Why I’m Now a Carry-On Traveler


Zanzibar packing list

I swear I haven’t become that person.

You know, that traveller that’s carry-on only and then talks non-stop about being carry-on only.

I’ve always been able to detect this sense of superiority from much of the carry-on traveller crowd. But also: I have to hold my hands up here, too, because there have definitely been times in the past where I’ve spotted a traveller in Southeast Asia with a backpack totalling 100 litres and pointed it out at Dave with a snicker. I try not to be judgmental towards anyone’s travel style now, though, as long as it’s not hurting anyone.

I guess what I was trying to say above is that people who travel carry-on only often like to talk about how their way is best.

And now I’m doing exactly the same…

Fuck.

Okay, well, to summarise this introduction: I’m an enormous hypocrite.

Lauren and Dave in Lampang
Packing light on my scooter trip in Northern Thailand back in 2012. The brakes failed on our scooter around 15 minutes after this photo was taken.

Let’s start again.

When I made the decision to travel long-term, I knew I wanted to do so with a carry-on-sized bag.

I’d spent the better part of a year doing little but reading travel blogs and I’d come to the conclusion that small backpacks were best. I wouldn’t be tempted to overpack, I wouldn’t have to worry about lost luggage, and I wouldn’t have to focus on building my core strength. Travel bloggers were showered with praise in the comments whenever they announced they were packing everything in for the carry-on life, and this had convinced me it was the only way forward.

When it came time for me to buy my backpack, however, my body had other ideas.

I’ve always likened my first backpack purchase with Harry Potter hunting for a wand, which makes me a weirdo. But every backpack I tried on felt wrong until I stumbled upon the Osprey Exos 44l. I dutifully filled it with travel gear in the outdoor store I was in, hoisted it on to my back, and felt it dissolve. I was astounded to be wearing a full backpack but feeling as though there was nothing on my shoulders. It felt right.

I’d found the One.

When I got home, I began researching size limits for carry-on luggage on different airlines and realised with a sinking heart that my new beloved backpack was an inch too long to be allowed in the cabin.

It turned out I was going to be a checked luggage kind of girl after all.

Lauren Juliff with her Osprey backpack
My very first backpack! You can tell this is pre-travel because my skin is translucent.

The Great Expansion

I quickly learned I’d made the right decision.

I didn’t have to throw something out whenever I bought something new! 

Packing didn’t require an hour of thoughtful organisation in order to make everything fit! 

I didn’t have to wear the same three t-shirts over and over and over! 

Three years later, I upsized further.

I pushed my Exos to one side and upgraded to a Farpoint 70l backpack, and felt again that this was the right decision. By this point, my one year trip had morphed into full-time travel, and I whole-heartedly believed I was going to spend the rest of my life living out of a backpack.

If that was the case, I would certainly need a few more home comforts.

It started to get ridiculous.

I began travelling with hair straighteners. Two pairs of jeans. Enough make-up to last me through the next decade. Fifteen tops. Three pairs of shoes. Two cameras. Two travel towels. Two laptop chargers. A tablet and a phone and a Kindle and an external hard drive and three camera lenses and enormous over-ear headphones. A six month supply of daily contact lenses. An enormous jar of Vegemite.

I started to attract passive-aggressive comments from carry-on travellers the world over.

I didn’t care because I was comfortable and it was worth it.

When I arrived in Portugal, my bag was stuffed to the brim. It weighed over 20 kilograms and I had a 10 kg daypack hanging from my front. Needless to say, travel days had become a painful affair, and I’d found myself making changes, like using taxis over buses to get anywhere.

It was an incredible feeling to drop my backpack in Lisbon and know I wouldn’t need to pick it up for quite some time.

It’s been 18 months and I haven’t touched it once.

Nazare
I love you, Portugal!

Making a Change

Now that I had a home to put my things in, I no longer needed to carry everything I owned on my back, so I was able to try carry-on travel on for size.

I started small, with a three day trip to Girona, Spain.

