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We’ve been living out of carry-on bags for over 12 years now. We love the freedom that travelling light gives us—we can pack our belongings in 10 minutes, walk around easily with all our luggage, and breeze through airports without queuing at check-in desks or baggage carousels.
Below we share our current travel packing list. It has evolved over the years and is meant to give you a starting point for your own carry on packing list. You don’t need to follow it exactly as we all have our own preferences and needs.
Living out of carry-on luggage for over a decade is very different from travelling for two weeks or even six months, and we’re certainly not ultralight travellers. We have a ton of electronics to run our online business, whereas many travellers could manage with just a phone.
We’ve added extra clothes over the years to reduce the amount of laundry we need to do and as I started running and yoga. I can’t believe in our first year we only had three tops and pairs of underwear!
We used to travel mostly in hot climates but have been spending more time in cooler places in winter. The packing list below works for multiple climates and I’ve noted the extra things we pack for cold places.
Our biggest change in recent years has been switching from one carry on backpack each to a rolling suitcase plus personal item. You can read more about that below as well as our carry on packing tips.
- Our Change From Carry-On Backpack to Suitcase
- Our Carry-On Only Packing List
- Carry On Packing Tips
- More Carry-On Packing Posts
Our Change From Carry-On Backpack to Suitcase
After nearly ten years of carrying everything we own on our backs, we were ready for a change.
We loved the freedom of travelling with a backpack—it’s easier to carry on rough streets, climb stairs, and hop on and off buses and boats.
But as we added more items over the years, our bags were getting heavier and we began to dread carrying them.
Our travel style has also changed—we travel more slowly, often rent cars, and can afford to take taxis to our accommodation rather than walk.
For travelling by bus around South America, a backpack made sense. When we spend more time in airports and cars, a suitcase makes life much easier.
Our Carry On Suitcases
I opted for the Away Bigger Carry-On Suitcase and the Away Everywhere Bag (as my personal item for my electronics).
With this combination I maximise the amount I can carry on a plane. I haven’t had any issues so far on 10 airlines (including budget European airlines like Ryanair).
I am prepared that on some stricter airlines, I may need to check the suitcase as it is on the larger size for hand luggage and not all airlines allow two bags. If you are worried about this, check out the smaller Away Carry-On instead.
I was nervous about the change, but Away offers an amazing 100 day free trial, so I knew I could return it if it didn’t work out. They also provide free delivery to the US, UK, and Canada.
I haven’t looked back. The suitcase is stylish, spacious, and durable. The smooth spinner wheels mean I can effortlessly roll it alongside me (no need to drag it behind). They even worked on cobbled streets in Europe.
I especially love how the Everywhere Bag slides over the handles of the suitcase, so I don’t have to carry a thing. Airports are so easy now!
Stairs are more challenging with a suitcase than with a backpack, but I think it’s worth it for easy rolling the rest of the time.
Simon was jealous of my burden-free travel days, so he has now converted to the Away Bigger Carry-On too.
He pairs his suitcase with a Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack, which he loves. It’s no longer available, but we also tested the Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Backpack, which is similar.
The backpack has plenty of organisation, fits Simon’s two (!) laptops and large iPad, and has a sleeve so you can slide it onto suitcase handles and not need to carry it.
Our Recommended Carry-on Backpacks
I do still think backpacks are a great choice for many people, especially if you’ll be moving around a lot, taking public transport, and walking to your accommodation.
They are best if you can pack lighter than we do—reducing electronics would help.
Another advantage of backpacks is that you can get away with being over the allowed carry-on weight on planes, as they are less likely to be weighed. That said, our Away suitcases have yet to be weighed (thankfully). Read my tips on dealing with airline weight restrictions.
We think the Tortuga Outbreaker 45L Backpack is the ideal carry-on backpack if you want plenty of space with good organisation, comfort, and a stylish design. See our Tortuga Outbreaker backpack review for full details.
If you’d prefer a smaller bag, I used to travel with and loved the Osprey Farpoint 40. They now offer a women’s specific fit, the Osprey Fairview 40.
Our Carry-On Only Packing List
- Away Bigger Carry-On Suitcase (Erin and Simon) – Durable, incredibly spacious, and so easy to manoeuvre. It also comes with an optional built-in battery for charging your phone and a detachable laundry bag.
- Away Everywhere Bag (Erin) – A stylish travel bag for my laptop and camera bag. It fits perfectly on the Away suitcase with a trolley sleeve and is also ideal as an overnight bag. This is my personal item on the plane and fits under the seat.
- Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack (Simon) – A spacious, organised laptop bag with a sleeve to slide on the suitcase handle. Great as an overnight bag too. Simon’s personal item on planes.
- Matador Beast 18 Daypack – This packable backpack fits inside our luggage on travel days and is comfortable for hiking. It’s rather bulky, though, so the Matador Freefly16 is a much smaller, lighter option. Read our comparison of the best packable daypacks for more ideas.
- Reusable shopping bag – This is useful for shopping, beach visits, and storage of water and snacks on journeys. It folds up into a tiny pouch when not in use.
Packing cubes are the secret to carry on packing. They are essential to help us fit more in our luggage and keep things organised. Read my post on how to use packing cubes.
- Eagle Creek Pack-It compression cubes x 4 (Erin) – I love these as they are ultralight and squeeze my clothes down small. I have two medium cubes (one for tops, one for bottoms/dresses) and two small cubes (one for workout clothes, one for underwear). I have a set of Spectre and the newer Isolate cubes and both are good.
- Peak Design small and medium packing cubes (Simon) – For Simon’s underwear (small) and clothes (medium). These are heavier and don’t compress quite as much as the Eagle Creek ones, but they do have a useful separate compartment for dirty laundry and a more stylish design.
- 2 Acai Skinny Outdoor Jeans – My new favourite travel-friendly jeans are super comfy, have huge pockets, and are shower-resistant. I have them in blue and black. They are UK based but ship internationally. For more options see my review of the best travel pants for women.When we spent most of our time in hot countries, I had linen trousers instead of the second pair of jeans.
