How I travel with carry-on only

carry-on travel
(Last Updated On: 05/02/2019)

I remember very well my first flight. It was in July 2005, I was going to Lisbon and I was about to return overland to Poland. The whole trip, via Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany took exactly one month. I also remember very well how heavy my backpack was, I barely could put it on and there was no way I could place it on the overhead shelf in the trains without any help.

Now, all these years later, I’m just laughing at myself.

Along the way I’ve learnt how to do carry-on travel only and even when I can have a registered luggage I prefer to have all my belongings with me. It’s so much more convenient! I don’t need to wait for the luggage after landing, I have access to my things for all the time and I don’t need to worry something gets stolen (after my journey back from Iran when they requested to take my backpack as the registered because it was 13kgs instead of allowed 7kgs, I forgot to take my wallet with some money, documents and cards from there and was freaking out all the way to Berlin with a long stopover in Doha – some 19 hours – I’m slightly paranoid.)

arry-on travel At the bus station in Thessaloniki, Greece with my good old backpack (RIP)

My point is – you don’t need to take too many things with you when travelling! Why bothering with carrying a big, heavy backpack when – if packed smartly – you can easily see the world with carry-on only. I know many people who travel this way and I’m one of them.

By now I mastered the art of packing to carry-on only that I don’t even have bigger luggage at home because I simply don’t need it. As you might know I work full time and often start/finish my trips directly from work. At first everyone was surprised seeing me with a small backpack, then they wanted to know how I do it, now many people have learnt from me how to travel lightly.

My biggest moment of trial was when I was going for 3,5 weeks to Caucasus and Iran. I had to pack two sets of clothes – for Georgia and Armenia normal ones and for Iran I needed scarves and manteau.

I remember how I was almost crying when I put all the things I had to pack on my bed – there were so many of them! I was sure I will never manage to pack everything yet I somehow succeeded! That gave me the confidence I can easily travel with carry-on wherever I want to!

My packing list for carry-on travel

To give you a brief example of things I’m taking with me here is my packing list for a weeklong trip with carry-on only:

  • 4 pairs of panties, 4 pairs of socks, a towel, a pajama
  • 3 short sleeves t-shirt
  • 2 long sleeves t-shirt (sometimes I’m changing the proportions of the t-shirts, depending on the weather, but I’m trying not to take more than 5 of them)
  • 2 pairs of pants (usually jeans and some lighter ones)
  • a hoodie
  • a jacket
  • a scarf
  • flip-flops
  • cosmetics (in small bottles: tooth paste, toothbrush, tonic, face gel, shampoo, shower gel, dry shampoo, deodorant, antibacterial gel, laundry gel)
  • medicines
  • electronics: laptop (Dell Inspiron 14′), camera (Fujifilm X-T10), power bank, chargers. Sometimes I also take tripod for night pictures
  • book to read, notebook + pen to write, small backpack / cotton bag to carry when sightseeing, other random things such as sunglasses, headphones, nail clippers etc – I keep them all in a pouch bag so I don’t have a mess. Umbrella
  • documents (!)

See, not too many things!

My best carry-on travel practice

Of course I could have taken more clothes but I really don’t like carrying too much and I prefer to do the laundry every few days. But even with the outfit for every day I would manage to squeeze everything in the carry-on. As the key to the good packing is rolling everything.

You need to roll all the clothes really tight so they take as little space as possible. I couldn’t really believe it but once I started doing that it was like a brand new packing world has opened. Now I have the habit of rolling everything even when I have plenty of space in my luggage. The bonus is clothes don’t get too creased.

Smaller electronics are the key to success

As for the electronics – recently I’ve switched from DSLR to the mirrorless camera – Fujifilm X-T10 – and it made a huge difference for me. Not only it takes half the space of DSLR (or maybe even less) but it’s also much lighter and it takes so much better pictures (it’s crazy how fast the technology is improving!). So if you want to travel with carry-on only I definitely recommend changing your gear to a smaller camera.

I also take my laptop with me for all my solo trips as I can catch up on work / tv shows in the evenings. The one I have – Dell Inspiron – is perfect for travelling too as it’s not too big – 14 inches, rather light and it works perfectly well.

My carry-on backpack

Now that you know what I’m taking with me let’s talk about backpack. Because I always travel with a backpack, I don’t even own a trolley (but I’m thinking of buying one as it might come handy sometimes).

For couple of years I used 40 liters backpack I don’t even remember where I got. It served me very well and traveled to five continents with me. But it was time for it to retire.

For few months I’ve been using grey Cabin Zero 44 liters backpack and so far I can say almost only good things about it. This backpack was created to be a carry-on luggage, it has exactly the dimension allowed by the main airlines so you know you are using all the space you’re given.

carry-on travel

Besides 44 liters Cabin Zero also has smaller, 28 liters, backpacks good for a small carry-on for companies like Wizzair – I think I will need to get this one too.

The first thing I’ve noticed about that backpack is how solid it is. The material used for it seems to be very strong and the zip locks are strenghtened. I don’t need to worry that it will tear apart when I’m on the road.

carry-on travel

When, on my way to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I put the heavy (around 10kgs for sure) backpack on for the first time I hardly could feel it. It’s made in some miracle way that you don’t really feel the weight you carry – big thumbs up for that!

44 liters is a lot. You can easily put there all the things mentioned above and will still have space to bring some souvenirs back home. The thing with packing is that you take more or less the same things if you go for a weekend away or for a week – at least that’s my case.

