“Do you have any check-in luggage? - Nope!”
Sometimes, I didn’t even have to have this conversation. With an airline like Ryanair, I could check-in online, save the e-ticket to my iBooks to use later at the electronic scanner, whizz pass automatic gate and straight to Security.
The benefit of travelling with a carry-on backpack doesn’t stop at my rapid departure at airports. I am thankful for it every time I have to walk in the scorching heat from a hotel to a station or squeeze through the crowd and, especially when I have to pack. The less space I have, the fewer things I attempt to carry and the less time-consuming the whole process is.
Of course, packing for a three-month trip with one carry-on backpack is not an easy job. Some possessions would surely bring me comfort and confidence on the road, but I have learned the hard way to leave them behind. Here is my list of four of such things. (Just a warning: they are quite girly.)
It’s not 1984; you can buy shower gel and shampoos everywhere. It’s not to mention that hotels provide them, and so do Airbnb hosts.
Numerous brands, from household manufacturers to skin care boutiques, make travel-size shower gels and have them on display by the window or next to the queue line. As they are always very cute and don’t often cost much (come on, look at the size), the temptation is high. You don't need them, though. Also, you don’t want the hassle of bagging them in a clear bag each time you go through an airport or waiting for a security guard taking his or her time searching your bag as you forget to bag them.
If you head straight to a camp in the middle of a forest, to an uncivilised world, pack a small bar of soap. Don't get involved in any liquid business. There are also travel soap sheets for the shower, hair wash or laundry. We did try them, but I am not sure if they do the job.
The same principle should apply to any liquid that you can replace with solid stuff as it’s not hard to imagine the mess of leakage in the one bag that contains all your belongings for three months, right?
I know it’s comforting wearing jeans. You feel agile, brave and sexy at the same time. Jeans are heavy, bulky and they take forever to dry, though, so are they worth the trouble?
It’s the middle of the night, and you needed to take the early train next morning, but you couldn’t pack yet because your jeans were soaked. You failed to cover in time when the rain hurried down that afternoon when you were walking around. Pack the dampened thick jeans or put them on mostly wet tomorrow? Neither choice seems to be a pleasant one.
So say no to jeans, please. If you really must bring a pair, wear them on your travel day, so you don’t have to pack them and carry their heavy load on your shoulder.
Dresses are tempting, I know. They often feel great when you walk along a sandy beach, and the breeze blows through your hair and makes waves on your dress. Somehow, they seem to be more feminine than jeans or skirts. They are not ideal, though, if you are travelling for a long time.
Why? It's because that they are in one piece. A dress might make a lighter outfit compared with a skirt and a blouse, but it doesn't offer the flexibility like the combination. If you have two dresses, you have two outfits. With two skirts and two blouses, you have four outfits.
The power of mix and match, my ladies, might be underestimated when you had a wall-length wardrobe but becomes apparent with two-thirds of a carry-on bag. Imagine you are staying in the hippy part of Bali for ten days, meet some cool people on your first day, love to hang out with them. Do you slightly worry that you only have three changes of clothes? In another scenario, you start noticing that you were wearing the same dress in 10 photos on Instagram. Not ideal, isn’t it?
In addition to the artistic side, there is a practical one. The smaller each piece of clothes is, the faster it dries and the less hassle it is to wash.
Even though some budget airlines allow you to bring two carry-on items, you should resist the urge to carry a handbag. I agree they might look better on photos, but they are not efficient. They take up a lot of room when you do have to pack them. EasyJet, for example, only allows one carry-on item, so you either have to shove it into your main bag forcefully, all creased and wrinkled, or you have to pay for the check-in luggage.
It’s often practical to have a smaller bag for day trips, but you should get one of those foldable bags. They are light and take up almost no room. If you do some research, you can find some high-quality bags that look quite alright. We have this one, which was one of our best pre-travel investments.
If you are looking for specific packing tips for a hiking trip, I have another post for you: