There are so many airlines offering discounted airfares if you travel without checked baggage. The price difference between carry-on only and checked baggage fares can be a lot and the temptation to test out your packing skills is all too real. Trust me, I know! When you’re travelling on a budget or even if you’re just budget savvy, you’re going to want to take advantage of cheaper airfares. And, really, why shouldn’t you?? Money saved on airfares equals more money to spend on food, wine and activities at your destination. Besides, if you’re just going away for a weekend or travelling somewhere warm, how much do you really need to take with you?
If you’ve ever doubted your light-packing abilities and whether it’s really possible – STOP. Matt and I did our winter trip to New Zealand for 2 weeks with 7kgs of carry-on each. You guys, if we can do that, anything in life is possible. If you can dream it – you can DO IT! energetic thumbs up. There used to be some wiggle room with carry-on baggage until airlines started weighing what we were taking on and realising we were all hauling on 15kg backpacks. Suddenly, the game changed and now we have to make sure our carry-on baggage is within the allowed limit. But how? Here are my top tips to help you beat the airlines and pack light for carry-on only, to make sure you guys can take FULL advantage of those discount airfares.
But first, watch this…
Use very light luggage
Choose your carry-on luggage carefully. A 2.5kg carry-on suitcase is only leaving you with 4.5kg to pack if your luggage limit is 7kg. Instead, opt for something like a lightweight backpack or canvas duffle bag. Save your carry-on suitcase for flights with a more generous carry-on limit. You can check the technical specs of different brands and models on the websites of luggage retailers like Luggage Direct who always list the empty weights of their bags.
Wear your heaviest outfit on the plane
Decide what your heaviest clothing items are and wear them on the plane. Think of things like sneakers or boots, jeans, jackets and knitwear. Layer that shiz up, you guys. Wear a singlet/vest top underneath a t-shirt with a jumper on top. Bonus points if you wrap a jumper around your waist or stuff heavy items into the pockets of the jacket you’re wearing.
Limit your clothing
Plan each outfit you pack, ensuring you can mix and match items to create more outfits. Pack colours and pieces that all work together and ditch anything that doesn’t fit in with this. Seriously. When packing, make sure you only grab things you always wear. This is no time to pack that dress, ‘just in case’. I always start packing from my clean laundry pile, cos I know I actually wear that stuff.
Before you pack all your clothes, lay them out together in front of you and make sure everything works. Check that you actually, really do wear all of the times in front of you and toss anything that doesn’t add up. You’re trying to maximise the number of outfits you can wear while minimising the amount of stuff you’re packing. Be sure to make sure the shoes you’re packing go with every single outfit. If you can’t put together complete outfits, you won’t wear the stuff you’ve packed and that’s a waste of precious space.
You should only need 2 pairs of shoes (one on the plane, one spare), 3 bottoms (jeans, shorts, skirt), 3 tops, 1 jacket, underwear and 2 pairs of socks. Remember, you’ll be able to find somewhere to wash your clothes while you’re away so don’t freak out and over-pack.
The second bag
Most airlines allow you to take one carry-on bag, usually weighing between 7kg – 10kg, and one additional item such as a handbag or laptop bag. They very rarely weigh the second bag, so be sure to put your heaviest items, like your camera, charging cables, phone, book and laptop in this bag. I always tie a big, floppy scarf on the outside of the second bag because in my twisted mind I feel like it gives it the ‘illusion of lightness’.
Note: airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet are a whole different ball game with their very strict ‘one bag only’ policies.
Take things that can be used for more than one purpose. A sarong is a great example of this. It can act as a clothing item, scarf, head-wrap, towel or picnic blanket if you need it to. Other clothing items, like those magical infinity dresses, are ideal for when you need to pack light.
Rely on accessories
Because you can’t pack a lot of clothes you’re going to need to get crafty with your outfits because you don’t just want to be photographed wearing the same outfit the whole trip. Accessories are your friend here. Think things like beanies, necklaces, scarves, sunglasses etc. I usually put three hats inside each other and carry them on the plane with me.
It’s a fickle flight attendant who tells you that you can’t take the hat in your hand on the plane and, hey, if they do just balance them all on your head as you walk on and take them off once you’re at your seat.
Fewer cosmetics, more space
Don’t pack shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Instead, buy these items at your destination. This is especially important if you’re flying international, due to liquid restrictions. When it comes to packing makeup, just take your essentials; primer, concealer, foundation, powder, bronzer, mascara and blush. These 7 items will fit in one small bag within your luggage, giving you more space to play with. Again, this is a time to look for light double-duty items.
Weigh before you go
Before you head off to the airport, weigh your bag. This takes the stress out of it when they weigh it at the airport and gives you time to adjust what you’ve packed, or move things around. Remember, you can always buy the stuff you need at your destination, so don’t overdo it.
Useful travel resources for your next adventure!
If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you used the affiliate links below. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the products and services I love and use. Thanks for your support! – Matt
Read the disclaimer for more information.
Agoda – hotels
Booking.com – hotels
Cover-More – insurance
Motorhome Republic – RVs
RentalCars.com – rentals
SimsDirect – SIM cards
Skyscanner – flights
Surfshark – VPN
TourRadar – tours
Uber Carshare – rentals