Carry On Only – My Top Packing Tips

I love to travel with just a carry on – as you might gather from the blog name! I haven’t voluntarily checked a bag on a trip in … at least 5 years. I did bring back an obscenely large suitcase from Australia last time I visited but that was mostly because it was easier than shipping the 37 books I brought back to the UK with me!
My carry on only travel philosophy drives my partner somewhat up the wall – he honestly thinks that ten pairs of socks is how many pairs of socks you need on a ten day long trip. To Greece. In summer. When we will only be walking more than 10 minutes at a time on perhaps 5 of those days.
Because “what if we want to go hiking!? Or if I don’t want to wear the flip flops to the beach!?”
When we came home I took great, smug, and probably largely undignified, pleasure in presenting no less than 7 pairs of unworn socks.

This leads me to my first, and most vehement tip.

Carry On Only Tip 1 – You DO NOT need as much as you think you need.

Whether it is ten pairs of socks, dresses, shoes, or underwear. If you are going for less than a week, then you wont need more than 10 items. If you have three basic outfits, three modified outfits, and one “nice” outfit then you have plenty! If you are going for more than a week, you can do laundry.

Carry On Only Tip 2 – Don’t take things you don’t wear at home.

Unless you’re going away to get married, don’t take that gorgeous thing you bought three years ago because “oh wont it look amazing on the beach”. The likelihood that you will wear it is TINY. Take basic items that you can wear broadly.

Carry On Only Tip 3 – Take basic items.

Now, I’m not saying don’t take that amazing floral flowy dress thingie, but don’t JUST take floral flowy thingies, or only take shirts with graphic designs, or only bougie glam club style dresses. I love my “bitch, bye” t-shirt but I wouldn’t take it travelling, purely because if I am out all day and decide I want to go into a famous church or to a nice restaurant – probably not going to be allowed in. Additionally, if you take outfits as opposed to items that could be used in several outfits – you need to take more things and therefore take up far more space!

Carry On Only Tip 4 – Don’t follow the hype of packing methods.

One moment it’s “roll your clothes! I SAID ROLL THEM!”, the next it is “pfft only amateurs roll their clothes – packing cubes are the way to go”. Each thing is useful in its own way. As a general rule I keep my underwear and socks rolled up AND in a packing cube, my thin shirts and leggings are rolled, whereas shorts/skirts/jeans are folded and placed on the outside walls of my backpack. You will find your own style, so play with it and figure it out. Most “how to pack well” videos show a variation of the ranger roll, where you turn up the bottom 2 inches or so, roll the item, then use that turned up section to keep the item held in its roll. This is a pretty decent video on how to do it – but it isn’t the be all and end all

Carry On Only Tip 5 – LAYERS

Layers are the heart of warmth. Honestly. I took no heavy jacket or thermals to Sweden in December with minus 10 Celcius and I wasn’t cold once. I mean I wasn’t hiking through ten feet of snow or staying out for ten hours at a time. But for general tourist type activities – layers will always win over a massive jacket.

Carry On Only Tip 6

Click here to get our free guide to packing over 100 outfits in one carry on!