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36 Comments

  1. Kathy
    August 11, 2020 @ 11:21 pm

    I like your suggestions for how to choose the right carry-on luggage. Two important considerations when choosing the perfect carry-on bag: 1) does the bag have a lifetime warranty? And 2) what kind of traveler am I and what types of surfaces will I be traveling on?
    Am I a valet traveler, bags transported straight to my hotel? Or will I walk a lot with my bags? If so, what types of surfaces will I be walking on? Normal sidewalks, cobblestones, sandy beaches?

    My personal fav is the Osprey Fairview 36, a wheeled backpack that fits even the smallest European airlines requirements. The deciding factor for me, tho, was the warranty!! I’ve ruined SO many wheels on the European cobblestone streets, I finally had to purchase a bag with a lifetime warranty and I’m so glad I did. If you travel a lot it makes a huge difference, and should be one of your first considerations in choosing a bag. Osprey and Eagle Creek are two brands with lifetime warranties on their bags, and many others as well.
    Also, if you’ll be traveling frequently in Europe, and walk a lot with your bags, a convertible wheeled backpack is great for preserving your wheels on those cobblestone streets. There are places in Europe (Rimini comes to mind) with bag-destroying, wheel-gobbling, gruesome cobblestones from hell.
    Also, if you’re in Southeast Asia, for instance, and traveling along the beaches a lot, you’ll want a backpack or convertible bag. I’ve seen many a hapless traveler trying to drag their wheeled luggage down a beach, and it’s not a pretty sight.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      August 15, 2020 @ 9:00 am

      Hi Kathy, thanks for the suggestion about the warranty! I honestly never think about it because so many companies make it a pain to actually use them, or I lose track of the paperwork. But Osprey is definitely a great company, and it’s wonderful that they have such a great warranty. And yes, I always recommend people consider the type of travel they do and the type of traveler they are when choosing the best carry on luggage. Backpacks are great for so many situations, but people with bad backs might be better off with a suitcase. Convertible bags have a lot of advantages, but they can be awkward to wear as a backpack if not designed really well. So many options!

      Reply

  2. Shephy
    July 26, 2019 @ 5:00 pm

    What do you recommend since i have back pain. I love to travel with backpacks but.
    Nice articles anyway and keep going, keep travelling

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      July 27, 2019 @ 7:33 pm

      Thanks Shephy! If you have back problems, a rolling suitcase is probably a better choice than a backpack. A backpack can put too much weight and strain on your back and cause more pain, especially if you’ll be walking around with your luggage for awhile.

      Reply

  3. Colin
    June 5, 2019 @ 6:36 am

    One trick for traveling light, and getting lighter as you go, is to pack clothing , particularly underwear, that is coming to the end of its life. Wear it until it needs washing and then throw it away.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      June 5, 2019 @ 3:00 pm

      I do that too sometimes!

      Reply

  4. Veronique
    January 6, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

    Great post! I dream of traveling light! I’m going to Europe for th first time this Spring, and it will be my first solo trip. Traveling to Italy, 4 stops, by train, 14 nights… I don’t know how realistic it is to think I can do 2 weeks with carry-on only, but I’ll seriously look into it, to avoid the hassle when moving from city to city. On my last trip last year (Japan), we packed WAY too much stuff, and it was such a pain in public transportation and airports. Lots of stuff I brought I didn’t even use (I’m one of those “just in case” people haha)

    Reply

  5. Denise
    May 7, 2018 @ 3:43 pm

    Can a wheeled duffle bag be used for carry on especially if it meets the measurement requirements?

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      May 9, 2018 @ 10:48 am

      Hi Denise! Yes, as long as it fits within the carry-on size restrictions of the airline you’re flying, that is fine. You can look for your airline here.

      Reply

  6. Robin
    May 4, 2018 @ 4:07 am

    Ali
    This site has been very helpful. I am trying to pack light for two trips. 1 my daughter is going to Europe for a 4 week study abroad class. Then my sister and I are going to meet her and travel for 2 weeks.
    Our goal is to do carry on only. The change of planes in Europe is a concern for my daughters luggage.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      May 5, 2018 @ 10:41 am

      Sounds great, Robin! Your daughter’s luggage should get tagged to go to her final destination, so she shouldn’t have to do anything with it during her layover. The US requires you to claim and recheck luggage at the first US airport you land in, but most other countries in the world do not. I have several posts about layovers, like this one and this one, that might help you too. I hope your daughter has a great time, I loved my study abroad experience!

