Travel Tip Tuesday: Five Reasons to Go Carry-on Only

I’ve written often about my carry-on only packing process. I’ve shared my lists, talked about luggage and stressed the importance of packing lightseveral times over. Still, I know old habits die hard and some of you might not be convinced.

If your luggage is still weighing in at the 50lb line, listen up. Here are five reasons you should switch to carry-on only for your next trip.

1. Ease of Packing
The packing process is tedious and draining for many travelers, especially if they are packing two or three bags. When you travel carry-on only, you have less clothes, less products (since at the time of writing, you still can’t carry more than three ounce-sized liquids) and less stuff to worry about packing.

Yes, you have to be smart and you might have to remove some items if you see they are too bulky, but after a few trips, packing your carry-on will become easier and you will drastically reduce your packing time.

* It is also important to note that when you travel with a carry-on only, your return packing time is reduced. Last week I traveled to London with friends who, bless their hearts, are some of the heaviest packers I’ve ever met. It took me 10 minutes to pack the night before we left-it took them hours.

2. Look Travel Smart
I know this makes me sound like a travel snob-and I hate that, I really do, but when you are dragging around two or three bulky, over-sized suitcases, falling over yourself when one of them twists and holding up lines on buses and trains … you look like an amateur traveler.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I look like that when I return from my US vacations, but a girl’s gotta have what a girl’s gotta have-right? when I travel for leisure, however-whether it is a weekend, two weeks or a month-I pack carry-on only.

3. Late(r) Check-In
On that same London trip, I accidentally found myself arriving at the airport 45 minutes before my scheduled departure. Since I’d checked in online, I was able to proceed directly to security after getting my boarding pass and made it to my gate with minutes to spare.

4. First One Out
There is something fun and freeing about getting off of the plane and rushing right past that still-empty, non-revolving claim that has captured your fellow travelers. Seriously, if for no other reason than this-pack carry-on only next time. It is exhilarating.

5. Easy Clean Up
If there is anything travelers hate more than packing-it is unpacking, but when you travel with just your carry-on, unpacking is a piece of pie. Last weekend I unpacked my bag, had everything put up and reset for the next trip in less than ten minutes. Who wouldn’t love that?

Ok, it’s confession time. Do you travel carry-on only? If so, what other reasons would you give travelers for making the switch?

Until next time … Buon Viaggio.

Traveling south? Click here to see how I can help you plan your trip to Calabria or southern Italy.

Photos: allaboutgeorge and thbl via Flickr.

12 Responses
  1. I insist only that you do not cheat. Don’t use a bag too big, don’t bring two bags. Yes, you can sometimes get away with it, but it is dangerous to other travelers to have those heavy things overhead. I was almost killed once when we hit turbulance and the overhead popped open and a huge wheelie came down on me.
    You can get lots more in if you use those vacuum bags, but it still weighs the same as if it hadn’t been squished! I traveled here with my down comforter squished teeny, but it weighed as much as a large dog. I was in business class, so they didn’t care.

    OMG, Judith, that is horrible. It wasn’t *too* long ago that they didn’t even weigh carryon luggage when you left the US-still don’t sometimes.

  2. jforest

    I love traveling carry on only. I’ve done it for years. I did the traditional backpack around Europe trip after college, in 2001. I went 2 months living out of a single carry on backpack. It’s doable, and very VERY liberating. Now that I have an infant daughter, it’s harder. We’re experimenting with small trips, just a couple of weekends we drove from Boston to Montreal, and then Quebec City. We’re learning what we need to take, and what we can leave behind. We bought a great travel bed, a kidco peapod, that my daughter loves, and sleeps well in.

    I don’t think we’ll be able to go carry-on only until she is big enough to bring her own carry on ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kudos to everyone who travels light!

    Ha, I totally think parents with infants/toddlers should get two carryons! :0 I imagine it is much harder/impossible to do with little ones!

  3. I am carry-on only all the way! I think the main problem is that people think they will need all kinds of stuff that they really won’t need. Simplify, simplify, simplify!

    Definitely! I’ll cut their list(s) for them, if they need help. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. I agree, travelling with just a carry on really simplifies things. It can also make travel cheaper within Europe now that you have to pay to check in suitcases with low-cost airlines. I can only do it if I’m going for a long weekend though – if I’m away a week I need to check in luggage!

    Def Ryanair is changing the carry-on world! However, I’ve noticed many of these airlines here in Italy are super stingy with their weight, only allowing 5 kilos in your carryon. THAT can be tough for more than a long weekend.

  5. I almost always carry on. Even when we traveled to Italy for a month, we only took carry-ons. 2 backpacks, 2 small rolling bags. Worked great. Also I highly recomment the ScottE clothes. The vest has zip-off sleeves, the pants have zip-off legs. Husband just LOVES them. Not for me but saves room for him. We also only used carry-ons for a 3-week cruise last year.

