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Travelling With CarryOn Luggage Only

That was me also, carrying full size luggage for a week-long stay on a fancy cruise or luxury resort, “feeling” I could get away with bringing 6 pairs of shoes to match all of my evening wear. Yep, been there, done that, many times actually. While bringing the maximum luggage allowance and full-size luggage might be in order in some situations, such as cruises and luxury destinations requiring many outfit changes, travelling with hand luggage only comes with unbeatable freedom.

If you haven’t already heard me rave about it enough already, the advantages of carry-on only travel are numerous. Having all of your belongings with you at all time (the best part really), it will also set your mind free about potential lost luggage from airport connections and get you quickly on your way upon arrival at destination by avoiding the dreadful wait at the luggage carrousel. 
 
Moreover, travelling in Europe with a carry-on only has loads of benefits. You’ll, without a doubt, do more walking than expected to with your luggage in tow, making travelling light a fantastic and smart option. Secondly, going with carry-on luggage in Europe will provide you with the added benefit of manoeuvrability.

Commuter trains, buses and public transport options are usually very crowded making travelling with lightweight carry-on luggage much easier to move around. And let’s not forget about Europe’s cobblestone streets and turn-of-the-century lodging options without elevators and extremely small rooms, all of which make going carry-on only a smart travel option. 

Lastly, with luggage allowance getting smaller and fees on the rise, if you’re planning a multi-city or multiple countries to visit on your European tour, packing a carry-on only will save you a substantial amount of money along the way. 
 
My first European travel experience with hand luggage only was a few years back while on an Ireland and Scotland discovery tour, I’ve since become a true convert, never going back to anything else but the following trusted system.

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Table of contents

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Packing Light Starts with Smart Planning

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At first, the thought of packing all of your travel gear in a 10kg suitcase can be daunting and seemingly impossible but rest assured that it can be done with the following tips and tricks that will get you packing your carry-on like a pro. These packing tips provide solutions for maximizing space and efficiency, the main goal and objective to mastering the art of travelling with hand luggage only.

Here a Few Considerations to Start the Planning Process.

Invest in the Proper gear and equipment. 

I recently heard the best statement which describes my state of mind to a tee: I’m not rich enough not to purchase solely the best equipment. Make sense, right? If you’re considering a minimalist travel packing style, investing in the best travel gear products is a wise choice that you’ll enjoy for years to come. Therefore, the most important article purchase for this travel style will be choosing the best hand luggage possible. 

Backpack and Wheeled Luggage: Which One is For You?

Here’s a question I get all the time. Why do I travel with wheeled hand luggage? There are a few reasons why. First, I have a small 25l Pacsafe backpack, my trusted travel companion for the last 3 years, it carries my electronics safely and efficiently. This backpack also serves to carry my toiletries, passport and paperwork which means it’s the only bag I open at the TSA check line. It’s a perfect size (no more than 8kg on my back) a consideration for my size and weight carrying capacity. 

It has multiple anti-theft features such as eXomesh slash guard fabric and tucked away latches, plus it has padded laptop area that fits my MacBook. Easy to open and safe to carry on my back, my Packsafe is always by my side and fits perfectly under the airplane seat. Seeing many digital nomads with the same model in coworking space confirms that is was a wise and smart investment.

My second piece of luggage couldn’t be another backpack, I, therefore, chose wheeled hand luggage for those long airport and city walks. So far, this backpack-wheeled luggage combo has worked extremely well for the many travels I’ve taken in the last few years.

 

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Choosing the Ultimate Carry On Luggage
You will have two major factors to consider when selecting your carryon luggage, weight and space capacity. With European airlines getting stricter with luggage allowance sizes and weight restrictions- with limits starting from 7kg to 10 kg (thanks Ryanair!) – choosing the best lightweight option will give you a head start advantage. No sense in starting with luggage that’s 4kg or 6kg empty, leaving very little to no room for your actual gear!

Choosing a 2 wheel upright model instead of a 4 wheel spinner has many advantages. Since luggage measurements have to include the wheels, spinners models often exceed the limits plus their wheels system take up vital space within the inside cavity. Moreover, the spinners wheels are smaller and wouldn’t withstand much beating from uneven surfaces and cobblestone street travel making a 2 wheel option the smarter choice.

Carry on Size and weight allowance vary between airlines, check this great Cabin Baggage Guide here.

 

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Insider Tip: Maximum size dimensions for carryon luggage on Ryanair is 55 x 40 x 20 cm (22” x 15.75” 9.05”). The second item, which can include a handbag, briefcase, laptop, camera, shop purchases, etc. must not be larger than 35 x 20 x 20cm (13.7″ x 7.9″ x 7.9″).

Travel Packing Cubes

The best way to pack a suitcase to maximize space is to start with compartmentalizing your clothes and gear and an efficient way and the ultimate way to do that is with travel packing cubes. They make minimalist travel packing a breeze, a true game changer. Accessibility to your clothes become quick and easy without creating a mess in your suitcase whenever you need to go looking for an item. You can also use the cubes opened in your lodging’s commode drawers, they’re truly a valuable travel item to have.
 
For my 80 days, European trip which included city touring in Paris, Porto and Lisbon then followed by a 9 week UK housesit, I had to pack some summer wear but also some cooler climate clothing, including rain gear, I managed to do so with the following travel packing cubes organization.

