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Carry On Only Tourist: How To Travel With Only Carry On Luggage

1-ton luggage sculpture Vancouver Intl Airport

1-ton luggage sculpture Vancouver Intl Airport Photo (c) The Guy Who’s Going Places via flickr

Most people say when they see my luggage ready for the next trip: how can you travel with such a small bag? My reply is, how can you be bothered with such a large one?

What Are The  Airline Carry-On Limits?

There are three limits you need to be aware of they are in order of complexity:

  • luggage size and number of items
  • luggage weight
  • restrictions

Each airline can be slightly different – research all that you will flying on your trip, you’ll have to go with the most restrictive to get away with no luggage fees through out.

Luggage Size.

The maximum size of carry-on is fairly universal and usually comes in to a rectangle of: 56cm (22in),45cm (18in) 25cm (10in). This is really to do with the size of overhead lockers on modern jets. Note you’ll not get this size bag in smaller commuter style planes.

The number of items vary widely. Most, certainly not all, airlines will allow you to carry an additional “personal item” include a handbag, or a laptop bag, as well as an overcoat or similar.

Luggage Weight

This varies a lot from a mean 5kg (11lb)to generous 12kg (26lbs): 7kg (15lb) or 10kg (22lb) are the most common. For most travellers this is actually the limit, unless you are filling your carry on bag with tissue paper, you will most likely hit the weight limit before you over fill the bag.

That’s even when using a soft bag – so think long and hard before you allow rolled luggage to claim some of that precious weight allowance.


Although the details vary from country to country – the TSA regulations are a reasonable place to start.

Liquids are universally limited to not just 100ml (3oz) containers but also only the containers that will fit into a 1 litre (1 quart) ziplock bag.

What I Pack for Carry-On Only Travel

Clothing for 3 months travel in hot and cold climates

Clothing for 3 months travel in hot and cold climates

Note of the below include what I’m wearing for the flight, I’ve never heard of an airline saying you are wearing too many clothes!

My packing list for warm weather is:

3 tops
3 bottoms (shorts or skits or capris)
3 panties 2 bras
1 swimsuit or tankini
1 sarong (parareo, lavalava)
1 sun hat

1 pair of Teva or similar sports sandals

1 camera
1 Kindle for reading
1 netbook for work (these two may be an iPad mini or other tablet on future trips)
1 phone
chargers/cables/plug converters as required for them
paper copies of reservations and flights (the travel industry is still a bit dinosaurs us-like on this)

toiletries which include small size toothpaste, toothbrush, small deodorant, universal plug, laundry line, suntan lotion and insect repellent, brush and comb. I may have a hotel room sized shampoo with me, otherwise I just buy toiletries on arrival and abandon them on departure.

first aid kit – I carry any prescription medicines plus a few plasters, aspirin (or similar). Everything else I will buy on arrival as required.

For a beach holiday I will add
1 swim top to prevent my blond skin burning
1 knee length board shorts for same
1 mask and snorkel set – because I like a set that fits, I hire fins as required
1 small beach towel

For a winter holiday I will add
I’d replace the bottoms with full length trousers
2 pairs of socks
1 pair walking shoes
1 top and bottom merino or thermal underwear
1 mid layer sweater usually merino
1 rain jacket

On the flight I’d actually wear the mid layer, jacket and shoes which is usually necessary to keep the weight down to acceptable limits.

Tricks and Tips for Travelling Light

Minimize and Share Electronic clutter is a pain. If at all possible make sure you share cables e.g. USB charging cables for phones and tablets can be shared (unless their are Apple’s non-standard appliances).

Share with your travelling companion – you don’t both need a laundry or first aid kit.

Packing for Varied Climates

Carry On Luggage for Two

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