Keep calm and carry on only: how to travel with only carry on luggage

Keep calm and carry on only: how to travel with only carry on luggage

Many of us here at Hyoumankind – especially our founder Steph – are seasoned travellers who know a thing or two about packing light for any eventuality. Even those of us who are maximalist by nature have learned through trial and error (and luggage ending up three time zones away) to lighten our loads.

These principles for packing and creating a travel capsule wardrobe apply whether you’re travelling for a week or a month. For long trips, or visits to multiple climates and destinations, check out this article about packing a checked suitcase efficiently.

Three reasons you don’t (usually) need to travel with a checked bag

  1. You need less than you think. We’re great believers in an uncomplicated life, and this goes double for luggage. You can manage for a week or two without most tech gadgets, clothes, or toiletries. To ensure you don’t forget anything vital (like prescription medicines or your passport) we recommend writing a list and ticking off items as you pack them.
  2. There’s less that can go wrong. We’ve known of checked bags going on journeys of their own, or being so damaged in transit they split open on the carousel. When you travel carry on only, it’s less to worry about.
  3. Carry-on only lets you be spontaneous. It’s so much easier to navigate public transport or manage stairs and escalators with a lighter load. 

        Here are our travel-savvy tips to simplify carry-on only packing

        First, choose your carry-on suitcase carefully

        On most flights – except those offered by low-cost airlines – you’ll be able to carry on a small suitcase, plus a backpack, cross body bag or tote that can go under the seat, and of course a compact travel pillow for in-flight comfort. The suitcase needs to be generous, super lightweight, ideally with four 360°rotating wheels, to make it manoeuvrable. You’ll need to be able to place it in the overhead bins, so it should be comfortable and well balanced too.


        Halve the items, but double the duty

        All the items in your travel capsule wardrobe should be wearable in multiple ways. For example, luxe sportswear that could be used for exercising and casual wear –plain black yoga pants can be dressed up or down and take up almost no room. A lightweight wool blazer can be worn casually with jeans and a crisp white tee, over a dress for a dinner date, or as workwear on a business trip. Accessories like scarves and jewellery can keep simple clothes interesting, with minimal space and fuss. If possible, wear heavier footwear and outerwear with your travel day outfit.

        Likewise, consider smaller alternatives to full sized items or things that have multiple uses. We all love travelling with the Go Pillow for example. It provides comfort in flight, a boost during a yoga session, support for reading by the pool, or a compact pillow for restorative sleep in any position. Thanks to the sleek Go Travel bag, it can even be rolled to half its size to save space or create a compact bolster.

        Here’s a handful of other travel downsizing ideas:

        • A tablet, rather than a laptop (or just your phone)
        • A super compact folding travel umbrella
        • A comb rather than a hairbrush
        • Earbuds/airpods rather than over ear headphones
        • Perfume samples rather than full-size bottles
        • Apps rather than guidebooks
        Leave the liquids behind

        Liquid is weight. Pare down makeup to the bare minimum and ideally avoid liquid formats, sticking to solid cream makeup, body bars, and hair care where you can. Remember that flying internationally carry on only means any liquids do have with you need to be under 100ml or purchased after security and sealed.

        Only bring what you love

        Before you pack, take a moment to think about the garments you reach for every day.

        While it may be tempting to cram in Instagrammable OOTDs, let’s take a beat and remember travelling is about savouring the experience not just capturing it for followers. Start by choosing comfortable, wearable pieces you reach for often (and you look in). If you don’t love it at home, you won’t wear it on your trip.

        Another trick to packing light for extended travel is to bring enough outfits to last half your trip. Pack a couple of detergent sheets instead – so you can do laundry if you have a washing machine available, or wash essential pieces in your hotel sink. 

        Pack a practical colour palette

        Any great capsule wardrobe (whether for travel or everyday) starts with a core of solid basics. Every garment should easily match the others and be worn 2-3 times throughout your trip, and stick to a simple palette. Most people find neutrals like black, grey, white, navy, denim and beige to be easiest to style on holiday. Use space-saving accessories and jewellery to switch things up and prevent boredom.

        Hopefully now you’re inspired to make your next trip carry-on only. So you’re free to spend time and energy exploring your destination, not waiting for the last bag on the carousel.

        Travelling for work? Here’s how to stay on top of your game.


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