    Carrying on means handwashing things almost daily – and I am sure to bring my braided rubber clothesline, my woolite packets, and also sure to bring the clothes that behave well with this kind of treatment.

    The hardest part of packing like this (at least for me) is dealing with the shoes. I wear the heaviest/bulkiest pair, and take a pair of semi-stylish slippers or flats.

    Traveling for work is much more difficult, especially for more than 4 days. Typically for me that means both leisure and work clothes/shoes, as well as hauling the heavy work laptop. Means the wardrobe is much more restricted! But I do make the effort. As you say, it’s great to cruise past the baggage claim, and also provides flexibility when flights or plans change.

    FLEXIBILITY! Another fabulous point! I’ll never forget years ago-before I tried carry-on only, I had the chance to take a flight that was three hours earlier than the one I was scheduled on, but couldn’t b/c I’d checked bags. Great point!

  6. How about the opposite? Despite all the advantages of only travelling with a carry-on, I like travelling with barely a carry-on ๐Ÿ™‚ The main reason? With international flights often requiring several stop-overs, I hate lugging my carry-on everywhere! And some airports are so big that it really can become a hassle.

    But… here’s the confession: I usually have both a carry-on (for things like netbook, camera, extra clothes in case the luggage gets lost, etc.) AND a checked luggage (clothes, shoes, etc.).

    I think my solution would be a fully stocked vacation apartment with my things permanently there ๐Ÿ™‚ Then I don’t need any luggage at all.

    “A full stocked apartment … ” I think you are on to something. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, though I do get what you are saying. On my last trip to the US I had to check on my first flight (from here to London) because their restrictions were much more strict than for my intl. flight. It was *so* easy to walk on the plane with just a book, no luggage hassles in small bathrooms in the airport, etc. I get that side, too. I just have no patience and *hate* that wait at baggage claim.

  7. I used to pre-911………now I can’t be bothered with the hassle of opening up my carry on and going through security. It’s easier just to board with a pocketbook now! I don’t find you save that much time any longer.

    I keep my little Ziploc in a front pocket and it takes two seconds to pull out in security. I also pack a little paper shopping bag and before boarding put everything I need for the flight (book, pen, journal, etc) in that so I don’t have to dig through my stuff during flight.

  8. Paula Russell

    1) When you carry on your luggage is sure to arrive when you do.

    2)If you will be traveling by train at your destination, the smaller your luggage the better. Big bags don’t fit and have to be left in the exit areas between cars.

    3)It’s likely you’ll find yourself wearing one or two outfits for the whole trip, no matter how much you packed, so you might as well travel light.

    4)If you find that you really need something–like a sweater–you can always buy one.

    I hate to wash things in the sink, so I always bring enough underwear–it hardly takes up much space, and often drop off a load of laundry and pick it up in the evening.

    I always tell my clients that the lighter they pack the better their trip will be. No one has ever wished they packed more, but many regret lugging around extra just-in-case stuff (see # 4).

    Great additions, as always, Paula. Funny I forgot to mention your luggage actually arriving. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Nancy

    My husband and I traveled to Italy for the entire month of May and we both only used the wonderful Rick Steves backpack style luggage. His website also provides packing lists for both men and women who want to pack light.
    We were very happy to not have to drag wheelies up and down all the stairs and trains as we moved around the country.
    It rained for 17 of our 29 days which made it a bit more difficult with limited clothes, but it worked.
    And, I have to pack a CPAP breathing machine and hose, a camera, cell phone, and a tiny netbook computer (oh and ALL the cords and chargers!)
    Oh, and it saves a lot of time trying to figure out what to wear each day! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Bravi! A month in Italy with all of those extras and you still made it. I’m impressed.

  10. Like all of life, there are good things and bad things about it. I don’t like the baggage claims either, but what I hate more than that is waiting to deplane at the airport when everyone is going carry-on only. I also hate dragging luggage through the airport. I think the best for my world is carry-on size checked!

    I actually do “carry on size, checked” when I come back to Italy from the US. I have to check luggage then b/c I bring stuff (liquids) with me that I can’t find in Italy. It definitely beats luggin’ a big ole’ piece of luggage!

  11. Aislinn

    I always travel light and I’m only 15! I spent five months going around Europe with my mum who has a strict ‘If it doesn’t fit in the one bag, you’re not taking it.’ And we only had three outfits – One you’re wearing, one in the wash and one clean, plus heaps of underwear. We only had one backpack each, but gradually picked up at suitcase each, as we had to buy winter clothes and souvenirs.
    It also pays to travel light if you’re going by train or going to Japan. Last year we went to England for my cousin’s wedding an went to France to pick up a suitcase we had left behind (long story)then when we were in Japan the strap broke and the other suitcase’s handle broke. Moral of that story, make sure all you’re luggage in in good condition and not liable to break.

  12. Charlie

    I travel carry-on only also, domestic and abroad. I pack for 3 days, not includng what I am wearing and pack it neatly into a small tactical bag along with my iPad and camera.
    Everything else I can buy.

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