From Checked to Carry-On | Downsizing Your Luggage

Let’s face it, traveling with checked bags is a nuisance. Baggage fees, waiting in line to check the bag at the airport, and fearing losing your luggage in transfers can all be avoided by downsizing your luggage to a carry-on. It sounds like a daunting task, but it’s really not as hard as you think!



In the past three years, we have checked our luggage ONCE. And that one time, our bags were delayed in transport. We even paid more to have fewer transfers and a quicker route…but that’s another story.

Back on track here – That one time we packed more than just a carry-on was when we were moving to Scotland. Every other trip, even our six months backpacking in South America, we only had a carry-on with the occasional personal item.  If we can travel for six months with just a carry-on per person including our camping and cooking gear, then you certainly can travel that light too!




Clothes Need More Than One Purpose

If it’s going in your pack, you better be able to wear it more than once. Don’t pack that skirt that will only match one shirt. Get rid of the dress and shoes that you’re only going to wear if you go out. Each item in your carry-on needs to have multiple purposes.

Take a t-shirt and a long sleeve button up. Two items of clothing, but really unlimited outfits. Wear the button up or t-shirt by themselves. Throw the button up over the t-shirt leaving it unbuttoned giving a layered look. Try rolling up the button up to a three-quarter sleeve, or wrap it around your waist for that trendy style these days. Get the idea? These two articles of clothing work as multiple outfits leaving less to fit in your carry-on bag!


Roll It, Don’t Fold It

Roll your clothes when you pack! It makes your clothes less wrinkled, and gives much more space! Roll each item individually, and then put them in any place they fit!

Wear The Big Stuff

If you’re packing jeans (we don’t recommend), a large jacket or scarf, or boots/tennis shoes, be sure to wear them on the plane! You can always take off a few layers once you get through boarding, and obviously, by wearing your big clothes, you’re saving space in your bag!


Stuff Your Extra Shoes

If you’re bringing more than one pair of shoes, stuff socks and/or underwear into the shoe itself. There’s so much wasted space inside a boot or tennis shoe, and with packing only a carry-on you can’t afford empty space anywhere!


No Big Liquids

Since you’re only packing a carry-on, you’re going to have to follow all the rules for what you can bring on the plane. All your liquids need to be under 100 ml or 3.4 ounces and have to fit inside one one-quart size baggie, and you can’t bring pocket knives, flammable things, and loads of other stuff. Check out what can and cannot be in your carry-on here.

Toss Out the Rolling Carry-On and Strap on a Backpack

In our experience, when people get checked for the size of their carry-on, it’s usually always the carry-ons with wheels! If it’s on your back, you usually slip right past the “boarding patrol” and can get away with the bag being just a bit too big. The second reason for having a backpack instead of a rolling bag is the ease when traveling through cities. You don’t want to have to roll your luggage through muddy streets, or cobblestone roads! Having it on your back makes it much easier to get right into the sightseeing the moment you land!


Choose Your Electronics Wisely

Technology these days makes it so easy to travel with just a smartphone. Before you pack your computer or tablet, think if you’re really going to use it or not. With that said, whatever electronics you do decide to bring, sort through the chargers and cords and only bring the exact ones you need. Keep in mind that the outlets may be different where you’re traveling, and you may be able to use the same cord to charge two different devices, (i.e. iPad and iPhone).


Break Down Your Camping Gear

If you’re bringing camping gear with you, number one… do yourself a favor and get backpacking camping gear. It’s lighter and takes up less space. But number two, don’t just throw your tent in your backpack in its bag. Take it out of the storage bag, and then shove each part of your tent into different areas of your pack wherever you can! If you’re traveling with a partner, divvy up the camping gear so you’re both carrying a bit of it all!


With all this talk about how small you can get your bags, and how surprised you’ll be to see what fits in just a simple carry-on, we’re sharing some photos of what’s inside our packs. And yes… this really does all fit!

South America for SIX Months  

**Most clothes in this picture are not cotton. Cotton doesn’t pack down as small, and when you wash it, it takes much longer to dry. Try packing synthetic clothes, typically found in the sports section of stores!


Camping in Italy for One Week

**For our trip to Italy, we splurged and packed jeans (neither of us even wore them except for on the flights), but none-the-less, we packed them. We ended up packing way, way more than necessary, and didn’t even wear much of these clothes!


[We will be posting more information soon about exactly what is in our packs and why. Laying out all the details of our gear, and links to where you can purchase the same things!]

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