      Reply

  7. Pooja
    November 14, 2017 @ 3:05 am

    Just wondering for carry on bag for size 21 inch calculate include wheels or excluding wheels?

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      November 14, 2017 @ 10:49 am

      Hi Pooja! The airlines will calculate the size including the wheels, but luggage companies will sometimes say a suitcase is a 21 inch bag when really it’s a little bigger because they’re not counting the wheels. Always make sure you’re looking at the full dimensions including wheels when choosing carry-on luggage.

      Reply

  8. A
    September 27, 2017 @ 9:26 pm

    I am use to living out of backpacks, I have found two things that make my travelling easier:
    * Fanny pack for things like: Vitamins, prescriptions, tums, Tylenol, small phone charger and anything else small that I usually need that used to go in my 25L hand-carry

    * Small packing cubes. Here is what I have in hand carry
    Cube 1 essentials and toiletry pack
    Cube 2: 4-day initial pack of 1 t-shirt, 3 pr-socks &3 undies
    Cube 3: Flight blanket
    Cube 4: Flight pillow & Mask
    Rolled Blue jeans (shorts in warm weather)
    Camera

    I have a 45 liter hand-carry backpack with more cubes of clothes for longer trips. This works great since my wife ALWAYS packs the 25 spinner & for medical reasons can’t lift over 20 lbs.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      September 28, 2017 @ 5:35 pm

      Sounds great, I’m glad you’ve found a system that works for you!

      Reply

    • Leslie
      September 24, 2018 @ 2:16 am

      What brand of cubes and where do you get them? Thanks.

      Reply

      • Ali Garland
        October 2, 2018 @ 5:17 am

        Hi Leslie! I have some packing cubes from eBags and some from Eagle Creek. If you scroll back up to the section with the packing cubes and other accessories, I have links to Amazon for them. There are tons of options on there, depending on what sizes you’re interested in and what kinds of things you’re planning on packing in them. I prefer smaller cubes for things like socks and underwear and medium to large ones for shirts or other larger articles of clothing. I also have a small cube I use for non-liquid toiletries.

        Reply

  9. CAimone
    June 2, 2017 @ 12:32 am

    Back in 2000, we traveled to Italy on a tour. We didn’t have to move our own luggage outside of the airport. We were novices to traveling around on a tour. Between 2 of us we had 5 pieces of luggage, 2 very large bags, 2 carrying, 1 medium bag. It was obscene! I noticed in our travel group 2 couples who each had a wheeled carryon & a personal item. They were middle aged professionals. They were the first on & off the bus and airplanes, since we moved about Italy as a group. My niece & I noticed they basically wore the same clothes for 10 days, changing it up with different shirts & tops & colorful scarfs. After being totally exhausted with collecting our bags, & don’t forget having to go thru the bags to find what you want, I realized no one cared what we wore every day. Now I travel with a carryon only. Pack enough underwear, but plan on re-using clothes more than a couple of times. You can always hand wash something if there’s a problem. Unless it’s a cruise or your a model (lol), pack your most loveable items & travel worthy clothes. Focus on the travel experience & the trip itself. You’ll enjoy every minute of your trip! ????

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      June 2, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

      Exactly!! You don’t need so much stuff! No one cares what you’re wearing. I always wear the same shirt a few days in a row. If the trip is longer than a week or so, I will usually find a laundromat or something similar depending on where I am. If I’m in a pinch I’ll wash a few things in the sink. Even for a cruise, you can make it work. Like you said, the experience is important, not your wardrobe. There’s no reason to carry around so much stuff, and you don’t need a dozen options for each day.

      Happy travels!

      Reply

  10. Kirsten
    March 22, 2013 @ 3:57 am

    Yes wheeled bags are nice, but you can injure yourself with them just as easily as you can with an overloaded backpack. The angle your shoulder rotates to for pulling the weight behind you puts strain on your rotator cuff. Those type of injuries require surgery to repair and never fully heal. Just because you have a wheeled bag doesn’t mean you can ignore the weight of your bag.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      March 28, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

      Sounds pretty extreme, I hope that kind of thing doesn’t happen often! But all the more reason to pack light, overly heavy bags can be problem in many ways. Thanks Kirsten!

