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How to Travel With Carry On Only (With Recommended Packing List) [updated 2024]


Wondering how to travel with a carry-on only?

We have been on the road since 2013.  We have packed too much, carried too much, and paid many $$$ sending ‘stuff home’.  Enough is enough.  We were fed up with lugging heavy bags into taxis, buses, boats, ferries and the worse tuk-tuks.  But we had to go through the pain!

Our lifestyle is now minimalistic so our travel style should represent the same. We have said goodbye to heavy suitcases and now have a lighter load to carry which makes it so easy to traverse from airports to train stations to bus stations and many other forms of transport along the way.  We learned the hard way though! Carry-on luggage is the way for us to travel now.

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We had three years of pain from 2013 to 2016 before we saw the light.

In 2016 we undertook a lot of research, we read reviews of carry-ons, and we looked at their durability and sizes.  We came up with our list of pros and cons for using a carry-on.

Osprey carry on luggage
Osprey carry-on luggage


  • No baggage fees
  • No bag drop when checking in
  • No waiting time at the luggage carousel
  • No concerns about damaged or lost luggage
  • Savings on cab fares, we can either walk or take a bus
  • A lot safer as any potential thief can see we only have a small amount
  • No more damaged TSA locks



  • Longer security checks
  • Size limits on toiletries
  • No scissors
  • Different carriers with different carry-on size restrictions

What we required in a carry-on

  • Material that was durable for the amount of travelling we were doing
  • Functionality – storage options
  • Size
  • Good reviews
  • Luggage that could stand up on its own
  • Strong wheels
  • Lightweight frame
  • Total weight no more than 2kg

Travel tips:

Many travellers we spoke to gave us a great tip, check the airlines that you are travelling with and then purchase a carry-on that suited that airline’s recommended maximum size. We do note that many budget airlines have stricter regulations such as size, weight and quantity. Our choice of carry-on is based on our past international airline usage.

Osprey Carry On – 46 Litre was the winner

Since 2016 our Osprey carry-on luggage and day packs have travelled the world with us and they are all still going strong.

We highly recommend them for their toughness and durability. They have been thrown around by baggage handlers, stuffed into buses, thrown into ferries and are still living to tell the tale.

We passed our 46L onto our children and now we are travelling with the Osprey 40 l Wheeled Travel Pack.  This is different from the 46L as it has a backpack suspension, which we removed as we didn’t need it.

Osprey 45L Sojourn
Osprey 45L Sojourn

1 of Osprey Ozone 2-Wheel 40L/21.5″ Carry-On Rolling Luggage, Black
  • Premium efficiency and design
  • Storage tuned to the each season
  • Purpose designed to help mak the most of each exploration
1 of Osprey Ozone 20L Carry-On Boarding Bag, Black
  • Designated laptop sleeve fits up to most 16″ laptops
  • Travel Sentry Luggage ID helps make sure your pack doesn’t get lost along the way
  • High-strength YKK Racquet Coil Zippers for durability and confidence
  • Organizer pocket with key clip and padded electronics/glasses pocket
  • Hidden Cash Stash pocket to safely secure travel essentials


Hand Held Luggage Scales

We now carry with us hand-held luggage scales.  1. to check whether our luggage has increased in weight and 2. as a backup if our carry-on weight is questioned.

Hand Held Luggage Scales


Packing Cubes – Yes or No

Packing cubes
Packing cubes

A definite yes! Packing cubes have been a game changer.

We travel with 4 luggage packing cubes each.  These were given to us when we attended a travel conference.

The largest packing cube we use for shoes, and two medium-sized cubes are for shorts, trousers, t-shirts and dresses. The smaller one is used for underwear and socks.

Purchase them below:

Packing Cubes


Day Packs

Now, what about a carry-on day pack for our technology?  Back in 2016 we looked at both the Osprey Travel Backpack and the Osprey Day Pack. The Osprey Day Pack was suitable for carrying our electronic equipment. It was sturdy, and practical with also pockets for a drink bottle and umbrella.

We still have our original Osprey Day Pack that we started out in 2016 using.

That model has been superseded, check out the latest models below.
Osprey Day Pack


Between us in our Day Packs we carry:

Business Cards

Electrical Power Board

Travel Adaptor

Apple Macbook Pro

MacBook Air

Hard drive


Water Bottle

Passport, travel documents, wallet

Camera and mobile phones

Packing List for Carry-On Luggage

We tend to overpack when we travel.  Here are some of our top tips to help you pack all that you need in your carry-on luggage.

  • Wear your heaviest clothes on you on the flight e.g. trainers or sneakers, jacket (it does get chilly on the plane), scarf
  • Instead of taking a handbag wear your money belt on you (if you do need a handbag for a special occasion take a small flat one that does not weigh much or take up too much space)
  • If you usually take books with you to read on the plane download them to your mobile phone
  • Take ear pods with you instead of large headphones that will take up space.
  • Take a small first aid kit with you.
Packing List
Packing List

Female Packing List

  • 1 long-sleeve shirt
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 pair of casual trousers
  • 1 rain jacket or down jacket
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • reading glasses
  • hearing aids with batteries
  • 1 dress
  • 1 shawl
  • 1 pair swimmers
  • 3 pairs underwear (pants and bras)
  • 3 pairs socks
  • 1 set pjs
  • 2 pairs of shoes (apart from your heaviest ones that you wear on board, pair thongs and a good pair to go with your clothes if you are going out)


Travel toiletries
Travel toiletries

These days most hotels and holiday rentals provide shampoo and conditioner. If they don’t you get buy small bottles locally on arrival.

  • deodorant
  • sunscreen
  • eyeshadow, blush and lip all in one container (tip: make sure the container is sturdy enough that it does not break in transit)
  • mascara, eyeliner
  • makeup removal pads, moisturisers
  • razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, emery board
  • brush and comb

tip: I place all of these in clear sealable bags so they are clearly seen through the imaging machines

Male Packing List

  • long sleeve shirt
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 pair long trousers
  • 3 sets underwear
  • 3 pairs socks
  • 1 rain or down jacket
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • reading glasses
  • hearing aids and batteries
  • 1 hat

Travel Insurance

We recommend taking out travel insurance as soon as you book your flights and pay deposits on any cruises, tours or hotels. Travel insurance offers protection when things go wrong before or during your travels, that is why we highly recommend that you take out travel insurance.

Final words on how to travel with a carry-on.

We hope you have enjoyed our article on how to travel with carry-on luggage.  Once you have tried it once you won’t want to go back to lugging heavy suitcases around.  Let us know if you have tried it and what you thought of it.



If you like our article why not PIN it for later:

Travelling the world with a carry-on


Travelling the world with a carry-on

travelling with a carry on



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We are grateful to be able to be of service to you and bring your stories that we hope you enjoy. In this article, we have used affiliate links on where to purchase the luggage that we are travelling with this year. When you click on an affiliate link we are paid a small commission that helps keeps us travelling and bringing you stories.


Thanks for stopping by and welcome to To Travel Too – Australia’s top Baby Boomer lifestyle and travel blog, with an international worldwide audience in mind, run by the married couple, freelance writers and full-time travellers Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith. Come with us as we explore the world. Our two mantras that we live by are 'chase time not money' and 'age is no barrier when it comes to travel'.

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