I Finally Did It! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only

  • this post about flying with carry-on only is not a sponsored post however affiliate links are used which means I will make a small commission on purchases made using my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

For years I’ve been dreaming of traveling with only a carry-on bag. I have envied others that could do it, I’ve watched countless YouTube videos on how and I’ve tried so many different products. But even after all that I honestly thought it was never going to happen for me. Why? Because I’m a girl that likes to be prepared for all the things. I like having choices for the weather and any spontaneous activity that might be thrown at me. I get a little nervous if I don’t have all the comforts of home with me.

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Last year for the first time I finally put my fears aside and just did it. It was only a four day trip but flying with only a carry-on, even for such a short time, still made me nervous. Yet guess what? It went well! I didn’t have any problems and boy did that boost my confidence.

I was excited to do it again except unfortunately the next time didn’t go as smoothly. Some of my outfit choices weren’t the best for the weather and the only dress I’d brought to wear to a wedding, I’d forgotten the appropriate undergarments for and couldn’t wear. That was a bummer.

But here’s the thing. I made do with what I had and it wasn’t the end of the world. Such a valuable lesson that I needed to learn. I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked and it was okay. So I wore Capri pants to the wedding instead of my dress, BIG DEAL. Years ago that might have really upset me. Thankfully experience is a great teacher.

Traveling with Carry-On Only

Then this past month my family and I flew to Ontario for 10 days. I tweaked some of my packing techniques and felt confident that I had everything I needed. And I did! Although, keep in mind, summer travel is a whole lot easier to pack for. Shorts take up very little room. I also knew we’d have access to a washing machine while there which definitely helps.

Here’s what I packed: 2 dresses, 2 skirts, 9 shirts, 5 pairs of shorts, 1 Capri pant, 1 bathing suit, 1 cover up, 1 robe, 1 pair of pyjamas, undergarments, hat, cosmetic case, brush, purse and 2 pairs of shoes. And it was all under the 22 pound weight limit. Whoot, ya it was! Seriously I was so proud of myself 🙂

My secret? A great carry-on bag and packing cubes!

Eagle Creek 22 AWD Suitcase

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

The carry-on bag I use and love is the Eagle Creek Tarmac 22 AWD suitcase (mine is an older version). Oh my goodness does this bag ever check a lot of boxes for me. My favorite part of the bag is that it opens to two equal compartments inside rather than one deep one. One side holds all my clothes in two packing cubes and the other zippered section holds everything else. It makes me happy that nothing is going to fall out when the suitcase is opened. Plus I don’t have to go digging for anything.

Other great features of this bag is how easily the wheels roll 360 degrees and the two outside pockets. I’ve used other hard sided suitcases in the past with no outside pockets and just didn’t love them. The big outside pocket on this particular bag is padded to protect electronics which is really nice. I love how separate compartments lend themselves to great organization.

Packing Cubes to the Rescue

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

The reason I can bring as much clothing as I did on my trip was by using two same sized packing cubes. One to hold my tops and one to hold my bottoms. The ones I used shown in these pictures are by Heys and are approx 15 x 10 x 3.5 inches big. Mine are many years old though and I couldn’t find the exact ones online but these packing cubes are similar on Amazon.

What’s most important to me in a packing cube is that I have two the same size so I can fit them perfectly inside my suitcase side by side.

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

The key is to ROLL your clothes in the packing cubes. There are less wrinkles and you can fit way more in.

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

This one cube for my bottoms above holds 5 pairs of shorts, 1 Capri pant, two dresses (underneath my shorts) and two skirts. I made sure the clothing I packed could all be mixed and matched to give me plenty of outfit options. The packing cubes act as compression to make sure everything is as snug as can be. Very cool!

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

I neglected to take any photos of the other side of the suitcase but that is where I packed two pairs of shoes, my make-up bag (for non-liquids), my brush, undergarments (in tiny packing cubes), bathing suit, cover up, pyjamas, hat and the small purse I pack for when I get to my destination. I packed my robe underneath my packing cubes.

The only thing I couldn’t fit into my suitcase was my hair straightener and my husband kindly put that into his carry-on for me. To avoid that predicament in the future I just recently bought this mini travel hair straightener to bring with me when I travel next.

Lug “Personal Article” Bag

Another must have travel item for me includes my Lug “personal article” travel bag. Most airlines will allow two carry-on pieces. One standard article and one personal. Be sure to double check the airline you travel with to ensure size compliance. I use this bag to hold my book, food, phone, chargers, liquids, glasses, etc.

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Lug bags are the ultimate in travel bags. So many well thought out details and pockets. Oh my how I love them. My purple one shown has been discontinued but I’ve got my eye on this Lug Windjammer bag in my future. It also features the luggage strap on the back so you easily slide it over a suitcase handle. This particular option is a MUST for me when traveling as it makes life so much easier.

Lug Flapper Crossbody Bag

The smaller travel purse that I pack with me is also a Lug bag. It’s called the Lug Flapper Crossbody Bag and the size is so fantastic. Not too big and not too small and very easy to pack away in your suitcase. Comes with two straps, one plain black and one a pretty floral color. I LOVE this bag! Seriously follow the link and check out all the pockets!!