- 1-2 Leggings – For lounging, hiking, yoga, and planes. My favourites are the buttery soft Lululemon Align. The Wunder Under Tights are a bit warmer. The 25-inch is full length on me (5ft4) and I bought two sizes down as they stretch out.
- 1 RipSkirt Hawaii (Length 2) – This lightweight wrap skirt is perfect for throwing on after a swim as the water-shedding material means no wet bum marks and it dries so quickly. It’s also wrinkle-free and comes in lots of beautiful designs and various lengths.
- 1 -2 Shorts
Tops and Dresses
- 1 -2 Dresses
- 4 – 5 Short-sleeve tops or t-shirts – My favourite is the Bluffworks Threshold t-shirt which is super soft and odour-resistant.
- 1-2 Tank tops
I also used to have a Clever Travel Companion tank top which replaced my money belt as it has two zipped pockets to keep my passport and cards/cash safe on travel days.
These days I keep my valuables in my jeans or inner jacket pocket or (in low risk situations) in my day bag instead. If I were travelling in places like South America, I would use this tank again though.
- 1 Cashmere sweater – Cashmere is soft and light but it doesn’t machine wash that well (I do it anyway).
- 1 Fleece – I have one from North Face that’s lightweight with pockets and a hood.
- 1 Tank top
- 1 Capri leggings – I have the Lululemon Fast and Free High Rise Crop 19 inch which have handy pockets on the side and back.
- 1 Shorts
- 1 Sports bra
- 2 Running socks – The Albirds Trino Sprinters are light, breathable, odour-resistant, and surprisingly durable.
- Runderwear underwear – So comfy!
Underwear and Swimwear
- 2 Bikinis – I like Andie Swimwear.
- 7-9 Underwear
- 2 Bras
- 3 Socks – I don’t wear socks often. In cold places, I buy more as needed.
I used to only travel with three pairs of shoes—running shoes, sports sandals, and ballet flats.
Now, when I’m in cold places I add a pair of Allbirds Wool Runners for casual use, so I can keep my running shoes just for running. They are perfect for travel—see the cold weather section below for details.
Alternatively, for rainier climates I like the Allbirds Wool Runner Mizzles, which are water-resistant and have extra traction.
I sometimes add a pair of hiking shoes (for New Zealand, UK, and US National Parks), but it is hard to fit them in my suitcase. I currently have the Oboz Sypes low waterproof hiking shoes.
I like ballet flats for cities and evenings out. I’ve tried many over the years—see my Allbirds Tree Breezers review (which includes a comparison with Tieks and Rothy’s) as well as my Tieks review (after travelling with them for 8 years) and Rothy’s vs Tieks comparison.
- Running shoes – I’ve run in Allbirds Tree Dashers for years now. I love their neutral design (so I can wear them around town too) and they are comfy, breathable, fairly lightweight, and machine washable. See my Allbirds Tree Dashers review for details.
- Sports sandals – My Teva Verra sandals are perfect for travel—super comfortable, waterproof, and practical for hikes but nice enough to wear in cities. Amazingly, there was no break-in period. Buy them on Amazon or from the Teva website.
- Ballet flats – My Allbirds Tree Breezers are ultra comfortable, lightweight, machine washable, and made from sustainable materials. I wear then on planes as they are easy to slip off at airport security. See my Allbirds flats review for more details.
- Shower caps – I pick up a few shower caps from hotels to store my shoes in and protect my suitcase.
- Sun hat
- Sunglasses – I like Maui Jims, which are expensive but durable, stylish and have polarised lenses to reduce glare (it really makes a difference).
Cold Weather Extras
In cold weather, I add these extra items:
- Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Down Jacket – It’s warm but light and packs down small in its own pocket.
- Marmot PreCip Eco Rain Jacket – It packs into its pocket and has pit zips and an adjustable hood.
- Extra sweater – I prefer merino wool for its warmth and odour resistance. My current favourite is the Allbirds Wool Jumper made from merino. It’s warm and soft but is dry clean only (merino doesn’t need to be washed often though).
- 1 Flannel shirt – I like the REI Wallace Lake Flannel Shirt.
- 2 Long sleeve t-shirts – A budget option is the Uniqlo Heatech Extra Warm top or for extra warmth, the Icebreaker 200 Oasis Crew Top.
- 1 Fleece-lined leggings – The Lululemon Base Pace Fleece Tights were ideal for hiking on our winter US National Parks road trip.
- Extra socks – My favourite are Smartwool medium crew socks, which are thick, warm, and odour-resistant. Darn Tough hiker micro crew socks are also excellent. Smartwool, Icebreaker and Darn Tough all make great merino socks. Check out REI for lots of choice.
- Allbirds Wool Runners – I love how cosy and warm these wool sneakers are! They are as comfortable as slippers and I can wear them without socks. They are machine washable too. See my Allbirds Wool Runners review for more details.
- Wool hat
- Fleece headband – For running.
- Scarf and gloves
See our Iceland packing list for what we pack when we are only visiting a cold country.
Most of Simon’s clothes are from the small US company Bluffworks, which makes shopping really easy.
They make travel-friendly clothes that are stylish, durable, wrinkle-resistant, moisture-wicking, and machine washable. Most feature hidden pockets to keep your phone and wallet safe.
Simon loves having clothes that are as suitable for active adventures as for dinners out and city exploring.
- 1 Jeans – He loves his travel-friendly Bluffworks jeans, but they are sadly no longer available (I’m really hoping they’ll bring them back).
- 1 Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket Pants – They are dressier than normal travel trousers but still lightweight, quick drying, and with hidden zippered pockets for security. He’s worn them on hikes, horse riding, to fancy restaurants, and even to weddings! The khaki colour does stain easily so I recommend a darker colour. Read our detailed Bluffworks pants review.
