6 Reasons We Travel with only a Carry-On Luggage and Backpack

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I have to say that we, as a family, have come a long way when it comes to bringing travel essentials. We used to bring everything that we could possibly fit in our luggage. We also used to entertain the idea of always checking our luggage in.  But that’s all changed.

#TeamCarryOn and #TeamBackpack

A carryon luggage and a backpack have been our way of traveling as a family. We’ve done so whenever we fly to Hawaii, or when we fly to the East Coast. We’ve successfully traveled with a carry on and backpack all over the world.

Two FREE business class tickets to Taipei
Hong Kong bound with our two carryon luggage, Nancy’s Tumi Backpack, and my Eddie Bauer 20L Stowaway pack

1. It has nothing to do with the cost

We’ve flown with airlines that offer up to two checked luggage at no extra cost. But this travel lifestyle has nothing to do with the  cost. Speaking of cost, airline baggage fees can range from being free up to $200. Here’s a list that I found from Tripadvisor on Airline Baggage Fees.


Putting cost aside, for us, it is all about convenience. With having a carryon and a backpack, we could easily push or pull our luggage around the airport or around the city. The carryon luggage easily fit inside the overhead compartment bin. Our backpacks can be stored under the seat in front of us and serve as a foot rest as well. 

Our travel belongings inside our room on Kauai

We’ve visited Europe and Asia quite a few times. Even domestically, we’ve conquered the streets of Manhattan with just a carryon and a backpack. We find ourselves moving from plane to plane, train to train, bus to bus, cars to cars, and they’re just more manageable to travel with.

We’ve gone on many trips with our extended family as well, and we’ve been advocating the idea of bringing less. It makes our trips easier to manage when we have small pieces of luggage to drag around.

Leaving LAX, no need to go baggage claim

2. Forget baggage claim

Once we arrive at our destination, we have no need to go to baggage claim, thus, another timesaver. We avoid the possibilities of having lost luggage, or baggage delays, damaged luggage. Instead of waiting at baggage claim, we easily leave the airport and go about our business.

Another journey with just carryon and backpack.

Look at the picture below. That was us at LAX, right before we traveled to Washington DC and to NYC for eleven days in the heart of winter. What you don’t see were layers of clothing, boots, light sweaters, and scarves. We didn’t bring multiple jackets. Nothing was checked in. Just carryon and backpacks.

All bundled up before our trip to Washington DC and New York #teamcarryon #teambackpack

3. Bring less, travel more

Last summer, I took my 14-year old daughter, Maddie, on a father and daughter summer vacation to Europe. We were gone for two weeks, and we went to New York City, to Portugal (Porto), to Italy (Rome and Naples), to the United Kingdom (Manchester and London). Right before we left the house to go to the airport, I went through her luggage. She had lots of jeans, and jean shorts, and tops etc. I said, “We are not bringing all of that!” Her luggage was so heavy and there was no way we were going to drag all of that clothing all over Europe. Reluctantly, she went through her luggage and got rid of many duplicate items. 

Maddie and I flew budget airline,Ryanair, from Rome to Manchester, UK

Not only were they heavy, but I had to make sure that we cared for the the different baggage restrictions by the airlines. Especially in Europe, we flew Ryanair, an airline known for being very strict when it comes to the weight and size of the luggage. I happened to know the rules and I made sure to play by the rules. Here’s what I wrote a few months ago on how we survived our flights with budget airline, Ryanair.

4. What about souvenirs?

Do we just skip buying souvenirs? When Nancy and I went to Australia, we brought home souvenirs including local candies and chocolates. Of course, they were heavy. We were about to buy another luggage for our souvenirs and goodies. However, we decided on something else. Ding, ding, ding! We asked for a sturdy BOX from a local supermarket. We went up to the customer service desk. There was a box just sitting there. We got the box for free. We bought a packing tape. DONE….that was our souvenir luggage, just a box. It was sturdy enough to survive the 15-hour flight from Sydney.

