The Carry-On Traveller Interviews: David the First-Timer

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To celebrate the launch of my new book, The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, I started this interview series with other travellers who also travel with just carry-on luggage. 

Simon’s mum and stepdad recently visited us in Andalucia, Spain for nine days. They travelled with just carry-on luggage for the first time ever after being inspired by my book and even bought the same backpack as me. After the trip David answered my questions about how he got on. 

David Parker is a keen advocate of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach to stress-free productivity. He is also a fan of Sherlock Holmes.

1) Where have you travelled with just a carry-on and how long for? 

This is the first time that I’ve travelled with carry-on only, so it’s a new learning experience for me. I’ve always maintained a packing list so that aspect isn’t new to me but having the knowledge of two seasoned carry-on travellers in The Carry-On Traveller book has been a great help.

2) What are the advantages and disadvantages of travelling with a carry-on? Do you think it’s worth it? 

Being retired means living on a reduced income, so anything that makes travelling cheaper is a must. As airlines seek to cut their headline fares and make everything extra chargeable, carry-on is one way to avoid extra costs. 

Then there’s the fact that you don’t have to wait at the baggage carousel for your luggage. As a retired person, my time is now a precious commodity that I don’t want to waste!

Finally, none of us are getting any younger, so only having to lug around what you actually need means less effort. 

3) What luggage do you use and what do you like or don’t like about it? 

I’m starting off with Osprey Farpoint M/L – the same as you use – I think this’ll be adequate for most journeys. I didn’t want anything too small or too big. 

What I like at the start are the extra pockets for a laptop and the little front pocket – handy for your liquids that you need to get out easily and quickly when going through security.

Dave's packed Osprey Farpoint 40
Dave’s packed Osprey Farpoint 40

4) Do you travel with a day bag in addition to your main carry-on? 

I haven’t decided on a day bag but as a stop gap, I packed one of those free drawstring bags that the Apple store gives you when you make a purchase. Actually, I’ve got two – a large one and a small one!

5) How did you decide what to pack on this first trip?

This first trip is to a hot country in summer, so what to pack is made easier. I just followed Simon’s packing list mainly for the clothes and your joint list for other things.

The airline I’m flying with has a 10kg weight limit on carry-on so I tried to keep within that. I weighed every item and used a spreadsheet packing list to keep a tally.

6) Have you travelled in cold weather and how did you pack for it? 

Not yet but that could be a bit of a challenge. Travelling in the UK this winter might be a chance to try that (though it’s unlikely I’d be flying).

7) How do you manage the liquids rule on flights? Does it limit the toiletries you pack? 

Being male, I have fewer toiletries. Just toothpaste, deodorant and shaving oil. I would also normally pack shower gel, shampoo and conditioner but I didn’t need to on this trip as they were provided.

One tip, that maybe doesn’t work for everyone, is to take 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner or omit the shampoo and use shower gel and conditioner.

As mentioned earlier, the Osprey Farpoint 40L has a handy front pocket to make your liquids easily accessible without having to undo the main pockets which you may have already locked.

8) What technology do you pack? 

I have an 11inch MacBook Air and an iPad Mini. My iPhone 6 was carried on my person rather than in the backpack.

I also have a Kindle PaperWhite but I’m considering ditching it as I can use either my iPad, IPhone or Mac for my Kindle books.

Dave and Simon's mum in Bali
Dave and Simon’s mum in Bali

9) Do you travel with any luxury items?

21 tea bags that lasted me seven days.

10) Did you pack anything that you regretted or got rid of? 

I didn’t use the Kindle PaperWhite on this trip. The only advantage it has over iPad, iPhone or Mac is it’s easier to read in direct sunlight but I tended to read indoors on this trip so it wasn’t really needed.

I also packed a Canon PowerShot A1000IS compact camera (and two spare batteries) but I never used it. This wasn’t a sightseeing trip and the iPhone was fine for whatever “snaps” I needed to take.

I think I need to learn to make better use of the iPhone camera. 

11) How do you organise your things in your luggage? Do you have any tips for maximising space? 

Packing cubes really help. I tried these out on a long haul trip (where I did have a suitcase) and where I was staying with friends in a small apartment. It was a great way to be organised living out of a suitcase.

12) Do you have any other tips for packing light? Any other useful items

The best tip for packing is the same for any other process that you repeat more than once and it comes from my work as a quality consultant for many years. It’s called the Deming Cycle and simply put it’s Plan, Do, Check, Act.

Every time you do anything, have a Plan of what you’re going to do, Do it according to the Plan, then Check how well the Plan worked and what needs to change, be added or dropped. Finally Act to put these changes into a new Plan and off you go again.

I keep a packing list on every trip (usually a new one for each different type of trip depending on duration, location and purpose) and Check how well it works and Act to change it as needed for the next trip.

In my case I also weighed everything not just to stay within the airline’s weight limit but because I would be carrying that weight. In the past I had around twice that weight but in a trolley case with wheels. This time I would be carrying it on my back or in my hand and I would need to lift it into the aircraft overhead storage. Note that the Airbus A321 overheads can take the Osprey Farpoint 40L along its short edge so the top handle is at the front making it easy to push in and pull out.

13) What were your biggest concerns about carry-on travel before your trip? Did they turn out to be a problem?

I was more worried about the airline forcing us to check in our bags but we checked in online so the airline didn’t see us until the gate and most people had more hand luggage than we did.

More importantly, we were out of the airport very quickly at the ends of both journeys.

14) Did you miss anything that you would usually pack?

No, not really but it was strangely disconcerting only having so little to carry.

15) Will you continue to pack carry-on only in the future? 

I wouldn’t want to travel any other way now.

If you want to know what Dr Watson is up to, you can find him on Twitter.

If you’d like to learn more about how to travel carry-on only (and read more interviews like this one), see my book, The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, which is available for the Kindle or paperback on Amazon US.


  1. Great interview, thanks! I used to lug way too much on my trips, and have adjusted my mindset more and more with each trip over the past few years. I love traveling with my own favorite hair and beauty products, but why carry the weight (or liquid) when most things are provided for you at your location, or you can easily purchase them once you get there? Sometimes I miss my faves but when it’s time to pick up the bag and go, I never regret packing light.

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  2. I have been travelling mainly with carry on for the past two years, admittedly only to warm places but being an elderly? Woman I require more liquids, the airlines I travel with require a 5kg limit. I think I could travel the world with 10kg!

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    • We are often over the airline weight limit but our bags are never weighed. It helps to check-in online and avoid the counter.

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