At first, I used my tiny daypack, but even that felt challenging. I had become so accustomed to carrying everything I could potentially need on my back that I wanted to pack all I owned for my long weekend getaway. When I eventually narrowed it down to a laptop and a couple of outfit changes, it felt as though I was learning how to be a minimalist again. It felt good.

I’d always rolled my eyes at people who had gushed about how wonderful it was to not have to dawdle around the baggage claim for their bags after stepping off a plane — like your time is that important — but, um, actually… it is wonderful. And saving money on checked luggage suddenly felt exciting. I must have spent well over $1,000 in checked luggage fees over the entirety of my travel blogging career.

As soon as I returned to Portugal, I went full carry-on. I bought the Osprey Farpoint 40l backpack and haven’t looked back. I love this backpack.

I took it on a six-week country-hopping adventure around Europe. I took it on a month-long trip across Southern Africa. I took it on my recent road trip in the US.

I have a fairly extensive travel adventure coming up in a month’s time; a long-term stint on the road that will take me from snow-capped mountains to steamy rainforests, and I’m still going be packing carry-on for that.

I’m a convert.

Here’s some more positives I’ve found from being a carry-on traveller, as well as some situations where I’d likely leap back to checked luggage life.

Lauren with a big backpack
Struggling to close my backpack before my final flight as a nomad. My 70-litre pack weighed in at a whopping 21 kgs.

It Gets Me Thinking About What I Need

Here’s a bit of an embarrassing confession: over the past couple of years, I’ve transformed from a minimalist to a materialist.

Maybe you’ve noticed.

As my income from this site has grown, my travels have become increasingly lavish. I swapped dorm rooms for Airbnb apartments and fancy hotels. I treated Dave to a luxury resort in the Maldives. I bought an expensive camera I didn’t need because I still shoot in auto. More makeup than I could use in — let’s be real — my entire lifetime. When I grew so irritated by budget travel bloggers being comped luxury suites and talking about how it’s so worth it to splurge every now and then, I decided to spend $2,000 of my own money on a 5-night stay in a hotel in Berlin so that I could talk about if it was really worth it when you’re actually spending your own money. Yes, I made my point and maybe gained a handful of new readers who are tired of endless sponsored content on blogs, but I also spent $2,000. I could have, y’know, given it to charity.

Once I started spending, I struggled to stop.

Strangely, it was moving to Lisbon that halted me in my tracks.

It was falling in love with having a base and pondering whether I’d one day like to buy my own house someday.

It was realising that I had tripled my income since ending my full-time travels, but was still breaking even.

It was heading off for month-long trips around the world, functioning just fine, then coming home to a house full of stuff that I’d just realised I didn’t need to survive.

Carry-on travel helps me work my way back to a more minimalist way of life, where I value both possessions and experiences, but the latter a hell of a lot more.

I Don’t Have to Worry About My Luggage Getting Lost, Stolen, or Damaged

I receive a handful of emails a year from travellers who are concerned about lost luggage. The truth is that these incidents are exceptionally rare. After six years of travel and over 250 flights, I have never had an airline lose my luggage. I’ve never had anything stolen either, but I have had an airline break two of my backpacks.

The first time was on a flight from San Francisco to Seattle. I hauled my backpack off the luggage belt and discovered the frame had been snapped in two. It was frustrating, but easily solved with a new purchase. The second time, I wasn’t so fortunate. A flight from Bangkok to Trang resulted in a large tear across the side of my pack, and Bangkok Airlines would only offer me $20 in compensation. I took it, because Osprey has a lifetime guarantee on their products, and they were able to repair it for free. I made my way through an entire roll of duct tape until I was somewhere long enough for me to be able to send it off.

Luggage-related incidents are incredibly rare, but they do happen. And by travelling with a smaller carry-on-sized bag, you can eliminate these risks.

You can’t lose your luggage if it’s stowed at your feet for the entire journey.

You can’t have your belongings stolen on a sketchy bus ride in Thailand, because you won’t need to store your bag in the hold.

You can’t discover an airline’s damaged your luggage if you have it with you at all times.

Carry-on travel gives me greater peace of mind, which is never a bad thing.

