Traveling Carry-On-Only? Here’s the Best Packing Tips!

Are you soon going on vacation with a carry-on only? In this post you will learn how and what to do to maximize the space!

Last year I traveled with a carry-on-only for 5 months in a row, and let me tell you, I actually loved it! I was a little worried at first, but quickly learnt that that was the way I preferred to travel. The fact that you can just get off the plane, leave the airport straight away and not have to wait for your luggage is so amazing and time-saving! Not to add that it saves you money since it seems like a lot of airlines charge you extra to be able to bring a checked luggage.

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Choice of bag

I wouldn’t call myself a pro when it comes to packing, but maybe a semi-pro. The most important thing when you travel carry-on-only is to choose a good bag. Depending on your type of travel you might need a different kind of bag; when you’re backpacking the better choice in my opinion is a backpack, but if you’re only going on vacation for a week, a carry-on with wheels might be enough. It’s also important that the bag has the right sizing, as size allowance are different depending on airline. Make sure to always check the airline’s size standards before deciding what bag to pack in!

When I traveled with a carry-on for 5 months, I chose a 35L backpack as that fit my type of travel the best.

Here are some recommendations for carry-on-bags:


I actually just bought this backpack to use it for my upcoming travels later this month. So far, I love it, mainly because of it’s different types of compartments. The main compartment also opens up completely, like a suitcase, which makes packing so much easier! The best part is that I feel like it’s got a lot of room despite being small enough to fit under the seat. In other words, it works great as a carry-on or a personal item. Another great thing is that it’s budget-friendly which I love. I got mine in light beige and can’t wait to use it!

You can buy it here!

Carry-on with wheels

If you prefer a carry-on with wheels, I think this one is a good choice. It’s modern, comes in several different colors and expands for extra packing capacity. I haven’t tried it myself, but this would for sure be my first choice if I were to buy one because of all the great reviews!

Buy it here.

Packing cubes

I cannot stress packing cubes enough! They are lifesavers and I will literally never travel without them again as they’ve made it possible for me to fit more things in my bag. They also help make it easier to stay organized which I love! When traveling carry-on-only, you’re limited with space which is why packing cubes are the most important things to bring. The ones I’ve used are these ones which I definitely recommend! I like that they are breathable thanks to the net, which also makes it easier to find the right clothes without having to open it up. In other words, packing cubes are neccessities no matter how long you’re traveling for!

Buy them here.

Rolling clothes

The best way to pack in packing cubes is by rolling thhe clothes. Aside from the fact that it makes it more organized and takes up less space, it also makes the clothes less wrinkly.

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Be selective

Like you already know, you will be very limited with space when traveling carry-on-only. That means you really have to be selective when packing! Packing cubes help with that a lot, but there’s more things you can do. One way I think is great to narrow down what to bring is to get out all the clothes you want to bring, and once you’re done – cut it in half. When you’ve cut it in half, go over eveything one more time and take out a few more items. Make sure to ONLY pack clothes you know you will use.

That shirt you like but have only worn once, but you think you might use – skip it. The chance of you actually wearing it is small. I know, because I’ve been there! Even when I did the method I just told you about for my 5 month backpacking trip, I still ended up with some garments that I never really used and actually ended up leaving behind in hostels.

Before I moved to the U.S in 2018 for my exchange year, I was advised to only pack for two weeks. Crazy, right?! I was going to be away from home for a whole year, how could I bring clothes for only two weeks? Well, I tried to follow that advise and in hindsight I see why it’s a smart way of thinking. You mostly wear clothes you’re comfortable in, even on vacation, so two weeks worth of clothes last a long way!

Basic clothes

My best advice when it comes to packing is to choose clothes that go with several different outifts. For example, a basic t-shirt or tank top can go with almost any pants, skirts or shorts if you choose the top wisely! I avoid bringing clothes with too much patterns as those items are hard to style with several types of clothes.

Stay simple, and don’t overpack!

Must-have items

There are som must-have items to bring when you’re traveling carry-on-only. Since you can only bring a certain amount of liquid through security, you have to be selective with what toiletries to bring. I have some travel hacks to make it easier!

Leakproof travel bottles are perfect! These ones are TSA approved and very cute. You can buy them here. Another thing that goes hand in hand with these bottles are refillable travel perfume bottles. Instead of bringing your whole perfume bottle you can save space with these that are the size of a lipstick. Buy them here!

I would also recommend a hanging toiletry bag as you can fit most of the things you need when it comes to makeup, deodorant and so on. One thing you can also pack in it is this calming shampoo bar. The biggest perk is that it can be used so many times which is great for the environment, and your wallet! Buy the toiletry bag here and the shampoo bar here.

Last but not least, I never travel without a Makeup Eraser. These towels erase your makeup with just water! I first found out about this amazing invention during my exchange year when my host mom gave one to me, and I loved it so much that I now use one every night! It’s perfect for sensitive skin and lasts for 3 to 5 years. Amazing! Buy them here.

Oh! And never forget headphones! I recommend these in-ear noise cancelling headphones from JBL to have a more comfortable flight. I love them and use them all the time!

To summarize, less is more when it comes to packing in a carry-on-only, so don’t overpack! Go over your packing at least twice, preferably three times, and choose a bag depending on your type of travel. Good luck, and let me know if you have any additional packing tips!