Carry On Only: Packing Smart

     Going "carry on only" is an art, and while some have mastered this craft, others need to accept that they are going to have to check a bag. While this may not work for everyone or every destination, I can say that on every trip where I have tried to be carry on only, I have been able to do it. It's an impressive feat in my eyes, but there have been times where my bags have been pushed to the limits. I wanted to share some of my personal tips on packing smarter so that you can be a carry on only traveler.

 GoPro Supercharger with included bag

GoPro Supercharger with included bag

Charge Smarter:
Charging all of your devices means that you are probably going to need an adapter to get the correct plug, and you may even need one or two of them, depending on the electronics that you're bringing on the trip. If all of your devices are USB and USB-C then there is a great solution. GoPro sells a Supercharger that can charge one device via USB-C, a great way to charge up your GoPro batteries in the GoPro Dual Battery Charger, while also charging a smartphone, or other USB charging device via the USB port that is also on the plug device. This device comes with an assortment of plugs that can be swapped, and come in a small carrying bag, but to save even more space, just bring the charger that you will need. While this solution may not work for everyone, you can also buy Apples version, which allows you to swap plugs on your iPad charger and MacBook/MacBook Pro charger. It may not save a ton of space, but going carry on only means saving every square inch that you can.

     The dreaded liquids must be 3.4oz(100ml) or less rule. It can be the make or break for some people, and it can make traveling carry on only a hassle. My best packing tip is finding a hair and body wash in one and not bringing two or three different products for your hair. Due to the limits on amounts, every little bottle is one step closer to pushing you into the checked bag realm, and while those quart bags can hold quite a lot if you try hard enough, they may hit their limit. I have also begun packing my liquids in a small toiletry bag thats only big enough to fit the quart baggie, a small hairbrush, and a toothbrush. That way I can just strap it to the side of my carry on bag for ease at the security checkpoint, and then stuff it away in my bag while I am waiting for my flight so it won't get lost. I've also begun using small refillable plastic containers for any liquids, but I made sure that they are cheap enough that I can throw them out before coming home if I ever want extra room for souvenirs.

 All of my GoPro gear and 16 days worth of clothes for a trip across Europe during December 2016 and January 2017. Carry on only.

All of my GoPro gear and 16 days worth of clothes for a trip across Europe during December 2016 and January 2017. Carry on only.

Roll Your Clothes:
     I'm 100% sure everyone has already heard this one, but rolling your clothes can save tons of space, just make sure your roll everything as tight as possible. This saves so much space that I was able to fit 16 days worth of winter clothes, minus the outfit I was wearing and one sweatshirt in the grey bag in the photo to the right, whole the GoPro Seeker bag (on the left) held all of my GoPro Gear, Chargers, Passport, Wallet, Cash, and a hat. While that grey bag may have been pushed to its limits on the way home with some souvenirs, heading over to Europe was a breeze and the bag was allowed to go carry on only. 

Pack For Carry On... But...
    But remember that you can skip on those baggage fees by gate checking your bag, in most cases. Maybe they don't ran out of room in the overhead compartments, or maybe you don't want to carry you bag anymore, you can always try to gate check your bag, and sometimes they may make you, but in my experience it is a free option, which is nice because some airlines charge $25 for a checked bag on domestic flights here in the United States. These fees are a major reason a lot of people try to go on trip with only their carry on.

     The biggest reason I like to go carry on only, especially on international flights, is that it is much harder to lose your bags when you are in charge of it. I also like going carry on only because if I can carry it on the plane, then I know it will be easy to carry around the streets where I am going whenever we need to hop on a bus to go to the next destination, rolling suitcases don't always survive the uneven streets, as my brother learned while we traveled Italy in 2015. My upcoming trip to Greece is going to be one of the hardest trips that I have to pack for since I am still trying to be "carry on only" yet I am now also going to be packing my GoPro Karma Drone, which takes up a lot of valuable space in my camera bag.

      I want to know what your biggest carry on only tips are. So please leave a comment below and let us know what your tips are for living the carry on only life, or tell us about your lost luggage nightmare!


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Joseph Hallgren

Boston, MA

Full time student, adrenaline junkie, and traveller.