- 2 Shorts – Simon looks for shorts with lightweight fabric and hidden zippered pockets. He loves his Clothing Arts Pick-Pocket Proof Business Travel Shorts and Bluffworks Ascender Shorts.
- 1 Board Shorts
- 5 T-shirts – Most of them are the wonderful Bluffworks Threshold t-shirts. They are as soft as cotton but moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and odour-resistant. He’s found them more durable than merino t-shirts (his previous go-to).
- 1 Long sleeve dress shirt – After struggling for years with shirts that wrinkled, Simon now travels with the brilliant Bluffworks Meridian dress shirt, which has all the features you need for travel—wrinkle-free, soft and comfortable, moisture-wicking, and quick drying. It looks great, too, and works as well for dinners out as it does for hikes.
- 1 Long sleeve t-shirt – The Icebreaker 260 Tech Crewe Base Layer is the perfect light layer. As it’s merino it doesn’t smell.
- 1 Bluffworks Gramercy Shirt Jacket – Another genius creation by Bluffworks. This replaces Simon’s old fleece and his Bluffworks Gramercy Blazer. It’s more casual than the blazer but still looks stylish and has a cosy fleece lining and tons of pockets. It’s versatile enough to wear for bike rides or city travels and can be worn alone or under a down jacket for extra warmth.
- 7 underwear – His favourites are ExOfficio Give-n-Go Sports Boxer Briefs, which are very light and quick drying.
- 4-7 socks – He prefers socks made from merino wool which is moisture-wicking and odour-resistant. REI, Icebreaker, and Smartwool are all good brands. Search REI for a range of options.
For nearly 10 years, Simon had just two pairs of shoes—hiking shoes and sports sandals.
A few years ago he also added a pair of casual sneakers, the Allbirds Tree Runners, which he loves.
If you aren’t planning any major hikes, the Allbirds are great for travel as they are smaller, lighter, and easier to dress up than hiking shoes, and can be worn without socks.
- Hiking shoes – Currently he has the Keen Targhee III waterproof hiking shoes.
- Allbirds Tree Runners – The summer version of Allbirds are lightweight, comfortable, machine washable, and come in a range of fun colours. You can read our comparison of Allbirds tree vs wool runners here.
- Sports sandals – Simon has had a pair of Teva hiking sandals through all our years of travel and lives in them in warm climates. They are super comfortable, durable, and great for hot weather hikes and watersports. His current pair are the Teva Fi Lite. Shop for them on Amazon or the Teva website.
- Sunglasses – Like me, Simon has a pair of Maui Jims with polarised lenses.
Cold Weather Extras
In cold weather he adds these items:
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer down jacket – This warm but light jacket packs down small into its own pocket.
- Marmot Eco PreCip rain jacket – A lightweight waterproof that packs into a small pocket but has features like a hood and pit zips.
- Sweater – The new Bluffworks Como Quarter Zip pullover looks ideal for our next winter trip.
- Wool hat
Remember to keep all your liquid toiletries in containers of 100 ml (3oz) or less if you are travelling by plane. Solid toiletries help minimise the liquids you need.
- Toiletry bag – We have the Sea to Summit Hanging Toiletry Bag which is lightweight and comes with a mirror and hook to hang it up when there’s nowhere to put it. We have the small version which is just enough space for all of our toiletries.
- Small zip-lock bag – For liquids when flying. We usually fit our liquids into one bag between us.
- Solid shampoo bar + tin – A must for carry-on travel. Solid shampoo lasts ages and doesn’t use up your liquid allowance. We often use it as soap as well. We buy bars from either Lush (which has shops worldwide) or Ethique.
- Toothbrush each + head cover
- Toothpaste (usually a 50 ml tube)
- Solid deodorant (Salt of the Earth 50 g) – The more solid toiletries you pack, the better. This natural crystal deodorant works well and lasts over a year.
- Lip balm
- Moisturiser – I like the Steamcream 75ml tins.
- Hand sanitiser (50 ml bottle) – Especially useful for bus journeys and hikes. Dr Bronner’s lavender hand sanitiser smells so good.
- Shaving oil (15 ml bottle) – Magic stuff! A tiny bottle lasts Simon nine months.
- Razor each + 2 or 3 spare blades
- Hairbrush (travel-size)
- Nail clippers
- Menstrual cup (Erin) – Essential for travellers who menstruate. A Mooncup or Divacup takes up less space than tampons (and you don’t have to worry about finding them abroad) and is better for the environment, your body, and your wallet.
- Hairbands and clips (Erin)
Sometimes we add these extra items in 50-100 ml (2-3 oz) bottles when needed:
- Hair conditioner
- Insect repellent
- Paracetamol – Painkillers.
- Loperamide (Imodium) – In case of traveller’s diarrhoea.
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) – For motion sickness.
- Plasters (Band-Aids)
- Prescription medications
- Antihistamine – Simon has allergies, so we sometimes carry these.
We have way too many electronics but we do need/want them as we work as we travel. Most people on shorter trips will only need a phone, Kindle (if you read a lot), and perhaps an iPad.
Laptops and Accessories
- MacBook Pro 16-inch laptop + Incase neoprene case + charger (Simon) – Powerful enough for all his design and development work.
- Razor Blade 14 3070 Gaming Laptop – Yes, ridiculously Simon now travels with two laptops (I don’t recommend this as airport security is a pain). One for work, one for gaming. He loves it.
- MacBook Air M2 13-inch laptop + Comfyable sleeve + charger (Erin) – Smaller and lighter than Simon’s laptop but powerful enough for my writing and photography.
- Western Digital 2 TB SSD external drive (Simon) – For backing up our laptops. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are well worth the expense for travel as they are tiny and much more durable than spinning disk drives.
- Sandisk 2 TB SSD external drive (Erin)
- Small mouse (Simon)
- International USB travel power adapter – A power adapter that works worldwide with multiple USB ports makes charging all our devices so much easier.