Lauren backpack
Double-turtling like a chronic overpacker. I can’t believe I used to travel like this!

My Back Thanks Me for It

If you ever meet me in person, ask to see my biceps.

Actually, don’t, as that would likely terrify me.

I’m one of the few people who can flex like their life depended on it and still not cause even a stir in their arms. Everything stays flat! My super-fit friends in Lisbon find it hilarious that it looks like I have no biceps, no matter how hard I work out. And it’s the same for the rest of my muscles.

Simply put: I am weak.

If, like me, you’re tiny and feeble, the lighter your backpack, the better. And therefore, the smaller your backpack, the easier it is to keep it lightweight.

Carry-on travel limits how heavy my bag can get, and that helps reduce pain levels when I’ve been walking around in circles for two hours looking for a hostel that no longer seems to exist.

Lauren in Sri Lanka with a pink tuk-tuk
lolololololol — probably the worst outfit I’ve ever put together on my travels.

What is Fashion, Tho?

There’s a reason why I rarely write packing guides or share information on what to wear in particular destinations, and that’s because of the above photo. It’s also probably why people do not like my photos on Instagram.

Joking not joking.

As much as I’d like to have a sense of style, I don’t. And while that photo shows what is absolutely one of the worst things I’ve ever worn, I’m definitely not someone who buys clothes for specific trips or makes an effort to look amazing as I travel. I relish in the anonymity that travel gives me and the excuse to be lazy about my appearance. Give me a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, and a dozen tops to pair with them and I’m happy.

Somebody should definitely take that skirt away from me, though.

And the shoes.

When I was checking my luggage, I was travelling with a whole pile of clothes I rarely wore. I had three dresses with me that I hadn’t worn in six months. Heels that I wore once over an entire year. Clothes for *potential cold weather* while I was living in the tropics.

Carry-on-sized bags not only force me to stop carrying things I don’t wear, but remind me that as long as I stick to packing the clothes I usually wear at home, I’ll have plenty of space for souvenirs.

Zanzibar packing list
Everything I packed for my week in Zanzibar

The Exceptions

Now that I’ve successfully handled so many trips with my trusty Farpoint, I can think of very few scenarios where I’d need a larger backpack. Here are a handful of them:

If I was to go nomadic again: The carry-on life works for me, and a big part of that is because I have a home to put my Overflow Possessions in. If I was to pack in my life in Portugal, sell everything I own, and travel full-time again, I confess I’d struggle to do so with such a small backpack. Having so few things gets old when you’ve been doing it for four years straight.

If I was going to do something ridiculous, like skiing: Can you imagine me skiing? Haha! Well, actually… the joke’s on you, because I can ski! By which I mean, I went on a school trip to Italy when I was 14, where I spent a week snowploughing down the mountains. If I ever decided to take it back up again, though, I’d imagine I’d need to bring a lot of equipment with me? As you can tell, I am very informed about skiing situations.

If I was going to go somewhere very cold: My favourite thing in the world is being warm. My second favourite thing is hot showers. My third favourite thing is hot water bottles. I hate being cold! And so, if I was going to visit somewhere that was unbelievably freezing cold, I’d probably want to pack all the clothes I own and do a Joey. Man, that’s two Friends references in two posts, and that feels like the perfect way to end this.

So there you have it! Once I went carry-on, I never went back!

Or, I might go back in the future.

But probably not.

 

What do you think? Is carry-on travel for you or do you check your luggage all the way?

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46 Comments

  1. Bill
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    “An enormous jar of Vegemite.” wow.. you’re committed!

    I’ve been doing the carry on thing for a while because a) vacation is short b) my time on vacation is short c) when I get back home, I can get thru customs/immigration faster than those waiting for their luggable..

    I do have a decent backpack I use for when I’m doing the back country hiking, but typically I leave it at home otherwise. I have a soft wheely bag which I can stuff most anything and then a decent backpack which I can use for day excursions when I arrive to my destination. Clothes are rarely a problem, the only thing is being a guy our stuff tends to be bigger and thicker. So plan ahead.

