The “Strictly Carry-On” Challenge… MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Remember my 2 posts from 2014 about attempting to leave for a trip  with just a carry-on luggage and nothing checked in cargo?  (You may want to go back to read The “Strictly Carry-On” Challenge… The Facts and The “Strictly Carry-On” Challenge… The Numbers.)

I have been wanting to come back on this topic for a while now, because, believe it or not, I have succeeded at this, not once, but TWICE in the past year !

I spent 2½ weeks in Poland in April 2015 and 8 days in New Mexico & Arizona in November 2015 and I packed and traveled for both trips with just a carry-on luggage.  In both cases, I got stuck with colder weather than expected, yet I was able to manage by layering clothes and drinking a bit more coffee, hot chocolate and the occasional hot mulled wine!


In case you wonder, the airlines I have traveled with for these 2 trips were Air Canada, Lufthansa and American Airlines.  Luggage-wise, these 3 companies offer an average carry-on allocation and are pretty much within the “standard” (technically, there is no standards for luggage size) of the industry.

I used different bags for each trip.  For Poland, I used my Eagle Creek Gear Hauler backpack (48 liters) and I used a TravelPro Maxlite 2 – 20″ Expandable Spinner (40 liters) for the US Southwest. In both case, I enforced “toss packing” to be able to free-up some space to be able to come back with a lighter load and/or do some shopping while away.

TOSS-PACKING - tɔs-ˈpækɪŋ - neologism

Most of my tips – including a section on toss-packing – can be found in my e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Plus-Size Backpacking (or in French Le Manuel des routards taille plus) available worldwide on Amazon since February 2, 2016. You will also find in the Ultimate Guide some packing lists to help you achieve complete freedom when it comes to luggage (“freedom” as in “never have to wait again for your stuff at the airport carousel”) and numerous hacks to help you get the best out of your luggage and packing. (If you want to read what others have to say about it, you may visit my “Press” page…)

Cover front - EN

The reason why I am so dedicated to packing small and limit myself to what I can bring with me is that, in most areas I visited (and for most of the areas I plan on visiting in the years to come), there are no resources whatsoever when it comes to plus-size clothing.  Blame it on my Traveler’s What If Syndrome if you want, but the last thing I want to happen while I’m away is to be stuck without a change of clothes and/or wasting my time looking for ways to replace my lost luggage when I can do much more interesting things to do!  There is no way I want to spend hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket to be left stranded and without clothes on the other side of the world !  And it’s not even a money issue… when something isn’t available somewhere (in this case, plus-size clothes), no amount of money will make it magically available to you…!

I have much better things to do than worry about clothing when I’m away… like being silly in a cactus forest. (Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA)

So with the right clothes, the right luggage and some dedication, you will find a way to pack enough stuff to last you for 2-3 weeks, but you will have to consider doing laundry on the way.  (Nowadays, most hostels do have washing machines that you can use for a few bucks, so you might be able to leave the dirty work to the washer and not have to do it yourself!)

Another great possibility is the Scrubba Wash Bag, which I have heard of about 1 year ago.  A great hand-washing gadget for those times where you don’t have access to a washing machine.  I definitely plan on writing again on that topic, but until then, here’s a video that will show you some of its potential!  I have recently ordered it online so you will definitely hear about this soon on the blog…

3 thoughts on “The “Strictly Carry-On” Challenge… MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

  • January 21, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    I’ve been travelling with only a carry-on pack for 10 years now and like you, I’m a big girl. I just make sure that every piece I bring coordinates with every other piece I bring and that they will dry quickly. For that reason, I rarely bring cotton and try to stick to fabrics like nylon, polyester, wool or cottons blended with these fabrics. Everything I bring has to dry overnight after I have washed it in the sink and I can’t really think of a time I wished I had brought more stuff. Each year I take one trip that lasts four weeks plus a few shorter ones and for every one of those I take the same carry-on bag. Travelling with just a carry-on means you never lose your bag, you are forced at wisely, you are not struggling with bags and can easily fit on public transit, and if you need to walk a kilometre or two it’s not a big deal as long as everything you own fits in your carry-on bag on your back. I think people are intimidated by this idea but once you’ve tried it, you will never go back to dragging around three suitcases.

    • January 22, 2017 at 8:19 am

      You and I are on the same page, Karen! 🙂
      I’ve done 2 suitcases, and that was SOOO annoying! And you search for your stuff all the time, and you are not as free and mobile as a backpack allows you to be!
      BUT… I admit I sometimes cheat when I come back and check my carry-on (when it’s too big!), haha! I did it once actually… ’cause I did all my Christmas shopping in that country and had a lot of souvenirs!
      When I’m going home, it’s less of a big deal if they lose my stuff! (If my backpack is not filled a certain way, I won’t be able to “smuggle it” on board and it won’t fit the overhead bins…) And my backpack straps can be detached and shoved in a compartment and there are just 2 small straps and the backpack can be locked efficiently, so it’s the best bag IN THE WORLD !
      What’s you bag brand & model ?

  • January 21, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    I should clarify that I never take cotton knits … they take too long to dry. I do sometimes take crinkled cotton skirts or lightweight shirts that are a loose weave and will dry quickly.


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