Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Minimalist Packing: How To Go Carry-On Only


Modified: September 26, 2023

by Harmony Loveland



Traveling can be an exhilarating experience, filled with adventure, new sights, and unforgettable memories. However, the stress of packing and lugging around heavy suitcases can quickly dampen the excitement. That’s where minimalist packing and carry-on only travel can come to the rescue.


Minimalist packing is the art of traveling light, packing only the essentials, and ditching the bulky luggage in favor of a compact carry-on bag. This approach not only saves you time and energy but also opens up a world of benefits and opportunities during your journey.


In this article, we will delve into the world of minimalist packing and explore the essential tips and tricks to help you successfully adopt carry-on only travel. From choosing the right carry-on bag to organizing your essentials, we will cover all the aspects to make your travel experience seamless and stress-free.


By taking on a minimalist approach, you can say goodbye to the hassle of waiting at the baggage carousel, the fear of losing your luggage, and the unnecessary expenses of checked baggage fees. Instead, you’ll be able to breeze through airports, move easily through crowded streets, and have the freedom to explore your destination without the burden of excess baggage.


Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or an extended trip, minimalist packing will revolutionize the way you travel. So, let’s dive into the world of carry-on only travel and discover how you can pack smarter, lighter, and more efficiently for your next adventure.


Benefits of Carry-On Only Travel

Embracing carry-on only travel offers a myriad of benefits that will enhance your overall travel experience. Let’s explore some of the advantages that come with traveling light:

  1. Convenience: One of the biggest advantages of carry-on only travel is the convenience it provides. With just a small suitcase or backpack, you can easily maneuver through airports, train stations, and crowded streets without the hassle of dragging a heavy suitcase behind you. Plus, you can skip the long lines at baggage claim and head straight to your destination.
  2. Save Time: By traveling with just carry-on luggage, you can save valuable time during your journey. No more waiting in line to check your bags or worrying about your luggage getting lost. You can simply walk off the plane and be on your way, allowing you to maximize your time exploring your destination.
  3. Cost Savings: Checking bags can be expensive, with many airlines charging additional fees for each piece of checked luggage. By traveling carry-on only, you can avoid these fees and save money that can be put towards other aspects of your trip.
  4. Flexibility: Traveling with only a carry-on bag gives you the freedom to be more flexible in your travel plans. You can easily switch flights, take advantage of last-minute deals, or hop on a train without the worry of coordinating your luggage. This flexibility allows you to stay spontaneous and make the most of your travel experiences.
  5. Less Stress: Let’s face it, traveling with excessive luggage can be stressful. From navigating busy airports to dealing with lost or delayed bags, it can quickly put a damper on your trip. By opting for carry-on only travel, you significantly reduce the stress and anxiety associated with managing heavy luggage, leaving you more relaxed and able to fully enjoy your adventure.

These are just a few of the many benefits that come with adopting carry-on only travel. From convenience and time savings to cost savings and flexibility, traveling light can truly enhance your overall travel experience.


Now that we’ve explored the advantages, let’s delve into the essential tips for minimalist packing to help you successfully pack your carry-on bag for your next adventure.


Essential Tips for Minimalist Packing

When it comes to minimalist packing, every item you choose should serve a purpose and contribute to your travel experience. Here are some essential tips to help you pack efficiently and effectively for your carry-on only adventure:

  1. Create a Packing List: Before you start packing, make a list of the essential items you’ll need for your trip. This will help you stay organized and avoid overpacking.
  2. Choose Versatile Clothing: Opt for clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits. Stick to neutral colors and pack items that can be dressed up or down. This will allow you to maximize your wardrobe options without taking up too much space in your bag.
  3. Roll Instead of Fold: Rolling your clothes instead of folding them not only saves space but also helps to prevent wrinkles. This space-saving technique can free up valuable room in your bag for other essentials.
  4. Utilize Packing Cubes or Compression Bags: Packing cubes or compression bags can help you maximize the space in your bag and keep your items organized. These handy accessories can compress your clothes, making them more compact and easier to fit into your carry-on bag.
  5. Wear Your Bulkiest Items: If you’re traveling with any bulky or heavy items, such as jackets or boots, wear them on the plane to save space in your bag.
  6. Minimize Toiletries: Toiletries can take up a significant amount of space in your bag. Stick to travel-sized items, or transfer your essentials into smaller containers. Consider whether you can purchase certain items, like shampoo or conditioner, at your destination to further minimize your toiletry load.
  7. Leave Room for Souvenirs: When packing, leave some extra space in your bag for any souvenirs or items you may want to bring back from your trip. This will prevent you from having to purchase an additional bag or potentially overstuffing your carry-on.

By following these minimalist packing tips, you’ll be able to fit everything you need into your carry-on bag while still leaving room for those special finds along your journey.