    Shoes are a problem as I like to run or hike when I get somewhere, and those are big. So going on a hiking trip: wear the large hiking shoes and pack the light running shoes. Going on a city trip: pack the running shoes and wear the walking shoes. I try not to bring more than 2 pair of shoes, one on me and one packed.

    I’ve done skiing with a carry on! It’s not that hard, just find a place which has a washer/dryer. That way the long undies can be washed once or twice during your stay. Down stuffed jackets are great for skiing and compact nicely. Ski pants (for guys) are large but compact fairly well. What else do you need? A night outfit of something fancy if you’re going to Vail? maybe. Everyone grubs while skiing tho, so jeans are great for the evening as well.

    So ya.. if you ran into me at an airport and you told me you checked 3 bags for a week vacation (we have friends who have done this) I’d tell you about the virtues of carry-on.. and gloat I don’t have to wait for you at immigration. Ha!

    • Lauren
      January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Some fantastic tips here, Bill! I agree with all of them :-)

  2. Jeff Dawson
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    Well said, Lauren and welcome to the dark side ;) In honour of you going public and officially joining the coveted carry on only crowd, I promise (for the next half hour anyway) not to ridicule anyone hauling a couple of big ass steamer trunks through Europe on their ten day vacation. I might even refrain from laughing at the Double-Turtle kids too. Okay, both of those promises are outright lies but my intentions were decent. Unless they weren’t ;)

    Love your blog and your approach to travel and life. Keep up the wonderful work!!

    • Lauren
      October 21, 2017
      Reply

      Hahahahaha! Thanks so much, Jeff! :-)

  3. Coral Musgrave
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    I would love to do carry on all of the time – but some UK airlines have a 5kg limit on cabin bags. And weigh them. I did carry on for 11 days in the NT Australia with no washing facilities till Alice. 7kg. So know I can do it. Currently researching bags that fit the size restrictions and weigh next to nothing. Got some very cheap backpacks in Aldi (£8.99) that will fit under the seat for when we travel with Ryan (they will now take wheeled bags off you at the gate even if they are the correct dimensions). I recently had a week in Greece with about 8kg but had to check it with Thomson. I always ‘do a Joey’ for the pIane as you never know if it will be too hot or cold. That is my excuse. I see you still pack those straighteners though. Solved that problem by having a pixie cut. :)

    • Lauren
      October 21, 2017
      Reply

      My 40l backpack actually fits under the seat in front of me on a Ryanair plane! I’m surprised that I don’t ever need to squeeze it up into the compartments above the seats, but fits on every plane I’ve been on. I haaaaaate cold planes, so I always bring so many layers with me, just in case. A 5kg luggage limit I’d definitely struggle with. It’s weird, I’ve never had my carry-on bag weighed since getting it — I’m sure it’ll happen at some point, though.

      And oh god, my frizzy, thick hair with a pixie cut would be horrendous, haha. My hair is naturally like this (and that’s with it half tied up!) so straighteners are a travel necessity for me, unfortunately.

  4. Amanda
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    So I have a practical question for you! I have the Farpoint 40, but so far have only used it on short trips. But I have a 3-week trip in Africa coming up next month, and am debating whether to use it or not. I know I can fit in all the clothing I need, but my concern is all my electronics! Do you put your laptop in your Farpoint (the *only* thing I hate about this bag is that the laptop pocket is on the outdside!), or do you take another bag/daypack for your laptop, camera, etc.? I don’t love the double-turtle look, but I’m not sure what a better compromise would be, especially since I think I’ll need my small Pacsafe backpack as my daypack in Egypt.

    • Lauren
      October 21, 2017
      Reply

      Ahhh! I read your post last night and I’m so excited for your upcoming travels! Seychelles and Egypt?! Amazing.

