There are so many great reasons never to check a bag in the airport, starting with the most obvious: luggage gets lost. If you give it over to an airline, not matter how reliable they may seem, you run a risk of losing your bags entirely. At best, you have to wait 2-5 days for your suitcase to show up at your hotel, which may not work well at all with your itinerary. On top of that, it is so much FASTER to not check a suitcase! You can check-in online and skip right by the ticket counter, you don’t have to wait at a baggage carousel with other grumpy passengers, and you don’t have to lug around gear that you probably don’t really need.
I am luck that in my mid-30s I am physically fit to carry a large bag on my back when I travel, so as often as possible, I skip the bigger luggage and keep everything with me on flights.
Here is what I pack to manage a carry-on only situation:
-Get a great bag, even if it is a little expensive. A few years ago, I researched “Best Travel Bags” and I ended up purchasing a Tortuga Bag that has been around the world and back with me. I love this bag. It cost me $200 and I have gotten my moneys worth over and over. It has a ton of space, the straps are padded for my comfort, and the zippers can all be locked for security. Do your own searching and find the bag that is right for you, taking into consideration what you are packing for your trip.
- I limit the amount of clothes and shoes I bring on my travels. Consider this: do you really need a new outfit every day? Most likely not. Laundry service is cheap and easily available in most places, and there is nothing like showering with your dirty underwear and hanging them up to dry in a hotel bathroom to save someone else from having to clean your underpants. I always bring the same clothes with me, which takes up very little space:
1. 1 pair of jeans
2. 1 pair of jean shorts
3. 1 pair of sleeping/running shorts
4. 1 sleeping/running shirt
5. 1 pair of soft cotton pants
8. 3 t-shirts
9. Sweat shirt
10. Bathing suit
11. 2 bras
12. 5 pairs of underwear
13. Baseball cap
14. 1 pair of flip flops
15. Tennis shoes
16. Slip-ons (but only if I absolutely know I might need to look “dressed up”)
-I love bring everything I need with me to make a meal, including a collapsible water kettle, utensils, cup, and Tupperware for storage, as well as instant coffee. This takes up a significant amount of space, but it’s worth it to be able to make food and hot beverages at any time.
-I don’t typically use a lot of hygiene products anyways at home (I promise, I am a very clean person) so packing a toiletry bag is simple. I make sure I have SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, a razor, shampoo that also doubles as body wash, toothbrush and toothpaste, and wipes for my face.
- I love to read and I never got used to the idea of a Kindle Reader, so I still bring a few paperback books with me, but I try to choose leaner books.
- My computer and charger
-In my purse that fits under my seat on my flight, I have my wallet, phone, eye mask, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, small notebook, and pens.
That’s it. I don’t worry too much about being able to find any other item I might need- almost anywhere you go you can purchase whatever else you might have forgotten. I find that I am more frustrated if I over pack and end up carrying around too much than if I under-pack and need to buy something new for myself like a pair of sandals in Morocco!
If you absolutely have to check a bag, I highly recommend making sure you have these items in your carry-on:
- Wallet with all credit cards, debit cards, and cash
- Passport or any IDs
- A spare change of clothes including socks and underwear
- Toiletries, or at least a toothbrush
- All important electronics
- Any information about hotels or travel arrangements for your trip
Basically, don’t get yourself in a position where you are cursing out loud for not having what you need because your bag is lost or late to your arrival destination. Be as self-sufficient as possible when traveling. It is always best to trust yourself and have your belongings as close to you as possible at all times.