Next, let’s explore how to choose the right carry-on bag for your minimalist travel needs.


Choosing the Right Carry-On Bag

When it comes to carry-on only travel, selecting the right bag is crucial. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the perfect carry-on bag:

  1. Size and Dimensions: Check the size restrictions of the airlines you’ll be flying with to ensure your bag meets their requirements. The standard carry-on size is usually around 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55 x 35 x 23 cm), but it’s always best to double-check.
  2. Weight: Opt for a lightweight bag to maximize the weight allowance for your belongings. Remember, the weight of the bag itself can eat into your overall weight limit.
  3. Style and Design: Choose a bag that suits your personal style and travel needs. Whether it’s a backpack, duffel bag, or hard-shell suitcase, select one that is easy to carry and fits your travel aesthetics.
  4. Quality and Durability: Invest in a bag made from durable materials and with sturdy construction. This will ensure your bag withstands the rigors of travel and lasts for many adventures to come.
  5. Storage and Organization: Look for a bag that offers ample storage compartments and pockets, both inside and outside. This will help you stay organized and make it easier to access your essentials while on the go.
  6. Carry-On Compatibility: Some bags are designed specifically to maximize space and fit perfectly in overhead compartments. Look for bags that are specifically labeled as carry-on friendly or that have been tested for airline compatibility.
  7. Comfort and Fit: Consider the bag’s straps and handles. If you’ll be carrying your bag for extended periods, opt for padded backpack straps or a bag with wheels and a retractable handle for ease of use.

Remember, the perfect carry-on bag is a personal choice that depends on your individual preferences and travel style. Take your time to research and read reviews before making a decision.


Now that you have your carry-on bag ready, let’s move on to the essentials you should pack when traveling with limited space.


Clothing Essentials for Carry-On Only Travel

When it comes to minimalist packing, choosing the right clothing essentials can make a significant difference in both space and versatility. Here are some key items to consider when packing for carry-on only travel:

  1. Basics: Start with the basics, such as underwear, socks, and undershirts. Pack enough for your trip duration, keeping in mind that you can always wash them if needed.
  2. Shirts and Tops: Opt for lightweight and versatile shirts that can be mixed and matched. Choose neutral colors that can be easily paired with different bottoms. Aim for around three to four tops, depending on the length of your trip.
  3. Bottoms: Pack a combination of pants, shorts, or skirts that can be dressed up or down. Again, opt for neutral colors that can be easily coordinated with different tops. Aim for two to three bottoms, depending on your style and trip length.
  4. Jacket or Sweater: Depending on the weather and the season, pack a lightweight jacket, sweater, or cardigan that can be layered with your outfits. This will give you warmth and flexibility in different climates.
  5. Versatile Dress: If you enjoy wearing dresses, pack a versatile option that can be dressed up for a special occasion or dressed down for a casual outing. Choose a style that can be layered with a jacket or worn on its own.
  6. Athletic Wear: If you plan on being active during your trip, pack a set of workout clothes that can double as comfortable loungewear or sleepwear.
  7. Swimwear: If you’re traveling to a destination with beach access or swimming opportunities, don’t forget to pack your swimwear. Choose a versatile swimsuit that can be worn for different activities.

Keep in mind that versatile and multi-functional clothing is key when it comes to minimalist packing. Choose items that can be easily mixed and matched to create multiple outfits, reducing the need for excess clothing.


It’s also important to consider the climate and weather conditions of your destination when selecting your clothing essentials. Layering is a great technique to adapt to changing temperatures. Choose fabrics that are lightweight, breathable, and easy to care for.


Now that you have an idea of what clothing essentials to pack, let’s move on to some packing techniques to maximize space in your carry-on bag.


Packing Techniques for Maximizing Space

When you’re limited to a carry-on bag, efficient packing techniques can help you make the most of the available space. Here are some tips to maximize space and keep your belongings organized:

  1. Roll Your Clothes: Rolling your clothes instead of folding them not only saves space but also helps prevent wrinkles. This technique also allows you to fit more items in your bag.
  2. Use Packing Cubes or Compression Bags: Packing cubes or compression bags are excellent tools for organizing your clothes and maximizing space. Use them to sort your items by category and compress them to reduce bulk.
  3. Utilize Empty Spaces: Make the most of any empty spaces in your bag by filling them with smaller items. Stuff your socks, underwear, or accessories in shoes or gaps between larger items.
  4. Layer Your Clothing: Layer your clothing items in your bag, with sturdier and bulkier pieces at the bottom. This creates a solid base and allows for better organization of other items.
  5. Invest in Travel-sized Toiletries: To save space in your carry-on, opt for travel-sized toiletries or transfer your essentials into smaller containers. Consider whether you can purchase certain items, like shampoo or conditioner, at your destination to further minimize your toiletry load.
  6. Wear Bulky Items: If you’re traveling with bulky or heavy items, like jackets or boots, wear them instead of packing them. This frees up valuable space in your bag.
  7. Maximize Personal Item: Take advantage of the personal item allowed by most airlines, such as a small backpack or handbag. Use it to carry additional essentials or items that didn’t fit in your carry-on bag.
  8. Use Packing Checklists: Utilize packing checklists to ensure you don’t forget any important items, and to keep track of what you’ve already packed. This helps avoid overpacking and ensures you have everything you need.

