The Carry-On Traveller: Learn how to pack light

“I have anxiety for you,” my friend Jess told me after I explained what I was packing for our trip.

“I could never, ever travel with so few things!” she added.

I laughed. “If you think I travel light, you should see what our blogging friends Erin and Simon take!” I said, and then went on to explain how they travel with carry-on luggage only.

Last trip, Dave and I both took 15kg check in luggage, plus the maximum required for hand luggage. The trip before that, we packed more than 20kg in our check-in baggage each, and then some.

Our packing Carry-On Traveller Double-Barrelled Travel

The early days of travel… when we packed far too much

The result of both trips was that we quickly got tired of carrying so much stuff and we soon ended up ditching things or posting stuff home. This trip, I was determined things would change, and in the spirit of Erin and Simon we did our best to pack lighter.

The Carry-On Traveller

The Carry-On Traveller is the new book written by Erin McNeaney from Never-Ending Voyage. If you’ve ever wanted to travel lighter, this is a must read as it covers absolutely everything you need to know about travelling with hand luggage only.

My only regret with The Carry-On Traveller is that I didn’t read it sooner. We were so busy before we left Australia that I didn’t get to read it until we arrived in Thailand and then immediately began regretting most of what I’d packed.The Carry-On Traveller book Double-Barrelled Travel

Luggage down to one bag between us

Although Dave and I are far from having carry-on luggage only, we’ve made significant improvements since we first started travelling.

I remember on one of my first Europe trips before Dave and I were together, I had a wheeled suitcase that was horrendously heavy. I was travelling with a boyfriend at the time, and the first hostel we arrived at had a steep staircase and no lift. My boyfriend pulled and pushed it up the stairs, grunting and moaning the entire way. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last.

Thankfully I’ve improved since then and for this trip David and I had one checked in bag between us which weighed 15kg. On top of this, we both carried our own hand luggage.

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But after having been in Thailand for a week, I’ve realised that I’ve yet to wear half my clothes and therefore probably shouldn’t have brought them with me in the first place. Lesson learnt – yet again. And I will continue to strive to be an ever more efficient packer.

Erin and Simon Carry-On Traveller Double-Barrelled Travel

Simon and Erin with their carry-on only luggage

What I learnt from The Carry-On Traveller

There were some key takeaways from The Carry-On Traveller that really stayed with me after I finished it.

I’d like to take you through them so you can learn to travel lighter too. And if you are serious about taking less when you travel, make sure you buy the book.

#1 Packing less is about changing your mindset

I think that to travel with carry-on luggage only, it is all about changing your mindset and this is what Erin talks about in her book.

To start with, it can seem like an impossible task to travel with such a small amount but Erin advises to take it one step at a time – similar to how Dave and I have done it – and just reduce the amount of things you take with you on each trip. If you’re looking to buy quality used cars, checkout this link : used cars for sale near me.

Another tip is to write down everything you use and how frequently during a week-long trip and then eliminate anything that wasn’t used much or wasn’t used at all from your next trip.

#2 Pack solid toiletries and buy when you get there

My toiletries are always my biggest annoyance when I travel. I just cannot seem to keep them down no matter how hard I try. Not only do I take a makeup bag, but I also bring a separate toiletries bag too. This time around, I decided to try and buy as much as I could when I got there, and this reduced my weight quite a bit. And this is a great tip that’s outlined in the book – buy when you arrive.

Many toiletries are cheaper at your destination so wait until you’re there. This is certainly the case for things like contact lens cleaner for me. It’s about $15 in Australia but as little as $4 in Thailand – for the same brand. Don’t ask me how that works.

Another tip is to travel with solid toiletries and minimise your liquids. We already do with this soap, having ditched the body wash for a soap bar that lasts longer and is smaller to carry. But from Erin’s book I also learnt that the beauty brand Lush has a range of shampoo soap bars – so I might get one of those next time we pack.

Sample of what to pack Carry-On Traveller Double-Barrelled Travel

What Erin packs in her bag

#3 Make sure all your clothes match

Erin talks about making sure all her clothes match by keeping either your top half or bottom the same (neutral) colour and then simply mixing up the other side. At the moment I only match three or so items with one item, rather than my entire wardrobe. But Erin’s tip makes a lot of sense – and allows you to have more options each time you get dressed.

#4 Don’t pack it thinking you’ll need it later

This is one of my biggest errors when it comes to packing. Case in point – we packed a waterproof scuba diving bag to take with us on this trip. Thankfully, it actually has already come in handy as we celebrate Thailand’s huge water festival Songkran. But I packed it thinking that we may scuba dive this trip, even though the item isn’t really even essential for scuba diving.

#5 Having less stuff means you can travel cheaper

Before I read Carry-On Traveller, I did have some understanding about saving money because you don’t have to pay to check in your bag with many budget airlines. However, I didn’t realise quite how much money you can save. One couple Erin interviews in her book claim to have saved $500 on their luggage fees in one year alone.

After having paid more than $40 to check our one bag on our last flight, I’m beginning to see how these fees can add up.

Electronics Carry-On Traveller Double-Barrelled Travel

What Erin and Simon bring when they pack their electronics

#6 Travelling with less equates to more freedom

This was my favourite takeaway from the book. As digital nomads, Dave and I are passionate about freedom and have the choice to do what we like, when we like. Travelling with carry-on luggage only seems to be an extension of this mentality.

Having one small backpack means you can walk from the bus station to your hotel without having to spend money on a taxi. It means your belongings stay with you 24-7 so you can avoid getting your bag lost when you travel – which has happened to both Dave and I in the last 18 months alone. And having carry-on luggage also means you have more money to spend on other important things.

Worthwhile reading material

These are just some of the learnings I took away from Erin’s book, and if you read it you’re bound to make many more discoveries of your own. At the end of Carry-On Traveller, Erin also features interviews with a host of other digital nomads who use carry-on luggage only, so you can also learn from others. It adds a further dimension to an already great book.

But don’t just take my word for it – get the book yourself.

In the meantime, I’ll keep working on my minimalist style with the aim of one day travelling with carry-on luggage only. As Erin says, “It’s a gradual process.”

Wish me luck!

How much stuff do you travel with? Are you a 20kg kind of person, or is your style more hand luggage only?



About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

6 comments on “The Carry-On Traveller: Learn how to pack light”

  1. Richard Hunt Reply

    For my frequent trips to SE Asia or South America, my backpack weighs just between 7 and 9 lbs. If you check out my travel blog at you can go to my April 11, 2012 Trans-Siberian trip entry or my May 14, 2014 Brazil entry you will see a detailed description of what I pack and learn how I am able travel with ease.

    I find it amusing seeing other travelers with huge backpacks along with a smaller front pack while wearing just a tee shirt, shorts and flip-flops. I guess they must enjoy hauling around dirty clothes.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Had a look at your blog – a lot of detailed information on there. It’s a great resource. Yeah, we used to be one of those ‘amusing’ backpackers with lots of clothes. We’re working on it though! 🙂

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