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Carry-On Only Packing Tips – Resource Guide

Carry-on only travel packing resource guide

There are some changes to the AG&HT world coming up real soon, but before all of that I’ve got to decompress from the whirlwind trip I just took. I (along with the Russky, of course) spend the past week making my way through various Midwestern airports in order to spend some time in Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

Not being… super cosmopolitan, shall we say diplomatically… getting to both cities required more connecting flights and bus trips than I’d care to undertake in a five-day span

As my backpack jostled against my back while searching for our adorable hostel or trying to catch a connecting bus, I thanked my lucky stars that I’d planned out my packing list to the very last detail and continued the carry-on only packing trend. I managed to stuff five days worth of items (for a wedding in the autumnal Midwest, no less) in nothing more than a tiny, off-brand backpack.

How? I did my research, looking into what other adept travelers thought was necessary as compared to what I might add or subtract. I found a lot of great ideas that helped me further shape my personal brand of minimal life/travel.

My travel must-haves
No matter where I’m going or how much I’m packing, I always have these items:

That being said, some of the resources I perused, I had to laugh at. Their week-long packing lists contained more clothing items than my entire wardrobe. (I don’t care where you’re going, you do not need more shirts than days, especially if you’ve also packed seventeen dresses.) Eventually, though, I managed to find some posts that not only guided my packing in concrete terms, but also in a guiding, philosophical way. 

Are you thinking that I’m over-thinking my packing? You might be right – but I can assure you I had no stress when I was traveling.

So if you’re into that kind of thing (less-stress travel), have a gander at these carry-on packing only tips from people far more adept at travel and packing than myself! Because there are so many different travel styles,it can be almost impossible to find a list/resource that really speaks to you personally. So here’s a big resource list that – hopefully! – will lead you in the right direction when planning on just a carry-on!

Gear/Products for Your Carry-On

Ever in Transit’s Weekend Packing List, with an absolutely brilliant thought-experiment to go along with it!
Top 10 Travel Essentials from the Gallivanting Bean.
Carry-on Packing Essentials, from Her Packing List.
How to Save Space Packing Clothes, from the blogger at Adventure at Work.
To Cube or Not to Cube, a helpful breakdown of whether you really need packing cubes or not.
Packing Light Tips, from Tortuga Backpacks.
How to Pack Your Hand Luggage.

Specific Carry-On Packing Lists

Paris in the Winter, all in a carry on from Oh Happy Day.
10 Days in Whistler, but this guide from Team Wiking is great for any cold-weather trip.
A Cold-Weather Carry-On List, for a week of chilly traveling.
10 Day Packing List, Day to Night, for warm days and cooler nights.
The 12-Piece Travel Wardrobe, a deceptively simple list.
Printable Carry-On Packing List, a useful guide from the blogger at To Vogue or Bust.
15 Pieces, 3 Weeks, for a warmish/coolish adventure.
6 Day Packing List for San Francisco.
Europe in a Carry-On, a fashionable take on carry-on style.
Traveling Light to Florida, another great list from Team Wiking.
1 Week Tropical Getaway, a perfectly well-rounded packing list for warm weather.

Thoughts on Minimalism

The 5-4-3-2-1 Guide, a really brilliant, practical way of imagining your packing list.
The Minimalist Packing List, that still manages to be fashionable!
Minimalist Packing List, from Travel on the Brain.
Minimal Travel Gear, an amazing resource for both philosophical and practical travel gear tips.
Man vs Bag, Wushu Adventures’ minimalist packing for maximum flexibility.
Minimal Travel Gear List, from 20 Liter Life.

Any other resources you can add to streamline your next carry-on only packing crisis?

  • Tess Tarling

    So what did you pack?? 🙂 me curious!

    • haha, that’s just want I was going to say!

    • lol @tesstarling:disqus + @crumbsinthebed:disqus – I planned to post a pic/list but failed to do so before everything was dirty/the post had gone live. Anyway, it was my usual uninspiring grey+black wardrobe 😉

      • Tess Tarling

        eh you should just wash all those clothes and do a recap of what you packed 😉 I hope the wedding was great! It looked like a lot of fun!!!

  • I’ve gotten a lot better since moving abroad, but I’m still a bit of an overpacker. we are working on planning a week trip for Christmas so I may need to study these links 🙂

    • Oooh, exciting! Good luck and may it be to somewhere warm so you don’t have to pack as much 😉

  • Thanks for compiling all of these resources! Definitely saving this post. I’m still working on packing less when I travel. I tend to travel longterm (right now I’m spending a year working and traveling around Australia!), which seems to both up the challenge and give me too many excuses to pack more than I need.

    • When I was living abroad circumstances usually forced me to pack everything up and haul it across the Atlantic rather than leave it in Russia, so I’ve really honed my one-suitcase + carry-on craft but it’s still TORTURE. And I agree – so easy to overpack with stuff you think you might need!

  • Thanks for featuring Team Wiking. 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing some great content!

  • So where is the picture from? You know me, I saw that analogue camera and got heart-eyes 🙂

    • lol, simple stock photo, unfortunately. I’ve largely sold off my film cameras at this point!

  • My mother took a top she didn’t even like to my cousin’s wedding! She ended up giving it to me. I was like “Why is it even in your luggage if you don’t actually like it!?!” my mind – it boggles.

    • Insanity! (Although I definitely feel like I’ve done the whole ‘bring something I miiiiight wear’ and then regretted it after the trip!)

  • I used to be so bad at packing but moving abroad with 2 suitcases put things in perspective. I know it’s weird but I’m much better at packing lightly in the winter (perhaps because who cares about your clothes if you have a coat on?) in the summer I’m still a bit messy – though now it’s mainly because of my photo equipment!

    • Haha, I’m the exact opposite as I love the option of having several different coats + scarves + hats. Plus, living in Russia, I never felt bad about overpacking winter clothes haha but it was always a struggle to stuff everything into just one suitcase!

  • Thanks for the great note and including my bare minimum packing list! Let me know what your “number” is 🙂

    • I counted up post-trip and got 46 – not too bad for a 5-day trip although I still had stuff I didn’t really use. I loved your post and now I’m even more convinced trying to beat my own number is going to make me a better packer!

  • Sarah Albertson

    I am so guilty of over-packing! It’s never been a huge issue before, because we normal just drive to our destination. But we are looking to take some train and/or plane trips in the near future so I need to sort out my priorities. My biggest issue is that I’m afraid I am going to change my mind about what clothes I packed so I usually pack a big variety.

    • Ha! I used to be a lot like that but at some point shrinking luggage allowances on flights just forced me to cut back. Can definitely see the appeal of overpacking if I’m in a car, though!

  • Thanks for featuring my blog! I’m the blogger at Adventure At Work, haha.

    • Thanks for the great resource, Claire!

  • Sarah

    that’s a cool-looking camera! have you already mentioned like 50 times what kind it is?

  • I almost always travel with carry-on only so these posts all look very interesting to me! Thank you for sharing.

  • Great post! I also pay too much attention to my suitcase, the way it is packed and arranged. I like to have less things with me when I travel, therefor I pack the most necessary. Greetings

  • Lucy

    Hi. Great blog. Do you know the brand of backpack in the photo? Thanks.