Exclusive: Traveling with just a carry on

By: Paige Thomson

(All photos in this post are courtesy of Paige Thomson)

When traveling, it is easy to over pack and end up paying insanely high airline fees for luggage.
This summer, I spent just under two months traveling around Europe with just a carry on backpack,which not only saved me tons of money but also time, and worry over lost luggage.
I have flown five times including my flight to Europe and never once paid for baggage.
When choosing to go the carry-on route for your trip, you need to keep in mind a couple of things.
  • The destination plays a big role. I was hitting up mostly Southern European countries with the exception of London, in the middle of the summer. Meaning, I mostly need clothing for summer months, which are a lot smaller and easier to compress, than clothing like jeans and sweaters. I was able to get away with a pair of shorts, a Capri style pants, two tank tops, a light sweater, two dresses and a t-shirt. All of which are packed away in to my Osprey Porter 30L back wonderfully with the help of Ziplock, plus room for other items like shoes and toiletries.
  • When I was choosing what clothing to pick, I chose light breathable fabrics that were quick to dry. Most of the fabrics I chose were polyester and merino wool, which all ended up being great to wash in the sink, and hang to dry. I would suggest scooping out local sporting and camping stores because of the high quality brands and variety of style.
  • In terms of toiletries, you need to keep in mind the TSA rules. I would suggest buying larger products once you are in the country if you are staying in that one. However, if you are traveling around by airlines a lot, solid soaps, conditioners, and shampoos are the way to go if you keep them under 100 grams and in labeled containers. Lush has a great line of solid shampoo and conditioners. A security agent told me that they usually don’t have a problem with solid products as long as you follow the rules. I lost my conditioner on the way back to Canada for not labeling and being over 100g.
  • For my backpack, I choose the Osprey Porter 30L, and had an Osprey Day Lite attached on the outside. These bags were perfect, because with the larger bag full, and the smaller one empty, fit all carry on requirement.
  • I organized my bag with zip locks, which held up the whole trip.
In the end, it’s up to you if you want wear the same outfit for weeks or if you want to wear the latest trends in the coolest countries.
Paige Thomson explains how she traveled to Europe with only a carry-on luggage.


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