- Electronics Organizer – We have an Eagle Creek electronics bag that keeps our cables and accessories organised. It’s no longer available, but this Bagsmart Electronics Organizer is similar or we like the look of the Peak Designs Tech Pouch (they always make quality gear).
Most travellers these days can manage with the camera on their phone and save lots of space. As a travel blogger, that’s not an option for me.
I switched from DSLR to smaller but high quality mirrorless cameras years ago and think they are the best option for serious travel photographers.
I pack everything in my Peak Designs bag and then place that inside my Away Everywhere Bag (my personal item) so I only have two pieces of luggage on travel days.
I charge my camera with my Kindle’s USB cable.
- Sony A7 III Mirrorless Camera – This full-frame camera takes high quality photos and is especially fantastic in low light.
- Sony 16-35mm f4 lens – I love the wide angle on this lens for landscapes and interior shots.
- Samyang 35mm f/2.8 lens – An inexpensive, small, and super light lens that’s ideal for street photography, food, and low light.
- Peak Design Everyday Sling Bag – I love this stylish, comfortable, versatile camera bag that can be carried in three ways. The inside can be configured to fit your camera and lenses using the velcro dividers. I have the 5L in the older version—the 6L is the nearest size in the new bag.
- Peak Design Slide Lite Camera Strap – A versatile strap that’s so much more comfortable than a standard camera strap. It can be worn as a sling (my favourite), shoulder, or neck strap, and it’s easy to switch between the styles.
- 2 batteries
- 3 Sandisk Extreme 64GB SD cards
- USB memory card reader – For transferring photos to my laptop.
- Lens pen – For cleaning.
iPhones, iPad, Kindles, Watch
- iPhone 13 Pro (Simon) and iPhone 11 (Erin)- iPhones are becoming increasingly good for photography and I often use it when I don’t want to carry my camera. We buy local SIM cards with data plans in each new country. eSIMS are really convenient (no physical card and you can set them up before you arrive)—we’ve used Airalo in various countries.
- Peak Design Everyday Case – This brilliant phone case is slim, elegant, and protective. It connects to our Peak Design wallet to make a phone stand (we often use it for selfies). You can also get mounts for cars and bikes.
- Apple AirPods Pros x 2 (Both) – We both love the wireless AirPods so much and the noise cancelling is great in the Pros (a life changer for planes).
- iPad Pro + neoprene case (Simon) – It’s huge, but Simon loves the beautiful screen, especially for drawing.
- Apple Pencil – For drawing on the iPad Pro. Perfect for travelling artists as it replicates a real pen or brush. Simon now does all his artwork digitally.
- Kindle Paperwhite Signature + USB cable x 2 (Both) – I couldn’t live without my Kindle. It fits thousands of books on a device smaller than one paperback and is waterproof for pool reading.
- Apple Watch + USB cable x 2 (Both) – We find them especially useful for fitness tracking and convenient Apple Pay payments.
- Apple lightning cables + USB power adapter
- Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter – For connecting our iPad and Mac to a TV.
- Waterproof phone pouch – This keeps our phone and wallet dry while swimming, kayaking, or river hiking.
- Travel towel – We mainly use this for the beach or swims on hikes.
- Yoga Paws Skin Thin – Little yoga mats for your hands and feet. A much smaller, lighter alternative to a yoga mat. I practice every day wherever we are with Yoga with Adriene videos (free on Youtube or I signed up for the membership site for offline downloads and extra content). Read my Yoga Paws review.
- Klean Canteen water bottle – This fits in the water bottle pocket of Simon’s laptop backpack on travel days.
- Vapur Element 1L water bottle x 2 – They are light and fold flat or can be rolled up when not in use to save space.
- Silicone earplugs (Erin) – Essential for me for noisy places and overnight bus and plane journeys.
- Eye mask (Erin) – I use a cheap light one, like the kind they give out on planes.
- Tiny sewing kit – Like the ones that hotels provide.
- Moleskine pocket notebook – I tried going digital but I still mostly prefer making travel notes on paper.
- Zip-lock bags – These always come in useful for storing food or wet clothes. I take a few small and medium bags.
- Beeswax wraps – A sustainable way of storing leftover food and sandwiches.
- Toilet paper – We store a little folded up in the pockets of our bags.
Documents and Money
- Travel insurance – We used True Traveller for many years and they are the best value we’ve found for Brits. We now use SafetyWing instead, which is a monthly subscription designed for digital nomads and is available worldwide. See our SafetyWing insurance review for more details and our travel insurance after departure post for all the options if you are already travelling (or travelling long term).
- Peak Designs mobile stand wallet – This slim wallet is so well designed. Not only does it keep our cards easily accessible, but it connects to our phone with a magnet and has a built in stand (perfect for selfies).
- Dollars – Around $100 for emergencies. Otherwise, we’re mostly cashless these days (depending on the country) and use Apple Pay via our watches (so convenient). When we do need cash, we withdraw from ATMs locally.
- 2 debit and 2 credit cards each – We recommend travelling with at least two cards in case one gets lost or compromised. Wise (in many countries) and Starling (UK) are the best debit cards we’ve found to use abroad. Read more about managing your travel finances.
- Passports – We protect them with a clear plastic cover.
- Card reader for online banking – This is issued by our bank for secure access.
- Driving licence
- International driving licence (when needed)
- Photocopies of passport (we also keep a scanned copy on our laptops)
- Passport photos – For visa applications.
- Vaccination card
- Scuba diving certification card
Carry On Packing Tips
Here are my top tips for how to pack a carry on.
- Use packing cubes or compression bags to keep your clothes organised and squeeze more in.
- Pack clothes for about a week and then do laundry.
- Buy quick-drying and odour-resistant clothes (like those made from merino wool or from travel companies like Bluffworks). This isn’t essential if you’re on a tight budget, but it does make things much easier. You have to do less laundry and items dry more quickly when you do.