By implementing these packing techniques, you can fit more items into your carry-on bag while keeping everything organized and accessible during your trip.


Next, let’s explore the essential toiletries and personal items to consider when traveling carry-on only.


Essential Toiletries and Personal Items

When traveling carry-on only, it’s important to pack essential toiletries and personal items that will ensure your comfort and well-being during your journey. Here are some key items to consider:

  1. Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste for maintaining good oral hygiene on the go. Opt for travel-sized versions to save space.
  2. Shampoo and Conditioner: If you prefer using your own hair products, transfer them into travel-sized containers. Alternatively, many accommodations provide complimentary toiletries, so you might be able to skip packing these altogether.
  3. Body Wash or Soap: Choose a travel-sized body wash or bar soap to keep yourself clean and refreshed.
  4. Deodorant: Staying fresh while traveling is essential. Pack a travel-sized deodorant to keep odors at bay.
  5. Skincare Essentials: Don’t forget your skincare routine. Consider travel-sized versions of your cleanser, moisturizer, and any other products you use regularly.
  6. Medications: If you take prescription medications or require any over-the-counter medications, ensure you have an adequate supply for the duration of your trip.
  7. First Aid Kit: It’s always a good idea to have a basic first aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic ointment, and any other items you may need for minor injuries or ailments.
  8. Travel Adapter and Chargers: Depending on your destination, you may need a travel adapter to charge your electronic devices. Don’t forget to pack the necessary chargers for your phone, camera, or other electronic gadgets.
  9. Travel Documents: Ensure you have all necessary travel documents, such as your passport, ID, visas, and travel insurance information. It’s also a good idea to carry copies of important documents in case of emergencies.
  10. Money and Wallet: Don’t forget to carry your wallet, credit cards, and some local currency for immediate expenses at your destination.
  11. Entertainment: Bring along a book, magazine, or any other form of entertainment to keep yourself occupied during flights or downtime.

Remember, when packing toiletries, comply with the airline’s liquid restrictions. Check the maximum allowable sizes and ensure that all items are packed in a clear, resealable bag for security screenings.


Now that you have your toiletries and personal items sorted, let’s dive into the electronics and gadgets you may want to pack for minimalist travel.


Electronics and Gadgets for Minimalist Travel

While traveling light, it’s important to carefully select the electronics and gadgets you bring along to enhance your travel experience. Here are some essential electronic items to consider:

  1. Smartphone: A smartphone is a versatile travel companion that combines multiple functionalities into one device. Use it for communication, navigation, taking photos, and accessing travel apps.
  2. Travel Adapter and Chargers: Depending on your destination, you may need a travel adapter to charge your devices. Ensure you have the appropriate adapters and chargers for your electronic gadgets.
  3. Laptop or Tablet: If you require a larger screen or need to work while traveling, consider packing a lightweight laptop or tablet. This can also serve as your entertainment hub for watching movies or reading eBooks.
  4. Portable Charger: A portable charger is a lifesaver when you’re on the go and can’t find an available power outlet. It allows you to charge your devices while exploring, ensuring you stay connected throughout your journey.
  5. Headphones: Noise-canceling headphones or earbuds are essential for blocking out background noise during flights or bus rides. They can also be used to enjoy music, podcasts, or movies during your travels.
  6. Camera: If you’re into photography, consider bringing a compact camera or a high-quality smartphone with a good camera feature to capture memorable moments during your trip.
  7. E-book Reader: If you’re an avid reader, an e-book reader can be a great space-saving alternative to carrying multiple physical books. It allows you to have a whole library at your fingertips.
  8. Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot: If you rely on a stable internet connection while traveling, investing in a portable Wi-Fi hotspot can provide you with reliable internet access wherever you go.

Remember, when packing electronics, be mindful of the weight and space they take up. Consider which gadgets are essential for your trip and try to minimize redundancy.


Now that you’ve packed your essentials, let’s explore how to organize accessories and miscellaneous items for your carry-on only travel.