Medium Black Cube for Bottoms  – Medium Red Cube for Undies  – Large Red Cube for Dresses  – Large Black Cube for Tops

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Compression Bags

A compression bag, the roll type not the vacuum type, is another a good option to maximize space in your suitcase. They come in all kinds of shape and sizes but I found the big ones challenging to work with as you get tempted to fit many items in them, in addition, to make access to any item in it a bit difficult. As of yet, the perfect compression bag size has been a smallish one where you can pack a couple of pashminas combined with a few flat items and then fits in the inside flap section of the carry-on suitcase.

The Lightest Version of Everything

Technically, any item you’re considering bringing along has got to be the smallest or lightest version of that product. That means you need to cut the weight wherever you can, even at the tiniest level. That goes for all of your clothing selection all the way to your wallet. Do you need to bring a full-size pocketbook or just bringing a few credit cards will do? Same goes for toiletries, invest in good travel sizes bottles (100 ml/3.4 oz), such as these Go Tubes and don’t exceed the 1 litre total TSA allowance. You can always buy what you need at your destination.  

It goes without saying that you should ditch bulky items such as hair dryers and umbrellas which are often available at your lodging.

Insider Tip: Sort your gear into categories, I recommend having a packing cube for tops, bottoms, undies and dressy /odds.

Rolled or Folded

Many travel experts swear by rolling your clothes and I tend to agree. This method works extremely well for light fabric clothing while bulkier items I find easier to fold and layer. So jeans and chunkier sweaters find their way at the bottom of my carryon stacked with cubes over them filled with rolled pieces of clothing in them.

Wear the Bulkier Items on the Fight

When it comes to maximum efficiency in packing hand luggage, wearing your heavier pieces of clothing on the plane is a clever strategy. My go-to fling outfit usually consists of jeans with a black top and pashmina with a light hoodie layered with a lightweight down jacket and rain shell. If I get too hot, the down jacket becomes a pillow which is clipped to the outside of my Pacsafe backpack and the rain shell can be tucked in a small bundle at the bottom of that same pack.
 
Waterproof hiking shoes are best worn on flight days – they might not be the most fashionable but save major space in the suitcase by doing so.

Fewer Clothes Mean More Frequent Laundry 

Having fewer clothes with you means doing a bit more laundry while on the road. To ensure that you can keep moving from around without damp clothes in your suitcase, select quick drying clothing as much as possible. Carrying your own travel clothesline will also prove beneficial in Airbnb’s, hotels and even hostels. Combined with a laundry soap bar, you’ll be able to tackle small loads on your own.

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What to Bring for an Extended Trip to Europe

We talked about smart planning is extremely important from a minimalist travel packing point of view. In fact, planning appropriately what to pack and wear is probably the most important factor. A good rule of thumb is to choose a neutral colour palette. It makes coordinating pieces of clothing easy and efficient and you can choose accessories for colour punches; for example, earrings, scarves and bandanas. Make sure you love the items that you will be packing as you’ll be wearing them often. 

If you’re travelling to multiple climate zones, think about layering to build on warmth. Those workout leggings can be used under those light hiking pants when the weather gets colder. Same for tops, tank tops under a cardigan, that cardigan under the rain shell…you get the drift. Finding the perfect ratio between high-performance clothing and dressier items can be a bit tricky but sticking to a unified colour palette such as greys, black, beige or browns will make the task easier. See a detailed list below..

Another smart strategy is to choose pieces of clothing that can serve double duty, leggings for layering, yoga or lounging, convertible zip-off pants that become shorts, pashminas can be used as a small throw blanket, sun cover or towel. Lastly, pack one fancier article that can be dressed up or down, be it a casual black dress or dark coloured denim.

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Insider Tip: For hostel living always bring a mumu style dress which makes it easy-peasy to slip on and off for showering and is light enough for bunk sleeping

Extra Essentials Items to Pack

– Pack a foldable bag so once on land, you can use it for groceries and to bring back purchases and souvenirs.

– Extra resealable bags are also a must to bring along. Perfect for all kinds of duties like dirty shoes, laundry and snacks

– Earplugs for flights, hostel sleeping and working uninterrupted. Love that I can sleep with these ones.

– Security is always high on my list. So a double loop security cable with small padlocks to lock up bags and luggage in the room. 

Insider Tip: For hostel living always bring a mumu style dress which makes it easy-peasy to slip on and off for showering and is light enough for bunk sleeping

Detailed Packing List for 80 days

Bottoms / 1 x shorts / 1 x skort / 2 x leggings / 1  x capri / 1 x jeans / 1 french terry pants / light hiking pants 

Undies / 6 quick drying undies / 1 yoga bra / 1 sports bra / 1 regular bra / 2 pair socks merino / 1 short socks

Dresses  / 1 Linen dress / 1 black cotton dress / 1 macro jersey dress

Tops  / 4 Long sleeve tops / 6 thirts 

Scarves / 1 pashminas / 2 scarves / 1 merino tube

Shoes: Teva Sandals / Slip-on canvas shoes / waterproof shoes 

Jackets: 1 rain shell /1 down jacket / 1 light hoodie

Sun hat for hiking

So think you’re ready to tackle travelling with hand luggage only with these tips and tricks? Don’t be shy if you have questions, doubts or suggestions…

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