No doubt you've seen those frazzled people at the airport huffing and puffing as they push a luggage cart piled high with suitcases - so many in fact they can barely see where they're going. Not only do they have to spend precious time lining up to check in all their earthly belongings, but they'll likely have to pay extra for the privilege. Once upon a time we were those frantic travellers. Now, we travel with carry-on luggage only.* Not only does it make travelling simpler, it saves money and reduces stress.
|John's bag on the left. Dianne's on the right.|
It is amazing how little one really needs while travelling. Using carry-on luggage only may seem intimidating or even impossible at first, but it's totally doable. If we can do it, anyone can. Embracing only carry-on luggage may be your golden ticket to an enjoyable, memorable, and worry-free vacation.
First things first. There are plenty of carry-on options from suitcases to backpacks to suit every budget. We currently use two versions of Rick Steves Appenzell day pack**. Smaller than a regular adult backpack they are lighter yet large enough to accommodate all of our necessities.
The second thing to embrace is a capsule wardrobe. Whether we're on the road for a few days, couple of weeks or for months on end our wardrobe essentially remains the same and provides seven days of clothing before we need to do laundry. A capsule wardrobe works regardless of season as we layer to keep warm.
What do we pack? Basically three of everything with the exception of shoes which we limit to two pairs each. We tend to be casual people so dressy and formal attire is left at home. Every piece of clothing we pack must be comfortable. It is also important that each item mixes and matches with the other so we focus on solids in two or three main colours.
Items must be easy care - drip dry with no need for an iron. Toiletries are limited to solids rather than liquids. We also pack a lightweight rain and windproof jacket as well as a sweater. Depending on the season and destination we'll add a light pair of gloves and scarf and when we fly or travel from one location to another we wear our heaviest items to ensure our backpacks remain as light as possible.
The top 5 benefits of relying solely on carry-on luggage are:
1. It saves money. Depending on the ever increasing baggage fees airlines now charge using carry-on only can save hundreds of dollars. Tavelling light also means we're aware of the size and weight of our bags and are able to take advantage of discount airline tickets, further reducing the cost of airline travel. Weight and size restrictions differ from airline to airline so check the specifics with your chosen airline. This list of carry-on sizes will get you started as well as provide measurements before you purchase carry-on luggage.
2. It reduces time at the airport. Using carry-on luggage saves on the amount of time spent in airports and lets be honest no one travels to savour the ambiance of a busy airport. Combining e-tickets with carry-on luggage reduces our departure time because there are no bags to check in and no boarding passes to collect. We go straight to security. Upon arrival at our destination we simply disembark and unlike most of our fellow passengers walk directly to the exit. No waiting at carousels or fumbling for foreign coins or bills to secure a luggage cart for us.
3. It reduces stress. Restricting ourselves to carry-on luggage eliminates the possibility of lost, stolen, damaged or broken items because our valuables are always within reach. Everything near and dear to us is at our fingertips throughout the journey. Plus, we can find anything within seconds because the packing process includes knowing what is where. We have a specific place for our clothing (inside packing cubes), our Kindle, iPad, camera as well as toiletries and we can access them if requested (as is often the case in security) at a moment's notice.
4. It leaves us hands-free. Carry-on luggage, and more specifically a lightweight backpack, leaves us hands free to navigate escalators, busy sidewalks or crowded spaces. This year we considered changing over to wheeled carry-on luggage, but the idea of dragging it down cobbled streets along with the irritating thumpety-thump-thump sound nixed that idea! Another benefit of carry-on luggage is it makes one think twice before purchasing souvenirs or other items because when it's strapped onto your back that extra little bit of weight can be quite noticeable - especially when walking to a hotel, bus stop or train station.
5. It provides more time to sightsee. Relying on a capsule wardrobe frees up considerable time each and every day of your vacation. We get up, get dressed and are out the door and able to experience more of the sights because we're not spending precious time fretting about what to wear that day. Our wardrobe is mix and match and changes according to weather rather than fashion
Final notes: At the end of each trip we evaluate what worked and what did not. Items that were rarely worn are abandoned and/or replaced before our next sojourn.
Many experts encourage travellers to leave blue jeans at home because of their extra weight and lengthy drying time. However, I've found I prefer their casual appearance and comfort and for that reason will put up with the additional carry on weight as well as their specific laundering requirements.
One final piece of advice I'd like to share is to leave those unworn items in the closet where they belong. Being comfortable is key to savouring the moment and while these items look great (why else would you have purchased them!) they will not suddenly become well worn or loved while you are on the road. If anything they'll be a liability and source of irritation.
* This article was written prior to the US and UK recent announcements that tech devices larger than a cell phone must be stowed in the baggage compartment. We have yet to fly via the countries and airlines affected, but will naturally adhere to the regulations accordingly either by switching to luggage that can be locked, opting to travel without a laptop, camera or e-reader, or selecting a different airline and route. Remaining flexible to changing criteria is key.
** While it is possible to lock our carry on packs we don't bother as they are always by our side, on our backs or within sight. That said, should more airlines adopt this new no-tech-carry-on rule we may be forced to purchase new luggage that can be easily locked.
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