Organizing Accessories and Miscellaneous Items

To keep your carry-on bag tidy and efficiently utilize the available space, it’s important to organize your accessories and miscellaneous items. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Use Pouches or Small Bags: Organize your smaller items, such as cables, chargers, and adapters, in separate pouches or small bags. This will keep them contained and prevent them from tangling or getting lost in your bag.
  2. Utilize Ziplock Bags: Ziplock bags are great for storing and organizing items such as toiletries, medications, or even wet clothes. They provide extra protection against leaks or spills.
  3. Label Your Cords: To easily identify your charging cords and cables, consider labeling them with colorful tape or labels. This will save you time and frustration when searching for a specific cord.
  4. Invest in a Travel Wallet or Organizer: A travel wallet or organizer can help keep your important documents, such as passport, tickets, and travel insurance, easily accessible and protected. Look for one with multiple compartments for added organization.
  5. Secure Valuables: Keep your valuable items, such as cash, credit cards, or jewelry, secure by using a small lock or keeping them in a hidden pocket within your bag. This will give you peace of mind during your travels.
  6. Roll or Fold Scarves and Belts: Scarves and belts can take up unnecessary space if not packed properly. Roll or fold them compactly and place them in a corner of your bag to save space for other items.
  7. Pack a Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated during your journey by packing a collapsible or reusable water bottle. Fill it up after security checks to avoid disposable bottle purchases.
  8. Carry a Lightweight Daypack: If you plan on exploring during the day, consider bringing a lightweight daypack to carry essential items like snacks, a water bottle, a camera, and a jacket. Choose a pack that can fold into a small pouch for easy storage when not in use.

By organizing your accessories and miscellaneous items, you’ll be able to quickly locate what you need and make the most of the space within your carry-on bag.


Now that you have organized your accessories, let’s discuss some safety and security tips to ensure your carry-on only travel is a worry-free experience.


Safety and Security Tips for Carry-On Only Travel

When traveling with just a carry-on bag, it’s essential to prioritize safety and security. Here are some key tips to ensure a worry-free travel experience:

  1. Keep Important Documents Secure: Store your passports, IDs, travel insurance, and other important documents in a secure and easily accessible location, such as a travel wallet or organizer. Always keep them on your person or in the hotel safe when not needed.
  2. Separate Cash and Cards: It’s a good practice to separate your cash and cards and store them in different places. This way, if one gets lost or stolen, you’ll still have access to money. Consider using a money belt or hidden pocket to keep your valuables safe.
  3. Stay Vigilant in Crowded Areas: Be cautious of your surroundings, particularly in crowded places like airports, train stations, or tourist attractions. Keep a close eye on your belongings and be aware of potential pickpockets or scams.
  4. Use TSA-Approved Locks: If you’re traveling to or within the United States, consider using TSA-approved locks to secure your luggage. This allows security officials to inspect your bag without damaging the lock.
  5. Be Wary of Wi-Fi Security: When using public Wi-Fi, be cautious of your online activities and avoid accessing sensitive information, such as banking or personal accounts. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) for added security.
  6. Backup Data: Before traveling, back up important files and documents from your devices. This ensures that if your electronics are lost or stolen, you’ll still have access to essential information.
  7. Notify Your Bank: If you’re traveling internationally, inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid any issues with your cards being flagged for suspicious activity. Make a note of their contact information in case you need to reach them while abroad.
  8. Stay Informed: Research the safety and security situation of your destination beforehand. Check travel advisories, know the local emergency numbers, and be familiar with the customs and laws of the country you’re visiting.

By following these safety and security tips, you can minimize potential risks and enjoy a worry-free carry-on only travel experience.


Now that you’re prepared to travel with just a carry-on bag, it’s time to embark on your minimalist adventure. Happy travels!



Traveling with just a carry-on bag and embracing minimalist packing can transform the way you explore the world. By adopting the principles of minimalist travel, you gain convenience, save time and money, and experience a new level of freedom during your journeys.


From choosing the right carry-on bag to efficiently packing your essentials, we’ve covered the key aspects of minimalist packing. The benefits of traveling light are numerous – you can easily navigate through crowded airports, save on baggage fees, and have the flexibility to switch flights or explore new destinations on a whim.


By carefully selecting versatile clothing items, utilizing smart packing techniques, and organizing your accessories and personal items, you can make the most of the limited space in your carry-on bag. Furthermore, considering safety and security measures ensures a worry-free travel experience.


Remember, the goal of minimalist travel is to simplify your journey while maximizing your enjoyment. Whether you’re embarking on a weekend getaway or a long-term adventure, the principles of minimalist packing can be applied to any trip duration or destination.


So, pack smart, lighten your load, and savor the freedom that comes with traveling with just a carry-on bag. Embrace the minimalist approach and let your travel experiences be defined by unforgettable moments, rather than excessive luggage. Happy travels!