      Yeah, I usually wrap my laptop in a t-shirt and put it in the laptop pocket of the Farpoint. It’s been fine for me! It’s pretty cushioned anyway, so I don’t think it’d get damaged by being there. Does your Pacsafe squish down to lie flat so you could pack it inside the Farpoint? I usually just take a thin bag and use that as my daypack (I really like this one from Sea to Summit because it packs up to the size of a tangerine) or just sling my camera over my shoulder and put my money in my pocket, but I assume you might need a hardier bag for Egypt? I don’t know if there’s a risk of bag slashing there, or if you’d be fine with something thin and lightweight. But that’s what I do!

      • Amanda
        October 22, 2017
        Reply

        Yeah no, my Pacsafe bag is a camera-specific bag, meaning it’s got the padded dividers and doesn’t squish down at all. I *am* concerned about bag slashing/theft in Egypt, and I also don’t think my usual cross-body purse would be ideal because of how the strap falls between my boobs and makes them stand out even more than usual (not something I need in a country known for harassment of women!). Haha. I’ll have to see what else I can find, or maybe just suck it up and take two backpacks!

        • Lauren
          October 26, 2017
          Reply

          Good luck! :-)

  5. Natalie
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    Sadly, I’m either one extreme or the other. Thankfully, I’m not nomadic and only have to deal with too much or too little stuff for a week at a time.

    I’m pretty good at gauging what my kids need, but since their stuff is small, I can easily have extra without it taking much space.

    We do travel carry-on only whenever possible, even with kids. It is so much easier when flying. On our international move, we had to check 4 bags and traveled with 7 total, plus two car seats. That was SO much! I’m not a minimalist at all, except when it comes to air travel. Then I prefer to be carry-on only.

    But if it’s a road trip, then I usually take too much.

    • Lauren
      October 22, 2017
      Reply

      I loooove road trips, because I can just chuck everything in the car and not have to worry about perfectly packing my backpack every time.

  6. Nicky Cade
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    I admit that when I went on my short hop to Italy, I used a suitcase (boo!), but I took an Osprey 25 with me to test it out with a view to getting a 40 for future backpacking travels (and to carry my brick of a camera)- and I LOVED it. So comfy! I looked at what I actually used when I was out there – I don’t wear any makeup abroad; space saved there! – and there was so much excess that I didn’t need. Lesson learnt. I’m actually looking forward to doing a long travel stint, once I’ve worked up the courage, and seeing if I can get it all in a 40! Especially as waiting for my bags at the carousel triggers my anxiety big time huge. :P

    • Lauren
      October 22, 2017
      Reply

      That’s a good point, too! When I was around a month into my trip, I was able to throw away a lot of what I’d brought with me because, like you, I realised I hadn’t used it once and was just taking up space (I packed long board shorts with me! haha)

      And oh my god, totally agree about the luggage carousel. If my bag doesn’t come out within the first ten minutes, I’m already making plans for how I’ll replace all of my things!

  7. Kelly Dunning
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    I related to so many things in this post! I thought I was the only one who travelled around the world with a massive jar of Vegemite!
    And I’m also super lazy with fashion when I travel. I think the same way – no one I know will see me so it doesn’t really matter.

    • Lauren
      October 21, 2017
      Reply

      And neither of us are Australian, which makes it even funnier! :-)

  8. Giselle
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    I really like the fact that you change and adapt as needed and admit that sometimes change is good, and necessary.

    In any case, I always enjoy reading your posts :)

    – from Malta

    • Lauren
      October 21, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Giselle! I really appreciate that :-)

  9. Anne
    October 21, 2017
    Reply

    I often go on trips where I visit friends or family and so have to take a huge backpack filled with bacon, teabags, brown sauce and the like. Or I go on trips where I’m going to be hiking away from civilisation and have to carry a month’s worth of dehydrated food and camping gear. When I get to do a trip where I can just take a daypack and and not have to check any baggage in it’s such a feeling a freedom.

    • Lauren
      October 21, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, haha, I love that! I actually order baked beans and Branston pickle online here in Portugal because I miss them so much :-) But I get that in those two situations, you’d want a bigger backpack — I definitely would, too! Out of interest, where have you hiked where you’ve needed a month’s supply of food?