I took CabinZero backpack for 9 days to Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as for a weekend to the countryside or the official work trip to Slovakia and it was perfect for all trips. It was good not only for travelling by plane but also for hiking in the forest or showing up in the fancy hotel!

carry-on travel

My only remark is to the pockets but this as well might be just my personal preference and you might find it fine. I’m used to backpacks with some smaller pockets where I can hide things like pouch bag, book, flip-flops or umbrella.

CabinZero has only one but huge pocket in front but if I try to put all the things mentioned above there they take the space from the main ventricle. So for now I’m putting there only keys, tissues or chewing gums – the rest goes to the main space and that bothers me a little bit as I don’t like to have a mess.

OK, there is a small pocket inside too but when I try to put the wallet there it keeps falling out to the main space. But I’m sure I will get used to this design with time!

Overall I can definitely recommend Cabin Zero for carry on travel as it gives you the most possibilities and saves you the stress of the oversized luggage!

carry-on travel

So now you know all my secrets how I manage to travel with carry on only. I really see only advantages of it and I can recommend it to everyone!

And how do you travel? Do you know any packing tips? Please share them in the comments below!

LIKED IT? PIN THIS POST! How I travel with carry-on only

Disclaimer: My trip was in partnership with Cabine Zero but as always all opinions are 100% mine.

love, kami 2

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  • 101


  • Reply
    Stacja Bałkany
    16/06/2017 at 22:06

    Twój blog jest moim ulubionym blogiem podróżniczym:) przeczytałem wszystkie notki, niektóre nawet kilkukrotnie. Ten wpis jest świetny! Mamy podobne doświadczenia – ja 11 lat temu wzruszyłem w pierwszego interraila. 60 litrowy plecak :) 15 t shirtow :) plus 10 butelek wina z Węgier. Zastanawialem się wtedy jak Ci wariaci latający samolotem pakuja się w bagaż podręczny? Teraz już sobie nie wyobrażam siebie z wielkim plecakiem. W Bośni i Hercegowinie byłem z tą tobą, z którą Cię spotkałem w Berlinie. Nie bardzo wierzyłem że to mi wystarczy…a jednak. Teraz lecę na 3 tygodnie na Kaukaz z tą samą torba. Twój wpis powinien przeczytać każdy, kto chce podróżować naprawdę! Bo ile kocham pociągi to jednak samoloty i tanie loty mogą Ci dać co miesiąc podróż do innego kraju. A że cena za bagaż większy niż podręczny jest większa niż za zam bilet to :) pozdrawiam i udanych podróży życzę :)

    • Reply
      21/06/2017 at 08:19

      dziękuję! :)

      • Reply
        27/06/2017 at 21:40

        Nie ma za co! Cała przyjemność po mojej stronie i zawsze się cieplej jednak robi, gdy ktoś docenia naszą pracę na blogu:)

  • Reply
    23/06/2017 at 07:06

    Great tips! I still have that backpack you show in the 1st picture :)

    • Reply
      21/08/2017 at 21:26

      It’s so great! But last time I was checking they don’t make it anymore hence I was looking for something new!

  • Reply
    07/09/2017 at 16:16

    Just found this blog. I am obsessed with seeing what people pack! I am yet to try rolling clothes but I definitely will on my next trip.

    • Reply
      05/10/2017 at 11:08

      It’s definitely useful! I couldn’t believe it myself but rolling clothes works! :)

  • Reply
    17/09/2017 at 19:03

    Thanks for the post, Kami. I am sure many beginner backpackers like myself will find this useful. One thing I really am not sure about is what to carry on my trips. I think I will start with your list. Thanks again.

    • Reply
      05/10/2017 at 11:10

      Good luck! And I’m really glad the post was useful!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Lynn
    20/09/2017 at 18:07

    have you ever travelled for three+ weeks with a carryon?

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      20/09/2017 at 18:10

      yes, my longest trip was 3,5 weeks, with two sets of clothes (normal for Caucasus and clothes for Iran).

    • Reply
      Jennifer Lynn
      20/09/2017 at 18:10

      i have to take one checked bag, and my standard size backpack.

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      20/09/2017 at 18:13

      I used to travel with many more things, now I’m just too lazy to carry everything :)

    • Reply
      Jennifer Lynn
      20/09/2017 at 18:14

      i’m slowly learning how to pack lighter and lighter. it’s so hard!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      20/09/2017 at 18:16

      it is! It also took me years to master!

    • Reply
      Jennifer Lynn
      20/09/2017 at 18:17

      i’m still a travel newbie, but i’ll get to that level one day!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      20/09/2017 at 18:21

      I’m sure you will! everything comes with the practice!

    • Reply
      Agnieszka Malonik Taggart
      20/09/2017 at 18:24

      2 years ago we packed on 2.5 week trip around Indonesia in Philippines with our 5 year old son only in carry ons :-) Can be done!

  • Reply
    Dom Duck
    20/09/2017 at 18:20

    We are going to Europe (from USA) for 2.5 weeks with 2 small kids and only backpacks, so this post has some good info for us. thanks!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      20/09/2017 at 18:22

      good luck! :)

  • Reply
    Joshua Cummings
    20/09/2017 at 19:55

    I need to forward this to my wife! Haha, I don’t know about her just using a carry on, but I could definitely see a need for a redunction in luggage!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      21/09/2017 at 13:57

      good luck with that :D

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