- Choose solid toiletries (like shampoo bars and crystal deodorant) over liquids to maximise the amount you can fit in your airline-friendly ziplock bag. Keep liquids under 100ml/3oz.
- Don’t pack items “just in case”. Everything needs to earn its place in your bag. If you really need it later, you can probably buy it locally.
- Wear your bulkiest clothes on travel days.
- Go paperless. A Kindle will save so much space if you’re a reader.
More Carry-On Packing Posts
See our other posts about packing light:
- Carry-On Travel in 10 Easy Steps – The basic principles you can use for packing carry on only for any trip.
- Iceland Packing List – How we packed hand luggage only for a 12-day trip to this chilly country.
- How to Pack Carry-On Only for Cold Weather – Our winter carry on packing list for Finland including snowboarding.
- How to Pack for 4 Months in Europe from Summer to Winter – How we adapted our packing list for a summer-winter trip.
- The Secret to Carry-On Only Travel: How to Use Packing Cubes to Save Space
- Airline Carry On Luggage Size and Weight Limits: A Detailed Guide
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Thanks for the great tips, Erin. Couple questions – does security ever want to see in the packing cubes? I was thinking of compression ones but thought could be a pain. Also, have you ever travelled to Scotland in early July, if so, any clothing suggestions? I keep getting mixed info.
Security has never opened our packing cubes.
Unfortunately, weather can go either way in Scotland in July. I’d prepare for everything with layers. Probably most of the time jeans/t-shirt will be fine but you’ll most likely need a sweater and rain jacket too. I’d bring a pair of shorts just in case you get lucky with one of the rare warm spells. Enjoy!
I travel to Europe 1-2 times/year and am always looking for packing tips. This is the most comprehensive I’ve seen. I started taking just a carry on and backpack for 2-3 week trips and am glad I changed. What I learned is not all carry ons and backpacks are the same. My carry on is the biggest allowed and I changed to a non traditional backpack – that’s a game changer.
Thank you for your tips.
I pack dryer sheets with my clothes to keep them fresh smelling and I can wear clothes a couple of times feeling and smelling fresh.
Good tip, thanks Kelia!
As a seasoned traveler & packer, I have to call bs on your one carry on & one personal item mentioned holding everything in your list. I’d like to see a video…
Haha, we barely believe it too! They are very tightly packed at the moment. But the Away suitcases do hold a remarkable amount.
Best travel tip I learn if on a one week or two week vacation. Bringing less clothes. Each outfits can be worn two times . After wearing each outfit hang up or fold neatly to be used again (space out wearing days) or you can wash if needed
Love your information, thanks for sharing!
What’s your experience with Away Bigger Carry-On? Did you have to check-in? And in the overhead bin, it was easy to put the baggage?
We haven’t had to check it so far but due to the pandemic, we’ve only flown long haul flights (and one domestic New Zealand). We’ll be testing on a budget European airline (Easyjet) in May. We haven’t had any problems putting it in the overhead bins but you might on a very small domestic plane. We love the space it gives us!
As I watched a YT videos on travelling with Carry-On, one suggested that the commonly accepted size is 9″x 14″ x 21.5″, which would not allow (officially) for anything bigger than this. I could verify the next time at the airport during check-in, they have box frame to verify sizing, if you have not seen it already.
The kicker is, it is up to the airlines to enforce it. Sometimes, they un-officially allow when the carry-on is too big by asking and moving the carry-on to the checked bag areas. I suppose a passenger can’t complain for not paying a charge for checked bag.
Helpful for travellers. …
What do you use (or did you use) for water purification while traveling in South America? Was the tap water safe to drink in Medellin? Thank you.
It’s been years since we were there, but I think the water was safe to drink in big cities like Medellin and Buenos Aires. Elsewhere we used bottled water.
Sorry if I missed it, but what do you do for pajamas, Erin?
Usually I don’t bother but if it’s cold I wear any tshirt/tank top and leggings. Or one of Simon’s tshirts :)
After nearly 10 years of long term travels I am now of the conclusion that you do not need any expensive, travel specific, technical clothing. Especially in tropical climates, you can just buy local cheap market clothes such as cotton t shirts, shorts etc for next to nothing. There’s no need to pay over the odds for quick drying materials because if you wash a t shirt in the evening, it’s dry by morning, even cotton. A whole kit consisting of; 2 t shirts, 2 pairs shorts, flip flops can be got for under £10. Much of the travel specific clothing is over engineered, over priced and trying to solve problems that don’t exist for most of the time. Best to shop & dress like the locals do.
I can see how that could work. You definitely don’t need tech clothes, but we do find them nice to have.
We don’t find cotton always dries overnight. We just did a wash at a motel here in New Zealand and it’s taking ages (more than 24 hours) for the non technical and merino clothes to dry. We really notice the difference between our different types of clothes. When you only have a day before you are moving on this is inconvenient.
We also appreciate the moisture-wicking nature of tech clothes for hiking (and hot walks in cities) and the odour-resistance reduces the frequency we have to wash stuff.
But yes, it is a luxury rather than a necessity.
I’m planning my trip to Japan (1 month), with my boyfriend and I had in mind 2 big suitcases but mostly empty so we can buy lots of stuff from Japan. Can you give us some advice on how to pack big suitcases or even if there is a better idea for us? I intent to take a tablet and a camera, a few clothes and basic stuff.
I’ve been reading non stop your blogs about Japan and I found them all so helpful, I even sat down and translated some things in Greek and noted everything to get ready! I am super excited! Thank you for your help, I hope you are doing well and have fun wherever you are. Greetings from Greece!!
I see in the pictures that you have a hard Carry on and a soft bag., How are you able to use BOTH bags for Carry-On. As you are only allowed ONE Bag and a small purse or small back pack. That soft bag looks way too big to be allowed as well as the other suitcase. Curious as I only take a Hard side Carry-On size bag and a Purse., or very small backpack. Have travelled to 65 counties for the last 50 years. I do not know of what airline allows 2 Carry-on’s of that size. The soft bag will not fit into the cage that they want to put your bag in at the boarding gate. What size are the bags you are using. Thanks.
