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  1. Sandra O.
    April 18, 2019 @ 1:19 am

    I travel with my small dog (she’s my “personal item” since her carrier fits under the seat) and a carry on. I haven’t checked my luggage once since she began traveling with me (she’s now 10) and I LOVE it! I adore the freedom of being able to grab my things and breeze past the carousel to customs. At this point, part of the adventure of travel is packing. It’s a treat when I travel on my own because I suddenly have so much more room when I don’t have her necessities as well (e.g. food and pee pads) but I’d give up that precious space and weight to have my little sidekick with me.

    • Ali Garland
      April 18, 2019 @ 6:25 pm

      That’s wonderful! I have a friend who also travels with her dog, and she loves it too!

  2. Carolina
    March 25, 2019 @ 6:04 pm

    I’m doing a RTW trip next year, and I’m a little worried about my carry on not being okay with every airline.
    Have you ever done a continuous trip, where you passed different airlines with their own guidelines? Have you ever had to check in a bag that is considered carry-on in another airline?
    I’m thinking of just buying the smallest carry on size in all the airlines, but I’m a girl and would prefer to carry the standard (22x14x9), as it’s already small.

    • Ali Garland
      March 26, 2019 @ 11:02 am

      Hi Carolina! I did a 5 month RTW a few years ago with a 40L backpack and a 22L daypack, and it was kind of a pain to have a small backpack as my personal item. I felt like it drew a lot of attention to me and made a lot of airline employees question whether or not my stuff really qualified as carry-on. So if you can use something like a purse (even a big purse) as your personal item, I think you’d be better off. As for your main bag, it depends on where you’re going, but in a lot of the world for that kind of trip, a backpack is easier to manage than a suitcase. Roughly 40L will be about the max you can do and still be carry-on size, though some backpacks are designed to be a bit more square/rectangle shaped and actually give you more than 40L. The other thing to think about is weight. The only times I was forced to check a bag when I was on my RTW was when I flew with airlines that had really strict weight limits, like 7kg (15.4 pounds). Lots of airlines allow 8kg, 10kg, or even 12kg. So if your personal item is something smaller like a purse and your main carry-on item isn’t obviously too big, you have a better chance of slipping through unnoticed. Another thing is if you can check in online and print your boarding pass, so you don’t have to go to the check-in counter, there are fewer people to question your bags.

      If you really want to travel with a suitcase, I think you’d be fine to stick with 22x14x9, or aim for about 40L for a backpack. Just know that there might be occasions when you have to check it for a few stingy airlines. And try to reduce the weight as much as you can. If you’re a little over, put smaller heavy items in your purse since most (though not all) airlines don’t weigh your personal item. Pack a stuff bag or something similar to use for sightseeing days that can also be used in the event that an airline does force you to check your bag, that way you can pull out things you still want to keep with you.

      You’ll find little tricks along the way too. Carry your jacket, don’t pack it. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane. Stuff a few little things in your jacket pockets. Tie your scarf or sarong on your purse strap. Put flip flops in the side water bottle pocket of your backpack.

      Remember that you’re going to have to do laundry and reload on supplies like shampoo along the way – there’s no way to pack enough to last your whole trip anyway. So if you can pack all carry-on sized toiletries, enough clothes for 5-7 days, and be prepared to buy something you need while you’re traveling, it’s totally reasonable to do this carry-on only.

  3. Terri Parke
    May 5, 2018 @ 1:06 pm

    Hello Ali, We are conscious of size and weight limits when traveling abroad and we try to carry on only, however between countries our luggage was taken and our camera was stolen (we forgot it was in the bag). Do you have any secrets to avoid this ?

    • Ali Garland
      May 5, 2018 @ 9:29 pm

      Terri, I am so sorry this happened to you! Always best to make sure valuables like cameras, laptops, jewelry, medicine, etc. are packed in your carry-on luggage. I’m not sure if you’ll get anywhere, but I’d probably file a complaint with the airport where your camera was stolen. It’s hard to know if it was an airline employee or an airport employee or the security people. Going forward, try to think of checked luggage as things you might never see again. It’s unlikely to lose your luggage forever or to have something stolen, but as you’ve seen, it does happen. Check out my posts on what to pack in your carry-on and what NOT to pack in your carry-on for more tips.

  4. What Did I Pack for the Beyond Vacation Kick-Off Trip? | Ali's Adventures
    May 13, 2013 @ 8:02 am

    […] After only a few days, I can already see a few flaws in my packing list. My biggest struggle seems to be with the bags themselves, not what I actually pack. I might just go back to the double backpack routine, even if it is annoying. Perfection probably isn’t possible, but I will keep tweaking the list with each trip, and hopefully one of these days it will be good enough. But I can’t imagine ever ditching my carry-on only philosophy. […]

  5. The Ultimate Female All Season RTW Packing List - Her Packing List
    March 18, 2013 @ 8:49 am

    […] for an all seasons round the world trip is tough, especially if you’re traveling carry-on only. They key is to pack the basics you’ll need no matter where you are, plus whatever you need […]

  6. What can't you get in Germany, than you can in the US? - Grounded Traveler
    February 9, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

    […] and could almost picture it on the wall at REI in Atlanta. Something just at the upper edge of the carry-on size, wide and deep enough for a laptop, backpack style straps, several pockets for smaller things and […]

  7. Meet Ali Garland and Her REI Lookout 40 | Her Packing List
    October 8, 2012 @ 8:05 am

    […] this bag. It fits the measurements for carry-on for most airlines, and I try my hardest to always travel carry-on only. The only times I was prevented from taking it as carry-on were when I exceeded the weight […]

  8. Sometimes I Fake It | Ali's Adventures
    September 27, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    […] How to Travel Carry-On Only […]

  9. Cole @ Four Jandals
    August 13, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

    We just travelled for 2 months with only carry on around Italy and Spain. So much easier than lugging huge suitcases. Great travel tips series!

