How To Travel Carry-On Only On Long Trips

How To Travel Carry-On Only On Long TripsIn a little over three weeks, I will board a flight to Europe for three months. In the past, three months of travel would mean loads of suitcases and bags to accommodate for roughly 90 days of travel. After a number of car rental cramming sessions and juggling of bags on train platforms, I finally came to the realization that I must go carry-on only, even on a long stint away from home. However, traveling with a suitcase that is carry-on size when you need items for weeks isn’t always the easiest feat to accomplish. If you want to go carry-on only on your next long trip, there are a few things you can do to accomplish what the chronic over-packer can’t fathom.

Begin with a carry-on sized foundation: Over-packers skeptical about going carry-on only on their next trip must first and foremost begin with a good foundation. The size of your bag will dictate your carry-on fate. If you already start out with a suitcase that is over the carry-on dimensions, you won’t be forced to pare down. Travelers looking to go carry-on only even on a long stay should begin with a suitcase that meets the carry-on size requirements. Most airlines have a maximum carry-on size rule of 22” long, 14” wide and 9” tall. Before you purchase a new bag or load up the carry-on bag in your closet, be sure to check with your airline specifically for their dimensions. Budget airlines in Europe for example have different carry-on dimension requirements than US airlines.

Pack as if you’re traveling for two weeks: Even if your trip spans several months, if you want to go carry-on only, you must pack as if you are traveling for two weeks. Travelers looking to lighten their loads on long trips have to pare down their clothing options and accept that they will do laundry on the road. If you think you can fit more into your bag than two weeks worth of clothing, you can also pack by setting a number limit for each clothing item. For example, for my three months in Europe, I am trying to not exceed the number 7 in terms of 7 T-shirts and 7 dresses. For bulkier items like shoes and bottoms, I am limiting my number to 3. By setting time and numerical limits on different clothing items, you stand a better chance of not trying to cram in more than you want to carry.

Utilize packing cubes and compression bags: You might be able to pare down the items you pack, only to have an overflowing suitcase. If you are struggling with your over-packing tendencies, there are tools that can help you pare down without losing everything you want to bring. Packing cubes and compression bags can help seal your items into nice and neat squares and rectangles. They can also help with organization at airport security checkpoints.

Limit liquids with solid and powder replacements: One of the biggest challenges with going carry-on only for a long trip comes in the liquid department. If you are jetting off for several weeks and months, especially to foreign lands, you want to have all of your prized toiletries. However, you can’t pack all of your toiletries in a carry-on bag. You have to find solid and powder replacements of your favorite liquid items. While I plan on buying some of my toiletries when I get to Europe, I am also trying to replace liquid items. Instead of a liquid shampoo, I have packed a dry, powder shampoo. Instead of shower gel, I have packed a bar of soap. Before you throw in the towel on the carry-on only idea once you realize your toiletries are next to impossible to pack with liquid restrictions, try to get creative, only packing what you need for a few weeks and solid and powder replacements when you can.

Spend some time selecting a good tote or messenger bag:
Sometimes the secret to traveling carry-on only for long periods of time has nothing to do with your carry-on suitcase, but rather your one allotted personal item. Your tote, messenger bag or small backpack should fit all of your odds and ends without being overly bulky and heavy. Travelers shouldn’t buy a tote that isn’t conducive to travel. Totes, messenger bags and small backpacks should come with plenty of compartments to keep you organized and also carry everything you need, providing that extra space your suitcase might lack.

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