They definitely won’t be allowed on all airlines, but they do meet the size restrictions of many airlines, especially in the US. So far (due to the pandemic) we’ve only travelled on one flight (Singapore Airlines) and had no problem taking them both on. The suitcase goes in the overhead locker and the soft bags fit under our seat.
My Away Everywhere Bag is 41.5 cm x 18.5 cm x 26 cm.
We do expect there will be times when we have to check the suitcases but after a decade of full-time travel, it’s worth the risk to us in order to have a bit more stuff. If we were travelling on shorter trips we’d stick with just one bag.
Can you advise where you store important documents such as birth certificates, property papers etc while your travelling?
We keep a folder of documents at Simon’s parents back in the UK.
What does Simon wear in bed when it’s cold?
Boxers and a t-shirt. He doesn’t get as cold as me though.
This is such an awesome list. I love it!! All the ideas, the products you guys use etc etc. Great thanks for putting this together for all of out here who need ideas and thoughts about carry on only desperately!!!!!! I know with all the products and links this would be hard to do, but…..do you have just a printable list?
Thanks Jennifer! I actually created one for readers of my book. You can find it in Google docs here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1R2579yFB2_Vna6PSr4vCgahq7xaNXDktaRirYqMkdgE/edit?userstoinvite=hfguite%40gmail.com&ts=5dd29d0a&actionButton=1#gid=1064467678
Such a helpful article! I’m wondering whether you carry a personal item with you as well as your main backpacks though and if so, what do you recommend?
For most of the last decade we didn’t have a personal item. Sometimes we’d use the packable daypack (we have the Tortuga Setout) or shopping bag if we needed to keep things handy on flights or have extra space for food.
Hey Erin, I was looking to get a good packable backpack for my upcoming trip to Thailand and found this backpack https://the-most-functional-packable.kckb.st/96ac29dc on Indiegogo. What do you think about it? Looks like a great backpack for travel, I was just looking for some opinions before I made my decision… By the way, I love the content you have been posting lately :)
It looks good. It’s a bit heavier than the Setout but has a few more pockets and a laptop sleeve. You can never be sure when (or if) these crowdsourced things will ship though.
Super helpful article! For an upcoming trip, my goal has been not to overpack like I usually do, so this is a great resource. But why bring the dock for the Nintendo Switch? It’s charged with a regular USB-C charger, which would be way smaller and lighter than the unnecessary charging dock. My partner and I also just bought a Switch Lite just to travel with, which is handheld-only and smaller than the original one (and came in a pretty yellow color).
Simon likes having the dock so he can play it on the TV when we’re staying in apartments for a few months. It’s not really necessary for most travellers though.
We’re planning to visit Japan in November, will the shoes you recommend be warm enough for the weather at that time.
Assuming you mean the Tokyo/Kyoto area, the Tieks should be ok but it won’t really be sandals weather. At the beginning of the month the average temperatures are around 20ºC but this drops by about 5ºC by the end of the month.
If you want something warmer, I have recently been wearing Allbirds Wool Runners for winter/spring in Melbourne. They are comfortable and warm and you can wear them without socks (I find I can slip them on and off without undoing the laces which is useful in Japan). https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/1/allbirds/
Hi, I really love your dresses. You didn’t mention where you get them from in your review. I like how your dress in Italy (I think) covers your shoulders and back and is still cute (floral navy dress). Would you mund sharimg yoyr dress yips. Cheers Tanya
I buy most of my dresses when we’re back in the UK. The one in Italy is from M&S (but from a few years ago) and I also buy them from John Lewis and White Stuff. Unfortunately they are always changing their designs so there aren’t any particular ones I can recommend.
Hello! I have read through all your backpack information….I am looking for a backpack for a 2 week trip to Europe. I am flying Lufthansa, and they said it has to be 22 by 16 by 9 largest…also it can only weigh 18 pounds! So, I am curious if the Osprey Farpoint 40 would be right dimensions….but really worried it would weigh over 18 pounds when packed?? Thoughts or suggestions?? Thanks for your help!! I will be leaving the backpack at the hotel, but wanted to use one IF possible, for easier travel on plans and trains…Kristi
The Farpoint 40 will be the right size. Depending on what you pack you could end up going over the weight limit. We are usually over the weight limit though and find airlines rarely check. It helps if you check in online to avoid the check-in desk. We wrote more about it here: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/how-to-travel-carry-on-only-airline-size-and-weight-guide/ Good luck!
Thanks you and Simon both for an info packed excellent website! I’m about to purchase a Setout pack and am wondering if you have or would recommend the 35L size. I’m 5’1 and thinking that’s going to better fit me /be easier to carry on etc. than the 45L women’s size.
Take care and Happy Holidays!
I do think the 35L would be better as I find the 45L rather bulky. I hope it works out for you!
Simon, did you not have the Tortuga V2 originally? What was the impetus to change to the newer models? The reason I ask is the I have the Tortuga V2 (since October 2015). It has served me well although getting a little tired. We are heading to Europe for 15 months from February 2019 and am thinking about changing or not. Love to get your ideas and reasons why you changed.
Yes, Simon did have the V2 before. Honestly, Tortuga offered him the Outbreaker and later the Setout for review so that’s the main reason he switched. But we do think they are both improvements. The Setout is our favourite because it’s lighter.
Compared to the V2, the Setout looks better, doesn’t have the bulgy pocket in the front or the side pockets which always made it an odd shape, it’s more comfortable to carry, it opens fully on 3 sides so is even easier to pack, and there’s a large water bottle holder on the side. They aren’t huge differences—mainly I think it just looks a lot more stylish.
You can see our Setout review here: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/tortuga-setout-backpack-review/
Have a great time in Europe!
