Forget Baggage Fees: How to Fly With Only a Carry On

With the advent of checked baggage fees, travelers can save a considerable amount of money by choosing to carry on all of their luggage. In most cases, you are allowed one carry-on item as well as a purse or other small personal item. If you are an over-packer, the prospect of not bringing a large suitcase may seem out of reach.

With the proper planning and a few space conserving techniques, however, you can travel for a week or more using just the contents of a carry-on bag.

How to Travel With Only a Carry On

Count the days you will be away, and consider what you’ll be doing each day. It’s easy to start throwing your favorite items into a bag, and before you know it you’ll have twice as many outfits as you could possibly wear during your time away, or lots of short-sleeved shirts when you’ll be outdoors in a cold climate most of the time. Narrow down special clothing considerations, such as dresses or swimsuits, so that you have no more than two options.

Roll your clothing. Folding your shirts and jeans seems natural, since this is the way you probably store the items in your home. If you roll clothing, however, it will fit into the nooks and crannies of your carry-on, making the best use of your available space. Small rolled items, such as tank tops, may even fit into a side panel intended for socks and underwear. Bring a small spray bottle of wrinkle releaser, and you can quickly hang and freshen up your clothes when you get to your destination.

Split up your toiletries. Trying to jam a huge bag of cosmetics, deodorant and body spray into a suitcase can be an arduous process. Divide your bathroom supplies into multiple Ziploc bags, so they can be placed in more than one location in your bag, depending on where you find space. Once toiletries are divided, you can even fit some of them into your purse or laptop bag.

Plan on doing laundry. Whether you are staying in a hotel, with friends or on a cruise ship, make a laundry plan before you leave whenever possible. Even if you end up paying a few bucks to a laundry service, it is bound to be cheaper than round trip airline baggage fees. Items like underwear, socks and t-shirts can safely be washed without worrying about special laundry instructions, and knowing you can re-wear some of your clothes allows you to pack less.

Wear larger shoes during travel. Traveling in your boots or heels, reserving luggage space for only flats or flip-flops, will free up room for at least one more article of clothing in your bag. You might earn a few funny looks in the airport, but the shoes you pack can make or break your ability to get away with only a carry-on. Take off your shoes as soon as you get seated on the plane, and you’ll be just as comfortable as if you’d worn your tennis shoes.

Don’t pack a new outfit for the day of your return travel. In most cases, the day you go home from a trip you are tired and unconcerned about what you’re wearing. With that in mind, plan on re-wearing one of your other outfits on the way home rather than packing a new outfit for the last day of your vacation.

Paying checked bag fees can add an extra 5 – 10% to your air travel costs. While they are sometimes unavoidable, in many cases you can get everything you’ll need in a bag that meets carry-on standards. Regardless of where your trip takes you, you’ll find far better ways to spend your money than on a checked bag.

How to Fly With Only a Carry On

Do I need to check in if I only have a carry-on?

The rule of thumb for traveling without checked baggage is to check the weight and size limits of the items in the luggage compartment before you board. A carry-on bag is usually smaller than a checked bag. It’s usually placed inside the plane’s cargo area.

What happens if my carry-on is too big?

Because your bag looks large, you are asked to check if it fits in a sizer. You will then be charged a fee. Not checking luggage is a good reason to check in online. By doing so, you can avoid the check-in counter and enter the airport without leaving your bag.

Which airlines give 2 free checked bags?

Only two US airlines allow free checked bags. These are Southwest Airlines and Cape Air. Most travelers can carry on one full-size bag and one personal item free.

Is a backpack considered a carry-on?

A carry-on bag should be placed underneath the seat or inside an overhead bin. It should be in the same size as the bag used for the vehicle. You can easily carry all your phone chargers with you in your checked bags and carry-on bags as they do not contain batteries.

What is not allowed in your carry-on luggage?

Liquid or Gel food items larger than 3.4 ounces are not allowed in carry-ons. They should be placed in their checked bags. To avoid having to share an overhead bin with a second carry on bag, make sure that your personal item fits under the seat in front you.

Why are checked bags cheaper than carry-on?

Spirit Airlines has a policy that gives passengers a free carry-on bag if they check one. The reason is to get more use out of each plane. Airlines generally allow carry-on bags to be 56 x 36 x 23 cm, which includes all of the handles and side pockets.

Does a small backpack count as a carry-on?

If it fits under the seat, then it’s considered a personal item. Most airlines allow carry-on bags that are up to a maximum of 22 inches wide. Backpacks that are less than 40 liters are acceptable as carry-ons.