  10. alf
    October 22, 2017
    Reply

    I purchased the Farpoint 40 as well and used it 10 months so far in Europe and Japan. I did, however, checked in on a couple of long flights for which there was no checked-in fee, taking only my laptop with me in a messenger bag.

    I am an average sized guy (177 cm), and I really appreciate traveling light. I can hop and run (and I have needed to do both chasing buses or trying not to arrive late to the airport). I do miss carrying my Swiss army knife that I cannot carry on a flight – it is surprising how often I find myself needing scissors, pliers, or a knife. Also, I have to wear my winter shoes and jacket in airports, to make room for the laptop and messenger bag inside the backpack.

    I try to travel overland as much as possible, but I like this arbitrary carrying capacity threshold. I am confident I can make it work on extended travels (aiming to go 100% nomadic by the end of the year) and through different climates.

    • Lauren
      January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Yes! The one downside is having to wear all my bulky clothes on the plane. But it’s surprisingly easy to stay carry-on sized when traveling nomadic. As long as your cold-weather gear is lightweight and high-quality, you won’t need to take too much of it, so can keep your weight down.

  11. Evan Kristine
    October 22, 2017
    Reply

    Thanks for the post! I love the tips!

    • Lauren
      October 22, 2017
      Reply

      Not sure I shared any tips, but thanks!

  12. Ellie
    October 22, 2017
    Reply

    I love the idea of home being the place with “Overflow Possessions”! This is so true. I absolutely love the idea of travelling carry-on, but I usually do activities that require a lot of gear.

    And I can never combine my hiking/outdoor clothes with casual/normal clothes D: I only bought outdoorsy shoes on my current trip and I’m really missing normal shoes.

    P.s. Love your conclusions ;)

    • Lauren
      January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Right? All of my essentials are in my backpack and everything else can sit in my home for when I return after a trip :-)

  13. Ronnie Walter
    October 24, 2017
    Reply

    I so admire the way you narrate your experiences, no filter and no made up stories…keep sharing the way you do.
    Good luck for your forthcoming trips. Cheers!

    • Lauren
      October 24, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks so much! :-)

  14. Ross
    October 24, 2017
    Reply

    I must admit I’ve always hated checked baggage, so good work on coming over to the dark side! For me, it started when I was travelling around on budget airlines without checked bags included, and just sort of stuck! I’ve travelled all over the world with only a 30l back pack, using old clothes which can be discarded, or purchasing cheap things while abroad. I have been a multiple carry-on person though, on full service carriers – cabin bag plus personal item, which is always a backpack.

    Never once had my carry ons weighed either, which has been a good thing at times, especially when I moved to Australia – despite have 2x 32kg in the hold (the only time in the last decade), I had 2x carry on each rammed to bursting and easily weighing 30kg between them – I was heavily scrutinised at security though, one of the bags was entirely electronics and cables, which made for an interesting x-ray!

    • Lauren
      October 26, 2017
      Reply

      I think that’s sort of what happened to me. I started using carry-on bags, realised I was saving money and making my travels easier, and just never went back. Good to hear yours have never been weighed either — I was starting to worry I’d just been lucky and had to take more care with how much was in my bag. One thing I always do is hang my backpack on one shoulder when checking in, etc, as it makes it look like it’s more lightweight than it is!

  15. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    October 25, 2017
    Reply

    I much prefer hand luggage too, but I could never do it if I was nomadic!

    • Lauren
      October 26, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah. I feel as though it’s fine for a year or so (and especially if you’re just bumming around in Southeast Asia), but after that, it’s so frustrating to have such a limited amount of possessions.

  16. Dee
    November 1, 2017
    Reply

    I’d totally do this, too, but the thing is I love buying boozes of the world and/or perfumes as souvenirs wherever I go..