Nice post. Though nowadays there is a lot of electronic devices that people bring during traveling. I, myself always bring my mavic pro, trackimo tracking device and romoss 20000mah powerbank.
Hey, we travel with a Nintendo Switch too! But you can get rid of the bulky charging dock by getting a USB C charger (we have one that came with our portable battery pack that can also charge our Switch and GoPro Fusion). We also got a tiny adapter that works to connect the switch to any TVs with HDMI to use instead of the dock.
Simon looked into that but apparently if you use a non-Nintendo HDMI adapter Nintendo may brick the Switch! We don’t really want to take that risk and wish Nintendo would come out with their own travel friendly adapter.
My wife and I wonder what you both typically carry for your “personal item” to take on the plane.
Do you carry a particular travel purse you like?
Do you use your day back?
We try not to have a personal item as it’s easier to travel with one bag and not all airlines allow a personal item. For long flights, when we want to keep things close at hand, we use our packable daypack or our packable tote/shopping bag.
Great post and so well laid out. Have you tried out the icebreaker lineup of merino wool? I highly recommend it. Great stuff.
Yep, we love our long sleeve Icebreaker tops – we’ve had them for over 8 years!
Who do you insure your laptops cameras etc with? I looked at True Traveller but their valuables and single article limit is very low.
We no longer insure our laptops and camera and just make sure we have a contingency fund in case of loss. We couldn’t find anywhere affordable to insure them for continuous travel.
These are such great tips! Thanks for this
Really enjoyed reading this, especially the backpack suggestions. We have been thinking of getting the Tortuga so it’s nice to know you guys like it!
We have continued to downsize and now travel ultra light for a family of 3. We recently went on an 8-day trip with 2 outfits each (we wore one and packed an extra). Our daughter got 4 total because toddlers can go through 2-3 outfits a day easily. We are trying to find an alternative to our noise machine (we love it but it’s so bulky).
That’s impressive Lejla! I always love hearing about families packing light as so many people assume it’s not possible.
Awesome breakdown of your travel packing list. Thanks for the good info!
I’m glad you liked it!
So when the seasons change I guess some of your gear also changes, for people traveling in and out of hot and cold weather climates, do you have any recommendations for selling gear. For example, I may need a coat in northern California this time of year, but I won’t need one when i go to LA.
I think it would be great to have an app where nomads could exchange clothing or sell it.
We have never bothered with selling our clothes on the road as it’s usually hard to get a good rate for it. We usually just donate to a charity shop. You could try ebay or craigslist.
I recommend travelling with a packable down jacket as they don’t take up much space when you don’t need it anymore. I’ve written more about them here: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/carry-on-only-packing-list-cold-weather/
Hello. Have you ever had trouble with airport security with the retractable lock? I use one to secure my violin case which will be flying carry on shortly.
Not at all, it’s no problem.
great tips and such enjoyable reading!
What a great post Erin! Right up my street. I will be sifting through this with a fine toothcomb when we decide to move on from our first slow stay (in Malaysia). In the meantime, do you have any tips for adapting this list for the one critical “accessory” we also travel with… our soon to be four year old daughter ?
So inspiring–I’m so amazed–thank you so much for your update! Even though I can’t travel with just a backpack on longer trips (too much weather fluctuation, etc.), this is exactly what I love learning from as I aspire to do this on shorter trips. Thank you so much!
Thanks Kristen. Good luck with travelling with a carry-on on your next short trip!
Question for Erin
I notice that you don’t pack any scarf. Is there a reason? Could it be that you are now traveling in warm climate places? I usually take a wrap (the big one) and several scarves of various materials to add to my outfit and to use as a blanket (the wrap). Do you find them redundant?
Thanks for your take!
We travel mostly in hot countries so I don’t find one necessary. I do usually buy one when we get to colder places and then just leave it behind.
Oh wow. What a complete and useful list! When we travel we prefer having only carriers too, it’s so nice that you don’t have to pay any extra or wait for the suitcases after a flight. This year we’re planning to go around Europe by car during the summer. I’m also going to a short visit to Sweden soon. And maybe some travels will also be possible at the fall/winter season. :)
Enjoy reading your blogs.Thanks for all the tips.
This is an awesome list, I’ll definitely be taking tips for my trip at the end of the year!
A little bit unsure about the lack of smart clothes though when looking for the likes of teaching jobs in South America!
You could easily fit in a smart outfit and then buy more clothes locally if you get a job. Have a great trip!
I’m gonna say that it’s a good idea to bring one smart outfit with you. You can buy more on the road if you need them, but having one nice outfit — that you know fits and flatters — is important, especially if you plan to job interview. Especially if you anticipate having trouble being able to buy clothes that fit off the rack — a frequent problem for taller or larger people in Asia, for instance, or for anyone who doesn’t wear standard sizes. (E.g. I’m a petite 5’1″ woman and I can almost never shop without significant alterations anywhere). Pack wrinkle-resistant fabrics, roll vs. fold, and use the age-old traveller trick of hanging it up in the bathroom while taking a shower to steam out the creases.
Won’t need anything for the first few months but I’m thinking ahead to applying for teaching jobs in Chile next February. From what I gather teachers in South America are expected to dress quite professionally. Might just have to get a suit and tie shipped from home at that point!
Love those packing cubes though, definitely adding those to the list!
Ahh fellow Apple Lovers and Globe Trotters! I feel as though we would get along ?
Maybe we’ll cross paths one day!
Thanks for this post! Im treating this post almost like a blueprint in some places.
One thought thought: Instead of an HDMI cable why not a chromecast? does the same thing plus more, is lighter and takes up less space?
Just a thought
Really great post! I’ve spent the past ten years of vacations using my beloved Gregory Deva 60L pack, and I’m trying to downsize to a carry-on only bag to avoid the hassles of checked luggage. I’ve looked at the Osprey Farpoint 40 like you have, Erin, but, at 5’1″, I find it really doesn’t fit me very well, even in the S/M size. So I’m still on the hunt for the perfect bag. I also REALLY struggle with keeping my liquids under 100ml … especially sunscreen, since I burn so easily and I’m really picky about what I use. Any advice?
