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  • Janis Nunez

Travel Lighter and Enjoy Your Trip

When we fly we try to take as little as possible, and bring things as light as possible. When you are flying to other countries many times you are responsible for transporting your luggage down long winding cobblestone streets and up flights of stairs. When taking a bus or metro to your destination you also take your luggage with you. If you have tons of luggage you are bound to be exhausted by the time you get there. Here are some travel tips we have used to make packing lighter.

Your Home Away From Home

We love Airbnbs. Some of the most beautiful views have been from the balcony of our Airbnb. How does this help you travel lighter? Find a place to call home that also has a washer. This will allow you to take less clothes. Don't get me wrong, you can wash your clothes in the sink/tub at your hotel and hang dry or send it out to be cleaned, but you're using time and money out of your vacation. We find it nice to be able to do a load of clothes at our convenience, and they always have a way to line dry when they have a washer. They may also have a dryer, but it's not very common in Europe. Also, it's so nice to wash clothes before going home and not have a mountain of laundry to do after your amazing trip.

Checked Bags vs Carry-on Bags

It is possible to travel for a weeks trip to Europe with just carry-on bags. I know, many of you just had a heart attack, but there are so many benefits to only taking caring-on bags. We have not checked a bag since we started traveling internationally.

Here are the top reasons I suggest to only take carry-on bags:

  • Saves you time. The line of people waiting to check luggage seems to grow longer every year. With just carry-on bags you head straight to the security check.

  • Saves you money. Most airlines are charging by the bag for checked luggage, which is money you could be spending on your trip. If your bag is overweight it also can cost you more money. And lets be honest, those huge bags aren't cheap.

  • All of your items at your fingertips. It's nice to have all of your belongings right with you in the overhead compartment. Forgot to put something in your backpack? No problem, just go into the overhead bin and get it.

  • Convenience at your destination.

    • Once you arrive at your destination you don't have to wait for the baggage carrousel to start your vacation. Head out the doors and begin your trip.

    • It's much easier to navigate a carry on bag down cobblestone streets, stairs, busses/subways than toting heavy luggage to your home away from home.

    • You also may have to pay more for a larger taxi, Uber, car at your destination to be able to fit all of the luggage when you take large, heavy bags.

  • If you miss a flight or need to take another flight your bags are with you.

    • No worrying that your bag will end up in another destination.

How could you possibly fit all of your necessities for an entire week in carry-on bags?

There are lots of ways to keep your suitcase lighter and still have all that you need. The best way to pack light is to plan ahead. Take shoes that can be warn with different outfits, lightweight slip-on shoes instead of heavy sneakers, and sandals that can be dressy or casual. Depending on where we are traveling I will take a pair of slip-on walking shoes, flip flops, a pair of sandals, and water shoes.

Take limited shorts/pants and plan to wash mid week to wear with different tops. If you are staying at a resort and plan to spend most days at the beach relaxing, you don't need to take a lot of clothing since you will be in a swim suit most days. Men can wear khakis or dress pants more than one day if they are just wearing them to dinner. Instead of taking so many clothes and bringing half of them back unused, save that space in your suitcase for souvenirs and purchases. If you really need something you can run to the store to buy a shirt or a pair of shorts almost anywhere you travel.

Small and Large Carry-on Bags

We put all of our toiletries, things we will need while on the plane, and important documents in our backpack/duffle bag. Here is how we pack the bags:

  • Small carry-on bag: important documents (passport, boarding pass, itinerary, etc.), wallet/purse with money and IDs, pen/paper, wired headphones for airplane, electronics and their chargers, hoodies, umbrellas, cards, flashlight, metal water bottle, toiletries, cough drops, medications, pens, paper, cameras, converter plugs, sleep mask, inflatable neck pillow, snacks. If flying out during the winter months we all have puffy winter coats that can be balled up and fit into the packs as well.

  • Large carry-on bag: clothes for the week, undergarments, swimwear, hats, shoes, bag for dirty clothing, and anything bulky we don't want in the backpacks like a snorkel mask and mouth piece.

Sounds simple? It really is. Initially when my husband mentioned only taking carry on bags I nearly fainted, but once I thought about how many clothes I used to take on trips that were never warn and just took up space I took on the challenge.


  • Weigh things. Shoes weigh a lot. If you have lightweight shoes you can carry more options with you. I mentioned slip on walking shoes earlier. These are so light, that I got them in a couple of colors so I wear one pair, and pack one pair. If it happens to rain they dry fairly quickly too. Flip flops are another lightweight shoe that goes a long way. Water shoes come in handy on pebbly beaches. All of the shoes I mentioned are lightweight and don't take up much space in your luggage. Then you have room for a cute pair of sandals or dress shoes for the men if needed.

  • Dual voltage items. Having an adapter for the wall outlets in another country isn't enough. You also need to be sure that your electronics are the correct voltage. One thing I have done for awhile now is have a hair straightener that I use at home and on vacation that is dual voltage. You can also get an adapter/converter combo, but they tend to be pricier and you have to make sure you plug your item into it to convert the wattage. Always check before you travel to see if you need a adapter and/or converter. We also like to take an outlet strip for everyone to use. It gets packed into whoever's bag it fits in that trip.

  • Inflatable neck pillows. These take up next to no space at all in your backpack. If you have traveled on a long flight you know how important it is to have some kind of neck support. These easily blow up and deflate upon your arrival. Ours also came with sleep masks and a carrying case.

  • Larger items can be purchased upon arrival. If it comes to checking a bag or bringing the large bottle of suntan lotion, just remember you can always buy things when you get there. There are shops everywhere and a lot of places these days even have Costco or Walmart to stop and pick up necessities. Local groceries in other countries may have a separate pharmacy where they carry suntan lotions, medicines, etc., but it is readily available upon your arrival.

  • Choosing the right bags. We prefer a hard side, lightweight, spinner carry on suitcase. You want a bag that you can roll upright or on its side. We also prefer backpacks/duffle bags that have the strap for stacking on the roller luggage handle. It just makes for easier maneuvering, especially if you need to be doing it one handed or don't want your backpack on your back (particularly in warm climates).

Do we EVER check a bag?

We have not checked a bag since we went to Hawaii years ago and took snorkel gear, sunscreen, hiking boots, and lots of other things we could have rented/purchased upon arrival. Would we check a bag to Hawaii again? Nope.

What we do check...a BOX. We love to bring back wine when we go to other countries. We try to get wines that we can't get here in the US and enjoy them at home while reminiscing about our travels to various places. We have also checked olive oil. There are a lot of fancy wine luggage options to purchase online, but wine shops have wooden boxes that hold 6 bottles of wine. Some give the boxes for free and some charge a small fee. If we are going to a place we know we will be bringing wine back we take the following in our carry on: bubble wrap, packaging tape, fragile stickers. That is the only thing we check.

Do you think you can travel with just your carry on bags? I hope this encourages you to travel lighter. It really does make traveling less stressful. I do mention the purse, wallet, and some other items I like to use when traveling on the Planning Your Vacation blog post. So check it out if you need ideas.

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