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

I love that on the side of the purse you’ll find a magnetic pocket that you can open to use as a water bottle holder. Hands free is never a bad idea.

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Side note: keep track of your keys on your purses by attaching them to the outside using a Carabiner clip.

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Okay so finally the two toiletry bags I travel with are my Orla Kiely cosmetic bag (I got mine at Target) and a simple TSA approved bag from Chatters for my liquids. I shared more about my love of this particular Orla Kiely bag on a post I did about using it as a traveling pharmacy. I keep the liquids bag in my purple bag so I can easily pull it out at security.

I finally did it! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

That’s it! Those are my secrets for traveling for 10 days with only a carry-on bag. Nothing too earth shattering but it’s what works for me. Let me know if you have any questions for me.

I can’t imagine going back to checking a bag. Traveling with only a carry-on bag is just so much easier. I love never having to worry about a lost bag and I love not having to wait in the baggage claim area. It’s amazing and I’m so happy I was finally able to conquer my fear and embrace the travel life.

Are you a carry-on only traveler?

Get more travel tips right HERE.

PS: I also really love these packing cubes for kids!

To see more organizing products I recommend click on the graphic below.

Filed under: Containerizing, Organizing Products, Travel/Auto Organization


18 Responses to I Finally Did It! Tips for Traveling with Carry-On Only

  1. 1
    Leah | A Relaxed Gal says

    I typically carry on a bag except for longer trips and I need to bring hair products with me. If I skimp on the hair products my hair goes haywire and it impacts my trip so I have to carry larger bottles than TSA allows in carry-ons.

    I have to agree that packing cubes are awesome! I started using them last year and wished I’d used them before that. I can carry so much more in a smaller bag and keep my bag more organized with them.

    • 1.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Hi Leah! I should have mentioned that about hair products. I carried my hair heat protector in my liquids bag but I did buy hairspray when I got to my destination. Can’t live without my hairspray 🙂

  2. 2
    Sandy Pride says

    Thanks for the tips! I have been traveling more in retirement and getting more streamlined with each trip! It helps that many of the places I travel to have washing machines!

    • 2.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Yes I think experience plays a huge roll in knowing what you can and can’t live without.

  3. 3
    Monica says

    Great Post! I have long been a carry-on only traveler. Two days or three weeks – I use the same carry-on suitcase. I am a single mom – when I traveled with my 4 year old and 1 year old to Edinburgh I was able to do it with one carry-on suitcase, a backpack for me and one small backpack that the 4 year old carried – along with a stroller (gate checked) and a carseat for the 1 year old. I managed by slinging the car seat over my shoulder using the straps, hanging my back pack on the stroller for the 1 year old, which I pushed with one hand while pulling the carry-on with the other. The 4 year old walked and carried his own backpack! Anything is possible if you put practicality first!

  4. 4
    pat sendelbach says

    I have traveled for a week in winter with only my personal bag.

    • 4.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      That’s awesome! I do wonder if I could do it for a winter trip. I’m up for the challenge though! Especially if it involves sun and a beach 🙂

  5. 5
    Kathleen DeMatteo says

    Good for you, Laura! You found the key to packing light – making do with what you have. The truth is, four days or four weeks, it really doesn’t matter that much. And it’s freeing to not lug around a heavy bag or even spend time worrying about what to wear. Few people notice and no one cares that you have reworn an an outfit, anyway.

  6. 6
    Sue Machin says

    Cpngratulations Laura.
    You have done well. I to only have a carry one and a large bag when I travel. Have done over 6 weeks travel this way. Take less and it still works. Rolling and using packing cubes really works. I fit clothes, toiletries,, shoes, undies all into my carry on. Books, electronics, money, etc into my “handbag”. Enjoy the light travel world Laura.

  7. 7
    Tess says

    Thank you so much! I am preparing to take a 5 day trip from New Mexico to northern California and was trying to figure out how to pack for it. A carry on and personal bag is my goal. I really appreciate all the details you’ve given! I think I can do it now!!!!

  8. 8
    Becky Lowmaster says

    Good ideas on how to pack a carryon piece of luggage. Not flown in awhile. I love the purple purse! I bought a new piece of luggage in April as we had a road trip and wanted to replace an older piece that has a hole. Used it on out trip.and enjoyed all the pockets too. Its got wheels but not 360. This works great for me.

  9. 9
    Jennifer says

    This is a dream of mine. I’ve never thought to use the packing cubes… Those could be a game changer for me! Now I can’t wait to give this a try on my next trip!

  10. 10
    MelanieL says

    I wanted to thank you for recommending the Lug Windjammer personal article bag. I just received it in the mail in preparation for an international trip this summer and I’m already in love with it! What a fantastic bag, it has a space/pocket for everything! And while I’m at it, I also love the Yurbuds ear phones you recommended in one of your gift guides, also fantastic!

    • 10.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Woohooo so glad you love the bag, it’s a gooder 🙂 Also I just got wireless Yurbuds. I think the line has been discontinued so I had to get them off eBay.


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