How to travel with only carry-on luggage

One of my favorite aspects about travel at sea is an idea that you only have to unpack once. However, I don’t let that sway me away from my minimalist packaging tendencies. Even if it’s sunny Sail in the Caribbean or one Alaska cruise in the spring, I always follow the rule of bringing only one person.

Why is there only one? continue? There are several reasons why lightening your load is a great way to lighten your load. If you fly to a cruise port, you don’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost along the way or wasting time waiting for baggage claim. It’s also incredibly convenient to have immediate access to all of your belongings if something unforeseen interrupts your travel plans.

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From planning and organizing to packing and organizing accessories, this guide will help you gain the freedom to pack for your next travel vacation.

Plan and prepare

The key to avoiding overpacking is in the planning stage. Whether you’re preparing for your first trip or your 20th, you can always streamline your items and pack less. Here are some tips to help you achieve your carry-on luggage dream on your next trip.

Organize your clothes

Depending on the product line, suggested outfits range from super casual to elegant. Formal nights have largely gone out the window, but some luxury lines still offer them – and often host more than one night on longer cruises.


Cruise lines such as Festival cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line And Disney Cruise Line There is no formal evening dress code. However, more formal attire is usually recommended (collared shirts, jackets and nice pants for men; dresses, skirts and pants for women).

Do not let dress code deviating from your commitment to carrying only carry-on luggage. Instead of packing each item individually, organize your clothes by outfit. Aim to include a few basic pieces that you can combine into two or more different outfits.

My travel packing mantra is: These people will probably never see me again, so do I really care if they see me wearing the same outfit twice Are not? To be honest, I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast last week, much less what my companions wore every day.

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That little black dress can go a long way. Add a jacket, sweater or scarf and change up your jewelry for a completely different look. For menA basic collared or button-down shirt can be dressed up with a nice suit or paired with khakis or shorts.

Don’t forget to plan and organize accessories too. A large scarf can serve many purposes. It can keep you warm on the plane or in the dining room, serve as a cover-up for a casual bathing suit, or add a touch of sophistication to your LBD.

Related: Cruise packing list: The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise

Plan your excursions and activities and pack accordingly

What part of the world you’re going to and the travels you take will largely determine your wardrobe. The more you pack for your actual travel activities, the less likely you’ll want to bring extra clothes “just in case.”

Are you planning on primarily water-based excursions in a warm climate? You can probably wear a t-shirt and shorts. Resist the urge to pack lots of cover-ups for beach days.

In Europe, many sacred places such as mosques, temples or cathedrals will not allow you to enter with bare shoulders and feet. You’ll want to bring something modest to accommodate those excursions. Handle this situation with a scarf or long-sleeved jacket that you can wear again on the plane instead of a completely separate outfit.

When it’s time to pack, group outfits by day and activity. You want to get detailed here and include socks and underwear with each outfit. Anything that doesn’t fit your wardrobe’s specific needs can be left at home.

Related: Shore Excursions: What New Cruisers Need to Know

Let’s talk about shoes

Maybe it’s just me, but shoes are my biggest enemy when I aim to become a minimalist packer. They are a cumbersome necessity. Case in point: I own a pair of bright red flat sandals that I love to wear on excursions to warm destinations, but they take up valuable real estate in my bag. If it’s a short flight or a direct flight and I don’t have to rush to another gate, I’ll wear them on the plane to avoid having to pack.

My Chacos sandals fit perfectly into my minimalist vacation wardrobe. Those are my hikes, my kayaking, my beach days, my walking trips, my multipurpose shoes. Any pair of high-quality waterproof sneakers is a good investment if you want to reduce the number of shoes you require. I also often pack my tennis shoes for workouts or morning walks on the train. A pair of flat sandals doesn’t take up much space and goes well with a dress or can elevate a pair of shorts for a more dressed-up look.


For cooler or colder climates, I swap out my Chacos for sturdy tennis shoes and swap out my flat sandals for ballet flats. If you need to pack bulky hiking boots for your Alaska trip, fill them with smaller items like belts and socks, among other things, to maximize space in your luggage your carry-on. Hygiene tip: Place your shoes in a plastic bag to keep the rest of your luggage dirty and germ-free.

Wear it, don’t pack it

The more you wear, the less you have to pack. If you’re flying to a cruise port, strategize your in-flight attire. Wear some of the bulkier items on the plane or layer clothes, such as a pair of jeans worn with a versatile cardigan or a comfortable blazer.

Flying to a cold climate cruise? Wear or bring a jacket on the plane. Brands like Patagonia and Arc’teryx offer a wide selection of lightweight yet well-insulated jackets, perfect for cold-weather excursions. Wear hiking shoes or heavier shoes on the plane.

Related: 7 cruise ship packing mistakes you want to avoid at all costs

Wash and wear again

Add a small amount of travel-sized laundry detergent to hand-washed items that you can wear again. SinkSuds Travel liquid laundry soap (available on Amazon) or Sea to Summit Trek & Travel Pocket Laundry Detergent (available at REI) are two values ​​worth considering. Additionally, many cruise lines offer several types Laundry service — self-service or paid laundry, ironing and dry cleaning services.

Packing time

When it comes to saving space and packing light, how you pack is as important as what you pack.


Gather the outfits you have arranged. Place the largest piece of clothing first, then stack the rest so the smallest item is on top. You’ll fold those pieces inwards to create pleats and then roll up the garment. All of your rolled outfits should fit snugly and comfortably in your suitcase.

You can also put each outfit into one packing block. No cubes? Gallon-sized Ziploc bags also work well.


Smaller items such as toiletries, makeup, brushes, and medications can also be placed in packing containers or Ziploc bags. To save more space, I use the small, Stackable containers and fill them with liquid foundation, moisturizer, and other items that come in larger bottles.

Stackable containers help you reduce bulk bottles. KRISTY TOLLEY/VOICE POINT

Prepare your own first aid kit in a packing box or zip-top bag. Items needed include: activated charcoal (very good for stomach ailments), pain relievers, bandages and itching cream.

Also bring an empty water bottle so you can stay hydrated throughout the journey without burning up all those single-use plastic bottles. Many cruise lines have eliminated plastic water bottles altogether, so you can find water stations throughout the ship or use the “water” option at the juicer. Make the most of your space with a collapsible water bottle. It stores flat in your pocket or can be easily tucked into the outside pocket of your backpack or personal item.

Related: 20 must-have travel items – including a roll of duct tape


When I travel, I often change the purse I usually carry in my backpack. It is easier to manage than traditional wallets. The weight is evenly distributed across your back and stays in place, unlike purse straps that tend to slide off your shoulders.

If I fly, I make sure my backpack is light enough to still fit under the seat in front of me. It holds all my electronics and accessories, travel essentials like passport, ID, credit cards, insurance cards, face masks, and hand sanitizer. I also bring a sleep mask, headphones, and a book (or my Kindle). If I’m traveling with my laptop, it’s there too.

The backpack accompanies me on hikes, snorkeling, and beach excursions, so I don’t need to carry a separate bag for those activities. I carry a smaller, empty travel purse or fanny pack for walking tours or other activities that don’t require a backpack.

Related: TPG readers recommended their favorite travel backpacks – here’s what I chose

Bottom line

You are free to bring everything with you when traveling. It’s nice to only have to unpack once. It’s even better to be unpacked in under five minutes, so you can jump right into cruise mode and enjoy your favorite onboard activities.

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