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How to Only Bring a Carry-On

Here are my secrets to only bringing a carry-on on nearly any trip

  • Think ahead

  • Be decisive

  • Use a soft-shell suitcase


Once you have a soft-shell bag, you can always convince the gate attendants that it will fit. In fact, in all my travels I have never seen them ask someone to put a soft-shell bag in the measuring tool they have

at all gates. Additionally, soft shells allow you to fit more in because they have some give. If you are purchasing one for the first time, make sure you do not get a cheap one because the zippers are more likely to break. And they never break at a convenient time. I also recommend that you get one that has handles but also a cross-body strap. You can splurge for a more expensive one from one of the well-known desires (MZ Wallace, Away, Madewell, Herschel - all great quality and mostly over $150), or you can be more cost-conscious and check out more affordable ones on Amazon or Sole Society. I would not recommend any of the ones from Target’s brands. Those always break after a few uses.


If you choose to stick with your rolling hardshell, that is okay too! My plug for softshell bags is over and this article is for hardshell suitcases too!

When it comes to packing, everyone can use a carry-on for a 2-day weekend trip. If you are struggling because your shoes take up too much space, wear the pair that takes up the most space on the plane instead of packing them. Another option is to use a backpack for the larger shoes because most airlines allow you a carry-on and a personal (unless you buy the basic economy options which now only allow 1 carry-on). A few other problems people run into are toiletries being over 3oz. If you have a bunch of products you absolutely must have with you at all times, invest in these travel-size containers and just transfer some of the products into them so you don’t have to pay for a checked bag in order to bring your favorite face cream. If it’s hair appliances that are taking up space, leave the hairdryer because hotels and most Airbnbs now have them. Otherwise, buy a few travel-size options: hair dryer; flat iron; curling iron; or 2-in-1 to get both.

When it comes to packing clothes in a carry-on for longer than 2 days, you have to think ahead about the weather, what activities you will be doing, and make decisions based on only what you will actually need. I bring a few key pieces that can be used for multiple outfits. Jeans and nice t-shirts can be re-used, as can a good leather or jean jacket. Lastly, I always wear my layers on the plane so they don’t take up space in my suitcase (i.e. jackets or larger sweaters). The longest trip that I’ve packed only carry-ons for was a 7-day trip to Croatia and then a 7-day trip to Egypt and Israel. And I did not repeat outfits! So it is definitely possible to travel light and save money & time by not checking a bag.


So if you’re anything like me and dislike lines, waiting, or wasting time while you could be enjoying yourself, consider switching up your habits and trying the carry-on life! Reach out with any questions on IG or comment below!



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