Tips for Traveling with Only a Carry-on

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Traveling with only a carry-on is something I had never done successfully until recently. I was invited to my very first press trip and going solo so, I was determined to not check any bags. Not to mention I was going to be gone for less than 48 hours. It would be silly to check bags.

Colorful clouds in the sky.

I have always been a notorious over-packer. I am the person who usually has to pay the overweight fee and everything. It’s obnoxious and unnecessary but I just seriously lack packing skills.

Packing for this trip was a breeze and I accomplished my goal of traveling with only a carry-on. Several products helped me do this. Here’s what I used and how I made it happen:

Genius Packer carry on packed for a trip.

Tips to Travel with Just a Carry-On

  • Get a great carry-on bag. I have a Genius Packer and just love it. It has several compartments, a list of things you might need, and just so much more. It really does help you pack like a genius.
  • Be careful with liquids. I purchased a handy kit by Flight 001 on that is made to be airline-appropriate. I had no clue, so it was an enormous help. Plus, you have to put all liquids in the bin during security, so just putting the whole kit out there was extra convenient.
  • Pack outfits into cubes. Using cubes to pack is not only a space-saver, but also helped keep me organized. I set out my outfits for each event and then placed them into a packing cube. Packing outfits is always when my packing plan derails. Putting them into the cubes made it easier for me to stay on track.
  • Keep gadgets together. If you bring an iPad, tablet, or other devices that need to go into the bin during security, keep them so that they are easy to grab. I put my iPad and Kindle Paperwhite into a soft case and kept it in my purse. Phones can stay in your purse. It was easy for me to just pull the items out, put them in the bin, and quickly go through the line. If you don’t carry a purse, there are front zipper spots in the Genius Packer that would work as well.
  • Get comfy slip-on shoes. Thank goodness flats are so in right now. I got a cute, cheap, and seriously comfortable pair from Wet Seal. They were so easy to slip on and off through security and also easy to walk in. No blisters or issues at all.
  • Bring a travel blanket. Clearly, not a necessity, but it’s funny and cute, so I had to share. Products that make me laugh are a huge win in my book, so I had to have this travel blanket. I ended up with the window seat on one my flights, so it made for an excellent pillow.
Funny travel blanket.

After I was all packed and super proud for packing with just a carry-on, guess what happened… They made me check the dang bag.

The flight I was on was so packed that they ran out of overhead bin space and made people check their carry-ons.

But, technically, I still did it! I still managed to control my over-packing tendencies and use just a carry-on. 😉

Do you have any tips for traveling with a carry-on only? Did I miss anything?

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  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    That is such great advice. I have never gone away for a short enough time to only need a carry on, but this might come in handy someday.

  2. Chelley @ AisForAdelaide says:

    I wish this was possible with a toddler! Great tips- I will have to share with the hubs, who travels for work!

  3. I need to follow these tips. It’s so much easier and cheaper to travel with carry-on.

  4. Aimee Smith says:

    We just did this a few weeks ago. I wish I would have had those smaller bags, would have made it easier!

  5. Woah, I totally want and need that Genius Packer!

  6. Great tips! I am always looking for ways to travel lighter.

  7. I love that travel blanket, haha I would definitely use it! I always get cold during flights.

  8. Amy Desrosiers says:

    When I went to MN I only used a carry on too! I dont like baggage fees!

  9. Ellen Christian says:

    I never manage to fit everything into a carry on. I really wish I could!

  10. I’ve never flown, and I never will. HOWEVER, whenever I pack for any other trip, it’s terrible. I’m the worst packer ever. I seriously need to look into the Genius Packer.

  11. I always try so hard to only travel with a carryon. These are really great tips. It’s totally doable.

  12. My hubby travels for work a lot and always brings ONLY a carry on because it’s so much easier to get in and out of the airport without checked baggage.

  13. Wonderful tips! I am also an over packer! I need to get one of those Genius packer. GENIUS idea!! LOL 🙂

  14. Stacey - Seattle Mom Blog says:

    I can’t imagine traveling only with a carry-on! You make it seem possible.

  15. I just checked a bag for the first time in years last weekend. But it wasn’t exactly a bag, it was a box of wine. LOLLOLOL

  16. Great tips and also a money saver!

  17. Laura (Lauras Little House Tips) says:

    I really want that bag! I over pack too and look at you go so organized and I love it!! Genius Packer.
    I’d love 2 on for my bathroom I’d be all organized lol

  18. Ann BAcciaglia says:

    I pack way too many things when I travel. I really need to learn how to travel with just a carry on bag. Thanks for sharing your tips.

  19. I have gotten better and better at packing each time I go on a trip. I don’t worry about the little things either because I figure their is a CVS, Walmart, or Walgreens nearby. 🙂

  20. Amber Edwards says:

    Those are brilliant ideas! I’ve never been able to organize well enough to fit everything into a small carry on bag. So these are definitely WINNING tips for me.

  21. Mindy Grant says:

    I always over pack, too, even when just staying at my Mom’s house for the night. These are great tips. Thanks for sharing!

  22. i always overpack. it’s like my “thing” although i want a genius packer!

  23. I really need to try those packing cubes. I think that would help me a TON!

  24. I try to only use a carry on when I travel. It can be challenging though.

  25. Kathleen Garber says:

    Love that emergency travel blanket! I love the idea of packing cubes too. I’ve packed in big ziploc bags before for my kids to keep them organized but I like that idea better.

  26. valmg @ Mom Knows It All says:

    I’ve never heard of packing cubes before, they sound neat! The closest I’d heard to that prior is to pack each outfit in a roll and put a tie around it.

  27. Mama to 5 BLessings says:

    Great tips, our travel this summer is by cat, these tips could work with that too!

  28. MaryJo Tsitouris says:

    These are great tips. I don’t travel much, but my sister travels for work so I’ll share them with her. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Gayle Watkins says:

    Now, if you could just find the magic key for all the carry-ons to fit on the plane so those who don’t carry-on don’t aren’t delayed because there is no room.

  30. David Fultner says:

    Thanks this will help.

  31. I have only flown 3 times in 63 years..all short hops so I did not require more than a carry on…but you make some tremendous suggestions that I will copy just in case

  32. David Fultner says:

    You are prepared. thanks for the tips.

  33. Great post! Everyone needs to learn to pack light. This is a great little guide!

  34. Nicole Henry says:

    Great advice! We are leaving for vacay tomorrow and this is a perfect read! Thank you!!!

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