Advantages of Carry-On Only Travel

Advantages of Carry-On Only TravelThose who have made the switch with carry-on only swear by it. For others, the act of downsizing can seem like mission impossible.

But what are the advantages of carry-on only travel?

If you’re new to the idea of ditching your check-in luggage, then you’ll be pleased to find that using carry-on only for travel does offer a few advantages. For one is there’s just less weight to lug around.

If your next trip involves riding in a packed MRT carriage in rush hour, or a long walk to your hotel, then packing less can save a lot of stress.

As a general rule, the less weight packed the further the distance you can walk before tossing the backpack on the floor and swearing at it! Click To Tweet

Carry-On Only = Less Stress

We all want to get the maximum value out of our purchase and none more so than me.

I can remember being extremely pleased with myself once because my check-in bag weight came in at 20kg. Right on the maximum limit allowed.

We all overpack at times and especially when packing at the last minute. If the limit is 20kg, you guessed it; we take it. Some of us even take 23KG!

However, things have to change when travelling with carry-on only

The weight allowance is much less, and this means there’s no choice but to consider what you need to bring.

It might appear challenging to fit all your clothes into such a small backpack, but the good news is having a smaller limit forces you to bring less. 

For those who are prone to overpacking, having a frugal limit can be useful.

It’s not about denying yourself fun though.

Advances in technology are continuing to make ultrabook’s, tablets and smartphones more powerful and lighter.

Many of the items that we enjoyed at home, such as music albums and TV shows are now viewable on a laptop or smartphone from anywhere in the world.

It is one of the best times to choose carry-on only travel.

Sometimes one photo isn't enough

Travelling Light Is Alright

One of the main reason most people will consider carry-on only travel is so they can save money when flying.

It’s always nice to know you get cheap air tickets by avoiding checking in baggage with budget airlines. I’ve flown budget with carry-on only more times than I can remember and it’s not as bad as you may think.

Sure, there will be some who may argue its only saving $25 here or $40 AUD there – it’s not that much.

However, it might get you a meal in a trendy European café or ten street food Pad Thai’s in Thailand.

Then there’s the time you save.

I learnt a long time ago that getting angry at the airport will get you nowhere. The time spent waiting to check-in, clear Customs and pick up your bags are out of your control. There’s not much you can do about it.

Consider that it’s not uncommon to be standing around for 30 minutes or so while waiting for your check-in luggage to come along the conveyor belt. Avoid checking luggage in and spend more time on your trip and less waiting around for bags.

Not to mention, your bag can’t go missing or get delayed by the airline if it’s with you all the time.

Quick calculation: the most flights I took in one year was 23, so if I was waiting on average 30 minutes per flight just to collect check-in luggage, that would nearly be 12 hours (in that year alone) that I spent waiting at the airport for my bags.

Osprey Porter 46 in Malaysia




Being Happy with What You Have

Carry-on only travel forces you to be happy with what you have and survive with less.

Clothing is one of the main areas that travellers like myself overpack on. But here’s some truth, even when I packed 20kg for my year-long trip (which most of it was clothing) I was always wearing the same three outfits.

That’s right, I was only wearing the same few pairs of clothes, even though there were plenty more I could have chosen.

Everyone has their favourite t-shirt’s or jean’s that suit their style, fit great and are comfortable to wear. For some reason, the rest stay in the bottom of the pile waiting for the odd day that they might get worn.

My current clothing packing list is simple but covers 95% of travel situations.

It is:

  • 4 x everyday outfits (2 x shorts/t-shirts to cover hot climates and 2 x long pants/long tops or shirts to cover cooler places)
  • 1 x smart outfit for restaurants, bars, clubs etc
  • 1 x workout outfit
  • 1 x sleepwear

The point is not to worry too much about packing too many extra clothes for ‘what if’ situations. You can get away with a surprisingly little amount of gear when required and can always pick extras along the way if needed.

Carry-on men's clothing packing list

Washing Clothes

The main downside of carry-on only travel has to be washing clothes.

If you carry less, then there’s going to be more washing.

It’s not the end of the world though as most properties have a washing machine in the building or at least a laundry nearby. For all the ones that don’t, packing a dry bag to throw in clothing for a quick hand wash can be a good idea.

While travel specific clothing is not always necessary, it’s wise to limit the amount of cotton clothing. Cotton is great for around the house, but it’s a pain when your travelling as it takes a long time to dry and can need ironing to look presentable.

Both can be troublesome if you’re moving around frequently.

Lightweight clothing manufactured from nylon and merino wool tends to fair much better and will dry much faster. In many cases, I’ve gone to bed while my damp t-shirt hanging on a coat hanger and it’s dry by the time I’ve woken up.

A room with aircon always helps speed up the drying process.

Tip: while you may want to buy a complete new wardrobe for your upcoming trip, packing clothing that you have worn at least a few times is a good idea. Then you know they fit well and will be comfortable to wear.

Become the Grey Man

Ok, first things first, I’m not referring to Mr Grey in that film! There’s no need to become attractive but with a hidden past – unless you want to that is. The grey man (or woman) means someone who blends into the crowd.

Backpacks commonly used by other commuters are excellent choices for carry-on only travel as these tend to make it less visible that you’re a tourist.

While deep down nobody wants to be just like everyone else, blending in could help to prevent you from being harassed, scammed, pickpocketed or robbed.

A shady character looking for non-locals to scam is without a doubt going to notice the person who is struggling carry multiple overloaded bags or cases compared to the person casually walking by with a single small to medium sized backpack.

While it’s right, there are some parts of the world where you will stand just out because of your skin colour or fashion. Travelling with carry-on only backpack means you won’t stand out as much and will at least look more like an expat on his way home from work or the gym.

Now if you have a driver to take your around, stay in gated resorts/hotels and generally don’t interact with everyday people on the street, becoming the grey man might not be that important to you.

For everyone else carrying fewer things means standing out less.

Become the grey man and blend into the crowd

Finally, Making the Transition

The transition to carry-on only travel can be a difficult one but remember doesn’t have to be done overnight.

Try a long weekend away with just a carry-on sized backpack first, then try a week.

If you can manage this fine, then it’s time to bump up to two, three and finally four weeks. Then if you can do four weeks, then you can do four months.

Ok, what about that skiing trip where you need to pack more, or maybe you plan on bringing things back?

With these types of trips, it’s best to deal with them on a case by case basis. If a bag needs checking in then check it in – it’s not the end of the world.

Advantages of Carry-On Only Travel

Barry Sproston
Barry is an English traveller and expat who spends most of his time between Asia and Australia. He has a passion for small business and can often be found tucked away in the back of coffee shops working remotely. He travels light and currently reads 52 books a year.
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