.