      Reply

  11. Chris
    March 10, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

    I’ve got the Dakine Photo Mission backpack for all my camera kit, but when I’m travelling without all of it the dividers and customisation make it great for carry on only luggage – in fact I did a whole month in Thailand with it alone 🙂

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      March 21, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

      Sounds like a great bag Chris! It’s amazing how little you need to travel. So awesome you found something that works well for you!

      Reply

  12. Alex
    February 27, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

    Very interesting post on carry on bags, just wondering if you will do a follow up posts on how to clean them. It gives me stress, especially when traveling and its dirty.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      February 27, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

      I think cleaning your bag varies so greatly on what your bag is made of and what you’re trying to clean off of it. Probably best to read the labels/tags that come on the bag.

      Reply

  13. Mindy and Ligeia
    February 17, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

    It’s amazing the things we used to take on trips, only to lug them around. We haven’t checked a bag in years and it has made traveling so much simpler, especially when moving from place to place. We have the goal of one day getting on a plane with nothing more than a passport, toothbrush and a pen (don’t want to be the one to bother the flight attendants asking for a pen to fill out the immigration papers. 😉
    Except for medications, we think that if you can’t get it where your going, then you don’t need it. After all, if the locals have survived without it, must not be that important. 🙂
    Happy light traveling! 🙂

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      February 18, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

      Wow, that’s quite ambitious! As much as I love traveling light, I don’t think I could ever go with just my passport and toothbrush! But yes, you can get almost anything you need when you arrive. And it’s so much more relaxing knowing you’re not carrying a lot and realizing that you can find what you need when you get where you’re going.

      Reply

  14. Ali P
    February 16, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    Yes! Packing carry-on only is SO LIBERATING! Seeing people struggling with their luggage while you just breezily stroll through the airport or crowded touristy area is an amazing feeling. I had a 26L/carry-on size backpack for a 2 week trip this past fall, and while it took a lot of time to pare down what to pack, it was so worth it when we were walking several kilometres a day in tropical heat! As long as you are ready to do some sink laundry, you can get by happily with surprisingly little..

    My Tip: At the end of your trip, make a packing list for a similar (climate, activities, etc.) future trip.. It’s harder to remember what you needed/didn’t need/wish you had packed months later.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      February 16, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

      Wow, I can’t believe you traveled with a 26L bag! Even if I left my laptop at home, I’m not sure I could pack *that* light! I’m very impressed. I like your idea about making a packing list after your trip. It’s always good to look back at your trip and decide what worked and what didn’t, and especially what things you didn’t even use. Thanks!

      Reply

  15. Andrea
    February 7, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

    I’m a horrible over-packer and have never been able to pull off just a carry on, unless it’s a weekend trip. Am going to try it for our next journey up north. Great gear tips!

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      February 7, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

      Thanks Andrea! I think the key is not letting yourself bring too many “just in case” items, be willing to wear the same thing more than once, and being things you can mix and match. No crazy turquoise shoes that only go with one outfit or anything like that.

      Reply

  16. Peter Lee
    February 6, 2013 @ 10:54 am

    Really, it is very important to carry yourself while traveling. It is good to be a light bag packer but you cannot drop necessary things. I always hear people complaining about 2 things: I forgot my bla bla thing & Oh, I can not lift this heavy bag. So always plan your trip and pack your bag according to that. It is Selection of right bag is very important. Thanks Ali for writing this type of post.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      February 6, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

      Thanks Peter! You definitely need to make sure you can carry what you pack. Having a bag that’s too heavy hinders you in too many ways, and you just don’t need that much stuff.

      Reply

  17. Jennifer
    February 5, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

    I’m a wheel bag kind of carry-on girl. I like the wheel bag because I don’t have to carry it around, which can be rough on your back and shoulders.

    Reply

    • Ali Garland
      February 6, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      That’s probably the number 1 reason in favor of wheeled bags. I do like them sometimes, but I’m a backpack girl.

      Reply

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