Carry-on travel

I was asked on the post below to share how I manage to travel without checking any bags. I thought it might be useful to share what I have done to date and what are some of the things I’ll be doing differently in the future. So I boiled it down to a few points:

1. Make a list of the clothes and shoes you want to bring. When I don’t make a list, I tend to bring more. I think the list makes you a bit more aware of the sheer quantity of things (will you really need four different bathing suits or three pairs of jeans?)

2. Make sure every piece of clothing go with every other piece. That’s a basic rule for traveling light. It allows you to maximize the number of outfit combinations you can make.

3. Don’t bring things you might use. We are not talking about trips to the middle of the jungle here. If you think there might be a chance that perhaps an extra party dress could possibly come in handy, maybe, then don’t bring it. Chances are you won’t need it and if you really do, you have an excuse to buy something new.

4. Think in terms of volume. I often don’t bring a particular piece of clothing or a pair of shoes if it is too bulky and would take too much space. If you really must bring your hiking boots, then wear it on your way down. And consider yourself lucky that you have that option because when Alan and I travel, we have to wear business casual clothes and shoes that we know will be useless where we are going, and have to stuff our hiking shoes, which take a lot of room, into our suitcases. The joys of traveling as an employee.

5. Choose a good carry on set of luggage. We did zero research on this. We simply bought a set of Air Canada carry-on suitcase with the matching bag that goes on top. Something like this:


6. Pack it systematically. My basic system is simple: since the bottom of the suitcase is sort of uneven because of the pull out handle, I stuff socks, underwear, bathing suits, anything that fits between the ridges. I then put any pants with their ends (the waist part) lined up against the top of the suitcase and the legs hanging out the other end. I put the next pair of pants on the opposite direction. Once that is done, I roll each tshirt or top in very tight rolls, which I line up on top of the pants. I usually have one or two layers of these (which is a LOT of tops – I can often have way more than 10 tops in my suitcase). People who swear that rolling method keeps their clothes wrinkle-free say you should rolls more than one piece together; I don’t really do that. I basically do it so I can fit more clothes; it works well. But I tend to roll only lighter clothes. Once I have my layer of rolled clothes, I fold the legs of the pants on top of them and I add any other bottom or thicker clothes on top (like a pair of shorts, a sweater, etc) and then I fastened the straps inside the suitcase and pull them tight. I can usually fit one or two pairs of shoes on the space at the corners. I then use the other bag to bring gifts, any shoes that didn’t fit on the first bag, toiletries, hair drier, etc.

I think the longest trip I took with this system was about three and a half weeks but could easily have spent a couple of months since I didn’t wear half of what I brought with me. Honestly, I do think I carry a LOT of stuff on those two bags. You would be surprised.

So, as I mentioned below, my goal is to trim down from that system to one in which I can only use one bag. I’m hopeful that it will be possible after I found out that hard suitcases with wheels have half the volume and twice the weight of soft bags like the one I ordered below. So it might be possible to trim down without giving up on too much. We’ll see. But here’s how a family was able to go around the world on 7 kg of carry-on luggage each. Courtesy of One Bag One World blog.

Aeronaut on its way…

AeronautRemember what I said about one-bag travel? Well, I’m determined to use only one carry on bag on my trip to Europe next month, and to make that possible, I’ve taken the first step: I’ve ordered a soft bag to replace my roller. After months of research, I’ve settled on the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. From everything I read, the bag looks well designed, made of the best material, and is light and well balanced. I’ve also picked up a few packing cubes and the much-praised Absolute Strap. For those of you who have had your luggage misplaced by an airline way too many times, I shall be documenting my packing techniques and how one-bag traveling worked for me. Trust me, once you go carry on, you can never go back to checked luggage.


I got my Aeronaut today! It’s Friday, April 25th and I’m really impressed with how fast the Tom Bihn folks ship things. The store is in Seattle and depending on when I place my order, I have it on the next day or the day after. Pretty impressive. I really liked the bag. It looks very well made, the parts are really high quality. I’ll place some pictures up when I start packing it.