These days, it seems like everything costs something when travelling by plane. That’s why it’s become more and more common to avoid additional fees for checked-in luggage by travelling only with carry-on luggage. This whole idea may be frightening at first but once you’ve adapted to this change, travelling light can become quite an asset.

Suitcase on a baggage carousel waiting to be picked up by a traveller.
Good ‘ol Yellow Suitcase” by Camllo Rueda Léopez licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Saving money is one of the advantages of travelling with only carry-on luggage. You save on check-in fees. Also, if you have lost your baggage in the past, you’ll feel relieved knowing that all your baggage is with you. You will also save a lot of time not having to wait at the baggage carousel.

To make sure everything goes smoothly during your next flight, here are a few tips for travelling “light”:

Make sure you have up-to-date information on limits and restrictions

The rule of thumb for all trips without checked baggage is to verify the airline’s weight and size limits so you’re not caught by surprise. Read this article to learn more about the new rules on carry-on baggage size.

Check-in stations at the airport
Make sure your luggage is within the size constraints if you don’t want to check it.

Usually, on regular commercial flights, you can have one carry-on luggage placed in the overhead compartment and one personal item (purse, laptop bag, etc.) placed under the seat in front of you. For that second item, I would recommend using a soft sided bag since space may vary from one aircraft to the other. You can also bring certain items such as jackets, strollers, diaper bag, etc. on board.

Don’t assume that a suitcase accepted by one airline carrier will be accepted by all airlines. Unfortunately, each flight of your itinerary has its own set of rules. Make sure you read the fine print when you book your flight. If you have any doubts or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact customer service. Also, when you are measuring your carry-on luggage, make sure you include the wheels and the handle, if they stick out.

Think about what to pack

Packing with a single carry-on bag can be quite the challenge. The key is to set a limit and stick to it no matter the situation; otherwise this can get quite expensive. My advice to you is no “just in case”. If you’re debating whether or not to put the item in your carry-on bag, leave it behind. We all have a tendency to over pack. You must resist at all cost if you want to have room to bring back souvenirs!

Choose the right clothes

You won’t have the space to bring a different outfit for every single day of your trip, so you have to be creative when choosing which items to bring. Personally, I never bring more than a week’s worth of clothes and underwear, no matter the length of my trip. Doing laundry more often, as you go, reduces the size of your luggage and the possibility of unfortunate events like losing your bags or paying for overweight fees.

To avoid always wearing the same thing, have a couple of light multi-functional items in the same colour palette so you can easily mix and match from one day to the other. Layers are the key to avoid packing bulky jackets in your luggage.

Go for accessories

Are you tired of always wearing the same thing, but you just can’t bring everything? Accessories are great for helping you go from casual to evening wear in no time. Scarves, necklaces, ties, earrings and hats are light and easy to stuff in the tight empty spaces of your luggage and they make quite a difference.

Travellers waiting in line to go through security screening at the airport.
The shoes you take off in line, plus one other pair, is all you really need to pack light.
IMGP2158-TSA Body Scanner Line by David Prasad used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

The infamous pairs of shoes! I would say: two pairs max! We always end up wearing the same pairs over and over, anyways. My advice to you: wear your heaviest clothes and shoes on the plane if your carry-on luggage is almost at the weight limit!

Organize your baggage wisely

The key to success when leaving with only a small suitcase is to be organized! I use many carry-on sized shampoo, soap and sunscreen bottles to comply with airline regulations but also because they are lighter than regular size bottles and easier to store in my bags. Here’s my advice for saving space:

  • Store your socks in your shoes to avoid empty spaces.
  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them so they don’t wrinkle but also because they take up much less space.
  • When possible, roll your daily outfits together so you only have to pull out one roll of clothing from your luggage, each day. You will find things more easily and you will keep your packing organized!
  • Vacuum storage bags, travel bags and plastic bags are a traveller’s best friend. All you have to do is dig in your luggage and pull out exactly what you’re looking for!

Go through security without any hassle

One of the challenges of travelling with only a carry-on bag is that you’re carrying everything on you when you go through security at the airport. In doing so, you must follow a certain set of rules:

  • Bottles containing liquid or gel over 100ml/100g and most sharp objects (sharp-tipped scissors, knives, Swiss army knives, etc.) can’t be stored in your carry-on luggage. Make sure you pack accordingly.
  • Since your electronics might be inspected separately, place them on top of your bag for easy access. Same thing goes for your liquids and gels which you will have put together in a 1 litre maximum transparent plastic bag, ahead of time.
  • Do not wrap any presents you are bringing as you might have to unwrap them if questioned by security to confirm what is inside the package!
): Airplane taxiing on an airport tarmac before departure for travellers’ vacations
Baggage Insurance has you covered in case of accidental loss of luggage on the part of the airport.

Finally, don’t forget your travel insurance! Even if you don’t have checked-in baggage, a good emergency medical insurance and baggage insurance plan like the ones offered at TuGo will cover you. For a detailed list of luggage items (check-in or carry-on) covered by the insurance, read this blog post on top secret travel baggage claim tips.

With all these tips, I know you’ll be able to travel with peace of mind without having to wait at the baggage carrousel. You will save a lot of hard-earned money! Still not sure you’ll manage?  You can look at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s (CATSA) website for details. Remember that the rules and regulations are subject to change, so make sure you get the most up-to-date information before you leave!

Safe travels!

Jennifer Doré Dallas

Journalist and travel blogger, Jennifer Dore Dallas, is from Quebec, la Belle Province.

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Tips for Travelling With Only Carry-on Luggage

Aug 18 2015