    • Lauren
      November 7, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, that does make it trickier, unless you started shipping things home! I love the idea of collecting alcohol and perfumes as souvenirs, though :-)

  17. Scott
    November 7, 2017
    Reply

    Awesome. The Farpoint 40 is the perfect choice. Actually I’ve been rolling with the Farpoint 55, which as you know has a detachable backpack. And more room. Yes, technically it’s not allowed as carry-on but it always is, as I can get it in the overhead bins much smaller than most people’s hard luggage. The trick – which I haven’t had to resort to yet – would be that I would detach the outer backpack and claim one carry-on and one personal item. Again, it hasn’t happened. The second trick is that I must stay at 10kg to fly Norwegian, and that’s a bit tricky with camera gear, so I drape that around my shoulder, under my all-weather jacket. Haha…but if I ever had to replace that one I’d certainly switch to the 40. Next trip – Faroe Islands and Denmark!!

    • Lauren
      November 7, 2017
      Reply

      I do the same! I always leave my camera out of my bag to keep it lighter and make it look less bulky.

  18. Alicia
    November 13, 2017
    Reply

    Tried just a backpack for a 2 week adventure in Thailand, plus a full day in Tokyo on the way back. Needless to say, it worked out for the all the domestic flights we took around Thailand, but towards the end of the trip……. I needed to buy a small roll on suitcase ! With all my tech gear including my DSLR and my macbook PRO FROM 2011 !!! (so heavy), my back could not take it anymore + I ran out of my room in my backpack with just a few clothing souvenirs. Eitherway, I could still carry both on and I didnt have to check any bags in. My little suitcase was small enough to fit into the overhead (thanks goodness!)
    I also like how you pointed out that you ended up carrying things you havent worn in months lol. I kinda did the same too. There were a couple items I could have left behind, since I did end up purchasing a dress from a street vendor in Koh Samui that I ended up wearing almost the whole time there. LOL. Thanks for the post. Love it.

    • Lauren
      January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment! It’s so hard to narrow down what to take with you because you’re always like, well, I might need this so I should take it just in case!

  19. Helen Manzano
    November 15, 2017
    Reply

    Lauren, great blog and really enjoying it. I’m a seasoned traveller but currently on a year off. I’m traversing various climates on this 2 month trip and lucky enough to stay with friends or in hotesl so at the moment have a suitcase, but I’m off to do some proper backpacking next year and I used to do the turtle thing… like you I’m small and it’s a nightmare. I’m older now too and seem to need more crap!! If you could write a packing list I would absolutely love you forever.

    • Lauren
      November 17, 2017
      Reply

      Absolutely! I’ll have a couple of packing lists going live before the end of the year :-)

  20. Katie
    November 28, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    Great post! I’ve never travelled with just carry-on but would love to give it a try. It sounds very liberating. I’ve missed connecting flights before due to checked luggage hold ups so I can definitely see the advantage of not having to deal with it at all. On my very first day in the US my luggage came off the carousel with lots of what appeared to be black grease all up the side of it which soon found its way all over my jeans. Great way to start a trip! Haha!

    P.S. I am currently reading your book and enjoying it very much! :)

    • Lauren
      November 28, 2017
      Reply

      I’m so happy to hear that, Katie! Well, that you’re enjoying my book, not that you ended up with greasy jeans. Thanks so much! :-)

  21. François
    December 25, 2017
    Reply

    Nice. Sadly after having hiking poles deemed weapons of mass destruction, I’ve had a tendency to put stuff in cargo, on trips into region.
    Curious have you tried the large Vegemite carry on? From stories of Nutella being a liquid, I wonder if you could.

    Note that my recent flight to Iceland it wasn’t a problem to do carry on, I just wore 4 layers (Security did make me remove 3 of them, so warning to people you might end up with what your base layer is through security)

    • Lauren
      December 31, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, I don’t travel with Vegemite anymore, but I know that in the past my boyfriend wasn’t able to take it in his hand luggage.

  22. Lowri
    November 25, 2018
    Reply

    I’m trying to decide between a 40L and 70L – do you know the longest time you’ve been away with the 40L? I was recently travelling around Argentina with temperatures from 5-25degrees for 6 weeks with a 70L. Oh, and was the double turtle photo taken in a metro station in Madrid?

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2018
      Reply

      The longest is six months, covering temperatures from 0 degrees in Japan to 36 degrees in Australia. And yes, it was taken in Madrid!

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