How to travel the world with only carry-ons! (Even with a baby!)
I first posted about my packing method a few years ago but I have since upgraded my bags, learned a few new tricks, and added a baby to the mix so I thought it was time to update it!
I honestly can't remember the last time I checked a bag (I don't mean curb-side check, we'll get to that!) I have traveled to Europe (several times), Japan, Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean (several times), Canada, and not to mention all over the continental U.S. with just carry-on luggage. I always wondered if I could keep it up once we had a baby in tow as well, and I'm here to report - it can be done!
This was us on the way to the Dominican Republic back in April with everything we took for the week! I started this post back then but never finished it... which worked out fine because honestly packing a bunch of winter stuff for Canada is way more impressive than just a bunch of summer stuff for the Domincian (summer stuff takes up a lot less space!) So, I'll show you how I do it.
The above are the exact bags we use. For carry on, each person with a plane ticket (not Lucy because she's a lap infant) is allowed 2 carry on items... one suitcase and one personal item. So our rolling suitcases are the small size that fit into the overhead bins on the plane and then my red Getaway Bag is my personal item and Josh brings his ruck. When we went to the Dominican, we also brought a car seat which we did end up checking because you have to unless you're using it on the plane but it's free to check. In Canada we didn't bring a car seat because we just rented one from the car rental company.
Some groundwork: Why do I carry-on only? My original theory was so I didn't lose my luggage, because who wants to be on vacation without their belongings!? But I found out last year that unfortunately, even doing carry-on can not fully prevent you from losing your luggage. Sometimes if the flight is totally booked there's not enough room in the overhead bins for everyone's luggage so they'll make you valet check your bag curbside. This is usually fine because it means they put the bag directly on the plane and then you usually pick it up at your destination. The problem arises if you have a connecting flight and somehow the bag does not make the connection. Let me tell you how much fun it is being 6 months pregnant in Europe with no maternity clothes! (Hint: NO FUN at all!) They also lost our suitcases on the way home from Canada too, but at least that time it was on the way home and I wasn't pregnant! And they actually delivered them promptly the next morning!
But still, it definitely minimizes the chance of losing your luggage if you carry it on. It also saves time because you don't have to go to baggage claim when you arrive, and money because a lot of airlines charge for checked bags now.
So, this is my system:
1. I start by planning our outfits and laying them out. I lay everyone's stuff out in our room so I can see it all and make sure we have everything we need. This is what that looked like for a week in Canada:
Shirts, sweaters, pants, jackets, coats, hats, scarves, gloves, boots, socks, underwear, toiletries, pajamas... for all 3 of us. To be a little more specific: I had a different pair of pants for every day (over-packer I know) and I took 3 pairs for Josh. I had 3 different pairs of shoes (hiking boots, regular boots, and tennis shoes), we each had a winter coat and a rain jacket, as well as a couple other jackets and cardigans for me and Lucy... plus several hats. I am a bit of an over-packer, if you can call someone who travels with only carry-on luggage an over-packer ;)
2. We used to pack separately, but after my crazy missing luggage debacle from last year, I now pack everything together. So I put half of each person's stuff in each suitcase... that way, if for some reason the airline lost one of our suitcases again we'd each still have half of our clothes instead of one person being totally without. So, I put days 1-3 in one suitcase and days 4-7 in the other. This was also nice because when we got there I could just open one suitcase for the first few days then re-pack it with dirty stuff before I opened the other one. It kept us a little more organized.
3. To pack, I start with the most bulky stuff on bottom.
4. Roll everything!! For some reason, this seems to take up less space AND prevents wrinkles better!
Pants for days 1-3.
5. Add shirts on top of those.
6. In the leftover space I put our hats, gloves, and scarves. This is what both suitcases looked like at that point:
7. Socks & underwear go in the zippered pouch on the top.
8. I always add shoes on top last.
I had this pair (my hiking boots) in this suitcase, and my other boots like this in the other suitcase. I typically wear the most bulky pair of shoes on the plane so I don't have to pack them, but this time they both fit fine so I wore my tennis shoes on the plane because they were more comfy.
So, for the other bags...
I forgot to take pictures of it since it wasn't completely ready until the morning we left, but in my red Getaway bag I always put our camera(s), lenses, any chargers we need (phone, camera, tablet chargers), our toiletry bag & plastic bags with our liquids that way they are easily accessible when going through security. Sometimes I put extra things that didn't fit in our suitcases like hats, etc. Also, you have to keep in mind that since you're only allowed two bags, your purse would count as one bag ladies! So if you are bringing a purse it has to fit in one of your bags. And don't forget snacks! ;)
In Josh's ruck, I put all of our coats and rain jackets!
So that is how I packed winter stuff for a week in Canada for 3 people in only carry-on luggage!!
A note about the Getaway Bag... I LOVE it! The zipper on the bottom unzips to expand the bag. I always try to pack it originally like this, that way I can unzip it for more space on the way home if needed. This allows for extra room for souvenirs.... or a new wardrobe if the airline loses your suitcase like they did mine in Italy.
Another thing to add: I don't travel with things like a hair straightener, blowdryer, or curling iron... hotels and cruise ships have hair dryers, and I don't use straighteners or curling irons (or really, even hair dryers) much anyway, but I just make do without them on vacation.
So, I hope this helps some of you!! Did I miss anything?! Let me know if you have any questions!