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Travel Tips: How To Travel With Just A Carry-On...And A Personal Bag

Recently all of the major airlines raised their checked baggage fees by five dollars a bag. This price hike just adds to the rising costs and fees for airline travel. One way to save money on flights is by forgoing a checked bag and going carry-on only. Not only is this cheaper, but we think it's a more relaxing way to travel. But how can you fit all of your stuff into one tiny bag? Keep reading to find out.

1. Understand The Rules

Besides budget carriers, most major domestic airlines allow you to bring one carry-on sized bag and one personal item with you on board. What is the carry-on size? Including wheels and handles, the bag can't be larger than 22” x 14” x 9". A carry-on bag has to fit in the overhead bin, or you'll have to check it. Your personal item can be a backpack or other small bag that will fit under the seat. Airline rules differ on the personal item size but a bag that's smaller 18" x 8" x 14" should work. We've never had anyone measure our backpacks. Along with these two items, you can also get away with not having your computer, small purse or jacket in a bag. Knowing the airline's rules will allow you to maximize the space you're allowed.

2. Have A Good Bag

If you're going to fit as much as possible into your allowed space, you're going to need good bags. Our favorite carry-on is the Genius Pack G4. It has a ton of organization features that help you fit in as much as you can. It features one large packing space with compression straps. There are also stretchy pockets that you can fill with socks and underwear on the opening sleeve. For when you return home, it has a laundry bag that compresses your dirty clothes down by 50%. Whatever carry-on you choose, make sure it's as large as you're allowed and that the interior space is laid out in a way that will enable you to fill it optimally.

3. Maximize Your Allowed Space

We use packing cubes to help fit in as much as possible. Packing cubes also help keep everything separate and organized. We like the Genius Pack compression cubes. The cubes are made from a stretchy material that compresses everything down. That way you can overstuff them, and when you zip them up, the cube still stays relatively small. Inside the cubes, we find that rolling our clothes takes up less space than folding. If you're packing extra shoes, fill the shoes with socks or t-shirts, so you don't waste space.

Packing cubes help keep everything organized.

Your personal item bag will come in quite handy at this point. For me, my personal bag is the Peak Design Everyday Backpack. It's mostly filled with my camera gear, but I'm also able to fit my liquids bag and few t-shits in there. Most people don't travel with as much camera gear as we do though.  If that describes you, you'll be able to get a lot in your personal bag. Lay out all of your clothes before you pack. Fill your cubes and carry-on with as much as you can, and then move on to the backpack. You'll probably be surprised with how much will still fit in a small backpack or personal bag.

4. Leave Stuff At Home

If you're going to travel with just a carry-on, you're going to have to make some tough choices. You simply won't be able to bring everything you want with you. But the truth is you don't need as much stuff as you think you do. Do you really need four pairs of shoes? Do you really need a separate outfit for every day you'll be traveling? Do you mind doing a quick load of laundry on your trip? If you answered yes to those questions, carrying-on isn't for you.

Look at everything you're trying to pack and ask yourself if it's a necessity. Try to trim down what you plan on taking. You can probably get by with only one jacket. Dress in layers so you can leave bulky sweaters at home. Make sure everything you bring matches everything else, so it can all be worn together. Plan to send your clothes out to the cleaners from your hotel or do a load yourself at the laundromat or Airbnb so you can bring fewer items. Even when we pack as little as possible, we almost always have items that we don't wear on the trip. The extra effort will be worth it when your zipping past all the other travelers in the checked luggage line. You also won't ever have to worry about the airline losing your stuff.


We never check bags. Even on mutation-week trips, we only bring a carry-on. The convenience is well worth any extra pre-planning. Hopefully, we've helped you to see how you can travel with less luggage. What about you? Do you prefer to check bags or carry-on only? Has an airline ever lost your bags? Answer below in the comments.

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