    • Ali Garland
      August 13, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

      I love how much easier it is to get around with less luggage! Thanks Cole!

  10. Michele @ Malaysian Meanders
    August 11, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    That’s a good tip to check if there’s a weight limit for carry-on. Air Asia only allows 7 kg, and it turns out that my rolling carry-on weighs 3.5kg empty. I checked ahead of time and knew to switch to a duffel bag so that I could actually bring enough clothing.

    • Ali Garland
      August 11, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

      Yikes, 3.5kg! Yeah, the weight of the bag empty is something people don’t often think about. I’m glad you checked ahead of time!

  11. Jane
    August 10, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

    Packing only into carry-on also forces you to leave the unnecessary things at home, which makes travelling that much lighter and easier.

    • Ali Garland
      August 10, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

      Exactly! I always find it easier to get around when I’m carrying less stuff. Thanks Jane!

  12. Margaret
    August 10, 2012 @ 6:13 am

    That’s a great tip about putting smaller, heavier items in your personal bag! I never thought about the fact that the personal bag never gets weighed. I usually try to only take a carry-on, but I have tipped the weight limit a couple times. Luckily, though, I was with someone that had weight to spare.

    • Ali Garland
      August 10, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

      Thanks Margaret! I usually carry a padlock in case I need to lock my bag up in a hostel, and I realized one time just how heavy that thing is, but it doesn’t take up much room. I think they just assume your purse or whatever can’t possibly weigh more than the limit, and I’ve never had that weighed. Although never say never!

  13. Alouise
    August 10, 2012 @ 1:38 am

    Great tips. I always try to use just carry-on when I fly, not paying baggage fees means I can use that money to do something I really want. I have had to gate check the occasional bag on flights where I didn’t realize the overhead was too small for my bag. I have a hard suitcase, and a backpack would probably be easier to fit into those smaller overhead compartments.

    • Ali Garland
      August 10, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

      Thanks Alouise! It’s hard to avoid checking 100% of the time, but attempting it gets me a really high success rate. If you have a flight on one of the regional airlines, they usually use prop jets which are smaller and have smaller overhead bins. When you’re booking a flight, it will usually tell you the type of plane, and if you’re not sure, check the flight number on

  14. Matt
    August 9, 2012 @ 11:32 am

    Just because there are published rules does not mean the folks at checkin will abide by them. If you stay in the US, this is easy, but start spending more time flying around Europe and Asia and the bag you were planning to carry on may hve to go under. Always make sure at least one bag that you plan to carry on can if needed be checked. Its not often but it happens to me on maybe 1 in every 15 to 20 flights, most recently on a United flight from Amsterdam to DC, but I have had this on Singapore Air, Air New Zealand, and Qatar.

    • Ali Garland
      August 9, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

      Wow, I’ve never had an airline employee make me check a bag that was clearly within the carry-on limits! It mostly happens to me when they have a low weight limit for carry-on bags and mine is over the limit. You’re right, it’s always good to make sure you have a bag you can put valuable things into in case you do have to check a bag you were hoping to take as carry-on. It’s not a perfect system, and unfortunately there are times when you’ll be forced to check.

  15. Jennifer
    August 9, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    Over the years I’ve come to travel carry on only for all trips shorter than two weeks long. It’s just so much faster and easier. I don’t have to wait around at baggage claim for my bag and more importantly, I don’t have to worry about lost bags. The funny thing is I’m such a hotly girl that no one believes I travel carry on only. One of these days I need to make of video of me packing.

    • Ali Garland
      August 11, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

      People are always amazed that I manage to travel carry-on only. It’s all about deciding what’s essential and limiting what you allow yourself to bring. And I *love* not having to wait at baggage claim!

  16. Lisa
    August 8, 2012 @ 2:13 am

    My younger daughter and I are heading to Chicago tomorrow for 4 nights and for the first time ever we are going to try and travel with just a carry-on suitcase. I bought a new bag today and I haven’t started packing yet but hopefully everything we need will fit! And I’ve been obsessively re-measuring the bag because I’m afraid I’m going to get to the airport and be told that it’s too big for carry-on! Not sure that I could ever do it on a longer trip but hopefully this will go well and I’ll no longer need to check bags on shorter trips.

    • Ali Garland
      August 8, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

      Lisa, that sounds awesome! If you’ve measured the bag and it’s within the airline’s limits, I’m sure you’ll be fine. I’m really looking forward to hearing how it goes after your trip!