Hey! I really like your blog guys. Very insightful & eye-opening! Gotta use your rips in travelling. Thanks for this. ??
Great post, thanks for all the useful info! Just wondering, do you not use soap/shower gel/moisturiser, or do you buy it in the place you’re visiting? I really struggle to cut down on toiletries, and I’m not even someone who wears make-up etc. Any tips? PS. Looks like the link for your USB Lecxci adaptor isn’t working.
We use our Lush shampoo bar as soap when we need to or if we’re staying for somewhere for a few weeks we buy shower gel. Most places we stay also provide soap.
Great to see, I travelled for years like this too. I’m about to head back out on the road after selling everything and convincing my wife life on the road is better than the corporate grind…Thanks for sharing a great site! Question do you guys own a base anywhere? We are thinking Central America for our base…
We don’t have a base anywhere. Lots of our nomad friends have found a base after travelling full-time for a few years and rent it on Airbnb when they are away.
Really inspirational! :) I might not quite be there yet, although I tried traveling with carry-on for the first time this year. I noticed that there were even things that I could have left at home (and some that I forgot to bring). I guess it’s a process of finding your own list…
It’s definitely a gradual process and everyone has to figure out the packing list that’s right for them.
LOVE the list – super helpful. Very interesting about your Tieks – I’ve been on the fence!
I’m interested in Simon’s Bluff’s trousers. My husband has a similar body type – tall and lanky. So it’s a struggle to find pants that look stylish and not baggy. Simon’s look great! What style of bluff’s did he go with?
Simon has the original pants in regular fit. If you get a smaller waist size they are more fitted. For his second pair he went up a waist size and they were a bit looser. They still aren’t too baggy though – so much more stylish than normal travel trousers.
I’ll be writing a detailed review of the Tieks soon. I’m on my third pair and couldn’t travel without them now.
If you have just enough clothes for lasting a week between laundry, how come it’s only 5 shirts and 4 pairs of socks & not 7?
We usually wear t-shirts more than once. Simon doesn’t wear socks every day as we are usually in hot places and he wears sandals. Socks are pretty easy to wash in the sink if necessary between big washes too.
Have you looked at any alternatives to a backpack? I’m just not super keen on carrying my life on my back and was looking at the different options outlined here (www.essentialpackingchecklists.com/finding-the-perfect-carry-on-suitcase/), especially the wheeler with backpack straps. Thoughts?
I included some reviews of suitcases from other carry-on travellers in my book. The Osprey Ozone 22″ is a popular option amongst long term travellers wanting something rugged but light.
Many light packing travellers don’t recommend jeans, however I’ve just found that NEXT do a lightweight jean. They are a mix of cotton and linen and cost £38, much cheaper and better cut than Rohans!
They also deliver to Europe.
Thanks for the tip. We wouldn’t be without our jeans and just look out for lightweight pairs in the summer.
If you were limited to just one pair of long trousers would you choose jeans or Bluffs?
Simon would probably choose jeans but it depends what style of travel you are doing. The Bluffs are lighter, dry more quickly, and are more suitable for hiking so would be better for more adventurous travel.
Where would you say is the most secure part of the farpoint bag to attach it with a lock to a piece of furniture?
Probably the top handle.
Commenting on this because I found your blog while looking for color accurate photos of the purple Tieks you used to have. I can’t seem to stop reading the blog — your stories are fascinating. Thanks for sharing. (and kinda delighted to hear that you are on your next-gen pair of the shoes)
Thanks Shani! And you won’t regret getting a pair of Tieks. I’ve been wearing them for three years now and still love them.
Great to see Simon’s clothes list not based on ridiculously expensive gear like Outlier, Wool and Prince et al. You can travel and live without such luxury gear, I am not saying his stuff is the cheapest but is much more realistic than lists you see with $500+ spent on 3 items. Great work love the site!
There’s no reason at all you can’t travel carry-on only with inexpensive clothes.
Really appreciate your work. Extremely detailed.
Reading this helped me to get a clear idea on traveller’s packing list.
Thanks a lot
It’s really nice to see what other travel photographers take on their trips. Thanks for sharing! Cheers!
Sorry but there’s too much attention paid to gear. Gear is just a tool, whereas travel should be about places, people, food, experiences, etc.
You can travel in any clothing or even better just turn up in what you have on and buy as and when you need it.
Besides, travel with carry-on, i.e. 35-40 litre bags is old hat now, there’s hundreds of articles about it.
Try just what fits in a 20-25L day-pack, now there’s a challenge!
Looks like they could pull that off without the electronics, so all they have to do is stop working. :P
And in theory sure, travel has nothing to do with the gear. But a pack that doesn’t fit filled with clothes that are still damp isn’t much fun at all you see. So we share what we pack, learn from others, and hopefully have a journey that doesn’t involve thinking about stuff since we’ve already taken care of it.
Well said, thanks! And yes, most of our stuff is electronics!
This is so great & useful! Thank you.
As you’re heading to Spain soon, check out Decathlon as they have lots of quality clothing and gear for extremely good value. Eg. Quick dry, lightweight chino style hiking trousers for 9.99 Euros, T shirts for 4.99 Euros.
We’ve been travelling for 3 years with only carry-on luggage and now most of our clothes are Decathlon.
Your entire clothes packing list could be put together for under 100 Euros each!
Thanks for the tip Colin!
Thanks for sharing your experience. These lists are not only useful but inspiring! There is so much to be gained by living simply with just exactly what you need and nothing more.
Absolutely incredible I like how you pack things that really matters you don’t pack things that you are not going to use
Very interesting. Keep rocking guys!
This post is very useful for travelers. Thanks for sharing
Very interested in your adventures!