Our souvenir box as we left Sydney International Airport

5. What about laundry? What if you forget something?

Honestly, it’s not the end of the world if you forget something. Unless you’re headed to Mars where there is no nearby store, then you really shouldn’t worry. If you’re traveling to a really remote location, then that’s a different story. Just make sure you plan accordingly and bring the essentials that you believe will not be available at your destination.

Back in Los Angeles after 11 days in NYC and Washington DC

With our last trips to Europe and Asia, we did our own hand washing of clothing from our hotel room. You’d be surprised that these clothes do dry overnight. Or, we wash them in the morning before we leave the hotel, hang them, and by they time we get back to our room, voila, they’re all dry.

We’ve also taken advantage of laundry facilities where available, it was a big plus for us when we stayed at Hotel 73 in Taipei – there was a free use of washer and dryer in our hotel.

Moments before our flight to the Big Island (Los Angeles International Airport)

6. Leave some, buy some

Something we’ve also done, and I should add this to my blog, bring clothes that you’re willing to part with. We tend to visit clothing stores when we travel, and find a shirt or two that we end up wearing. Once we accumulate all our other souvenirs, that means, something’s gotta go. With my last trip to Hong Kong, I left behind a couple of shirts, and my Skechers (over 2 years old). Back in 2015, when I was still a travel novice, while in Paris, I left my heavy Doc Martens in Paris. It was a perfect pair, a pair that I used many times in New York. But walking around Europe required more, and more walking. My feet were killing me with those Doc Martens. So that’s another way of making room for your souvenirs or other items that you’ve purchased. 

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 7.04.30 PM
My heavy Doc Martens (in the trash) were not the best to use around Europe.

There’s always an exception

Yes, there is an exception. Whenever we travel to and from the Philippines, we do take advantage of the allowed free checked luggage. This allows us to bring back gifts to our friends and family, and it has to be one of the many exceptions when we make sure that we’ve loaded our luggage with goodies.

Evan arrived in Manila along with the luggage and boxes.                                     

If it works for you…

But, seriously, find something that works for you. I’m not here to say that bringing checked luggage is wrong. NO. That’s not my point. Many have doubted themselves, that they could never do it. Just know that it’s been done many times, and we are a living example. Give it a try, bring less, travel more. It’s liberating.

So, are you #TeamCarryOn, or #TeamBackpack, or #TeamCheckedLuggage?


Two Ricardo Carryons, Tumi backpack, & Eddie Bauer Backpack in Mexico City

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  1. Would love to travel with carry-on only BUT….we are a family of BIG feet (I’m talking size 12 and 13 for the men and 10 women’s for me!) And one pair of shoes does not cover a week long journey! And our shoes alone take up most of a carry-on. 🙁 So checked bags it is.

    1. I can see how that will present an issue. I agree with you. Which is why I mentioned, find something that works for you. I’m sure it’s a different story for us if our kids were big as well. Happy travels 🙂

  2. Love this post! Lots of good info. We will be traveling to Rome, Venice and Paris and I was just researching different carry on luggage restrictions for the different airlines. Very helpful post!

    1. Thanks for the feedback. As far as our luggage, the ones from Costco works for us. Ricardo of Beverly Hills. Nothing to do with the name. We’ve had ours for 5 years or more. If it breaks, Costco is good with returns.

  3. https://www.packforapurpose.org/

    If you are taking only carry on, can encourage everyone to use their checked luggage allowance to bring charitable donations to their tourist destination.

    The website shows you which charities are in each country and specifically what they need … it’s a fantastic way of giving back to a place that is about to give you an amazing holiday.

    Last year my family took 120kg of donated medical and school supplies (and 11 donated laptops for wildlife field research!) to a charity in Namibia… it was easy to pack it all in checked in boxes, we were met at the airport by the charity to collect the goods and felt great about the difference we had made.

    And then we had five glorious hassle free weeks travelling with carry on only, before flying home (with plenty of new souvenirs!)

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