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A frequent question: Do you always travel with just a carry-on?

Wow! Are you following me around?  How did you know I am asked this question all of the time! I’m sure most people who are on the road frequently are often asked this question.

You are allowed two carry-on bags. A suitcase and a personal item. Here I have a 19 inch bag and a camera bag.

I love a carry-on. I see it as I carry it on, carry it off and then I can carry on with my vacation. Simple as that. No waiting around for my bag to arrive – or not arrive. But, although that is my philosophy it is not always that easy or that simple. I pack based on where I am going and what I needed to carry, along with what I would like to bring back. I enjoy purchasing items from all of the exciting destinations I have a chance to visit. Many times this requires checking a bag when I return. You are limited with the TSA 3-1-1 (liquid containers no larger than 3.4oz., 1 quart size clear bag and 1 bag per person.) Doc Bill and I enjoy trying various rums from around the world so that requires checking when I return.

There are some travelers who say they only do carry-on, that they never check bags. And, that’s a fine way to travel and policy to have, if it works for you. For me, I do not limit the amount of clothing I take on trips in order to only take a carry-on.  However, I do have one philosophy I always follow – do not pack and take more luggage than you can personally handle. You may have to lift, load and carry your own bags during your trip. You should be able to handle this on your own.

Packing is a very personal side of travel and you should pack based on what feels right for you.

  1. Have all of the items you need. Do not leave things you need for your trip just so you travel with a carry-on
  2. But, you should also pack without excess – if you don’t need something or if you are packing with the thought I’ll decide when I get there – you are packing with excess. Organizing your packing will cause you less struggle when handling your bags and if you do check it, you will be less likely to have excess weight charges.
  3. Don’t pack and carry more than you can handle yourself. Remember if you are going on a tour and/or switching hotels and cities, you could be responsible for getting your bags from point A to point B. Especially true with some European tours. This could be simply rolling your bag along a cobble stone street or lifting and hauling bags up a flight of stairs.
  4. Purchase a luggage scale. They are great to determine the weight of your bag while home – and you can reconsider items for your trip. The extra pair of shoes and additional outfits can add several pounds.
  5. Know the regulations – carry-on bag size can be different on various airlines and especially if you are traveling internationally. On domestic flights the size can range from 22 to 24 inches and width 14 to 18 inches. On European and international flights the size can be reduced to 19. Most airlines have baggage gauges located by the boarding gate. And if your bag doesn’t fit in the gauge, your bag will be checked.
  6. Know the aircraft you will be traveling on. Small planes will mean less space for your carry-on. Some airplanes are so small no carry-on bags are allowed. When booking your flight, check the details of your flight where aircraft information is located.
    photo 5
    Carry-on bag size changes. Double check the size for the airline you are flying.
  7. Traveling on a cruise cruise or train? This mode of travel has the luxury of porters who handle and placed your bags onboard. But, remember there are still periods of your travel where you will need to handle them – pack with less excess.
  8. Place ID on your bag with your name and telephone number. First initial and last name works great! And, place a colorful belt or tag on your bag that identifies it from similar bags.
  9. Join the loyalty program of the airline you fly most often. Some of the programs offer the first checked bag free. Also if the airline has a sponsored credit card, you’ll get not only one bag free with some of the programs but also miles toward free or reduced future trips.
  10. And, my final tip – if you know you will want to purchase souveniers and bring home goodies – especially those that will not pass TSA 3-1-1 policy like lotions, perfumes and wine/liquor you will need to check your bag, so don’t worry about trying to stuff everything into a carry-on just so you don’t have to check your bag. Bring the larger suitcase and purchase those gifts that could be a once in a life time purchase.


Some airplanes are really small. No carry-on will be allowed, but you will want to have some of your “must haves” with you. I like to pack a small bag which is small enough to fold and fit in your carry on. Unfold it and it’s a bag larger enough to hold a few items.


One carry-on will need to go under the seat in front of you. If you are seated at a bulkhead seat (a wall in front of you) you will not have a seat in front of you to place the 2nd bag. Consider this when choosing your seat.


Pack what you need for your trip. Organize and plan what you will take. Avoid packing with carry-on only in mind. Packing lite just so you will have only a carry-on can limit your opportunities to bring home that once in a life time souvenir.





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