I’m occasionally asked why I bother with light packing and traveling with carry-on only luggage. I recognize that this isn’t necessarily the best choice for everyone, and even though it’s my preference, definitely has its tradeoffs.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that when we began traveling to Europe, we over-packed horrendously the first couple of trips. I soon realized that I frequently wore the same few items over and over, and most of my “just in case” pieces never left the hotel room. Another wake-up call was when le Monsieur’s primary checked bag never showed up on the conveyor belt at our destination and was only delivered to our hotel two days later. Had we not been staying in the same location for several days, this could have been more than an inconvenience.
Since then, I’ve been reading up and studying how others manage it and have traveled “carry-on” for the last four years. I’ve never regretted making the switch. I’m not as hard-core as some; I don’t invest in a separate travel wardrobe, I stick to clothing styles I’d feel comfortable in at home, I use a “spinner” wheeled carry-on bag to save my neck, back and shoulders, and if we’ve purchased liquids along the way (wines, olive oils, skincare, some of those lovely mustards from the Maille boutique in Paris) I’ll check a bag on the way home and cross my fingers.
Being able to easily navigate up and down stairs, through turnstiles and on and off trains and buses unassisted has been one of the biggest payoffs of packing this way. Traveling light allows for greater mobility, and the ability to change plans when flights or trains get cancelled or delayed. And in small hotel rooms, carry-on sized bags occupy less of that precious space.
Carry-on only travel might make sense for you if:
- You are traveling to multiple destinations, and relying at least in part on trains, buses or other public transportation. (Another note, on many trains there is limited room for luggage, and the racks that can accommodate large bags may not be near your seats.)
- You like to change travel plans on the fly, or be able to adjust for flight or other transportation interruptions.
- You hate the idea of paying checked baggage fees. (Though be sure and check with your airline; some discount and other carriers have begun charging for bags carried on as well.)
- The thought of your luggage going missing makes you break out in a cold sweat.
- You like to avoid complication whenever possible.
- You don’t mind either doing some hand washing of clothing or visiting a laundromat or paying to have laundry done if necessary.
However, some people prefer to have more options, don’t want to have to worry about laundry, or have special wardrobe requirements. Carry-on travel may be more hassle than it’s worth for you if:
- You are traveling to a single destination or will have access to a car in between destinations.
- Your travel plans include activities that require special equipment (e.g. skiing, rock climbing, music retreats) or have one or more “special occasion” events on the agenda (e.g. destination weddings, formal dinners, costume parties).
- You either don’t mind the baggage fees or are part of an airline loyalty program that waives them once you hit a certain status.
- The thought of not having a lot of variety in your wardrobe makes you break out in a cold sweat.
- Hey, lost luggage is a great excuse to go shopping! 😉
Either way, you want your luggage and what you bring to be a help, not a hindrance.
My carry-on bag is this 22″ spinner from Lipault Paris. I call it The Little Bag That Could. It holds a LOT, yet still fits easily in overhead bins. As my “Personal Item” that fits underneath the seat, I use this Lipault Paris 19″ Weekender. Lots of pockets for organizing, and slips over the handle of the wheeled bag.
I’ve also updated my SHOP page with some of my favorite travel clothing, accessories and equipment.
You can see all HERE, and I’ll be adding new items over the next few weeks, in addition to sharing some travel-friendly finds in upcoming posts.
How about you…do you prefer carry-on travel or having more options?
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