Friday, 19 April 2013

How to: travel with just a carry-on

One of the greatest innovations of the 21st century is definitely low-cost airlines - gone are the days in which you need to pay an arm and a leg for a weekend abroad. Nowadays one can easily book a holiday online for as little as €60. Believe me, I've planned such holidays, only to realize I'm too busy academically to actually go. However the drawbacks (or not?) of low-cost airlines are the hefty hidden costs which magically show up exactly before confirming your booking. One of these fees, which really used to get to me, is definitely that paid to check in your luggage. The first time I travelled using a low-cost airline, I paid some €20 to check in a 15kg luggage - which is quite reasonable. However checking in a luggage now costs €30 - €40 euro which is quite a rip-off in my opinion.

I must admit I wasn't too keen on travelling abroad with just a carry-on. However now I'm never looking back. Unless you intend to go on a shopping trip, in which you plan to buy your winter or summer wardrobe,  travelling with just a carry-on is very doable - without leaving anything behind at home, and still have ample space to put all the clothes you're going to buy (even if you spend all your holiday thinking they won't fit in). So here are a few tips I found useful and some lessons I've learnt the hard way:

1. Rules aren't meant to be broken

Or rather in this case. Low-cost airlines tend to be very strict regarding your carry-on, especially regarding its dimensions. Check from beforehand the dimensions allowed, and make sure your luggage complies to these rules and most of all measure your bag correctly. If you're going to buy a new carry-on, take these dimensions with you just in case - sometimes shop assistants wouldn't know specifically all the dimensions of the different airlines since they tend to vary from one another. If you're undecided on whether to get a wheeled suitcase or not, I'd suggest NO WHEELS. Your back will hate you, but such luggages usually weigh more and are more bulky than non-wheeled counterparts.  

2. Be selective of what you pack

 First of all check whether the hotel or hostel you're staying in provides shampoo, conditioners and the like. If you're okay with using such toiletries, then ditch the liquids. If not, I'd suggest buying the cheapest brand you can find abroad. You'll probably be washing your hair once or twice when you're abroad, and you'll be probably walking enough to reek of sweat anyway for anyone to notice you've washed yourself using that shower gel that was on offer. You can do the same for your perfumes, or else you'd like to pack some samples that have been handed out to you though out the year.  

3. You MAY NOT pack all of your wardrobe 

Which means there is no such thing as "just in case". Check the weather from beforehand, make sure you pack the clothes you'll be needing. Be selective of which clothes you pick. I'm a fan of : the LBD, tights, a good pair of jeans,  a white shirt and a plain sweater in winter, and if it's really cold I usually take some thermal vests to wear underneath all of my outfits. Pack enough underwear and obviously a really good pair of shoes which are comfortable enough to walk in, and which matches all of your outfits. If you're not planning to shop abroad, you can add more items to your luggage and don't forget to ALWAYS wear your bulkiest clothes to the airport. A good sturdy bag is essential so don't forget to pack a bag which matches all of your outfits - I like to pack a black satchel which is big enough to carry my DSLR by day, yet small and dressy enough to match my evening outfits. 

4. The electronics

When I travelled with just a carry-on bag for the first time, I must admit I panicked a bit. This made me take the absurd decision of not taking up my DSLR (something I regretted throughout all of my holiday since the image quality of my point and shoot was horrible). So, if photos are of utmost importance to you as much as they are for me, I'd suggest taking up your DSLR anyway. Forget all your lenses, and pack your most basic one. When it comes to iPods, mobiles etc, I'd suggest you try to incorporate all the functions of the different devices into one: use your mobile's music player instead of your iPod etc. One other thing I found very useful was my iPad. I'm travelling to London next Monday and I'm 100% positive I'll be taking my iPad with me because I can ditch the books I plan on reading next week and read a soft copy of them on it. As much as I love books, I must admit they do take up a lot of space which is kind of wasted if you finish reading your book when you're abroad. 

5. Organize your bag carefully

I like to keep all of my documents handy in a folder in a side-pocket or something. Apart from that I pack all of my liquids in a plastic from beforehand since I'm not too fond of the panicky state I find myself in at the security stage. I keep all of my electronics organized in a pocket as well, since I suffer from a condition which manifests itself in me asking "WHERE IS MY PHONE?????" every 2 minutes or so. 

I hope you find these tips useful when opting to travel without a checked in luggage. Believe me, there are major benefits in doing so. First of all you don't need to wait for your luggage after the flight (and not panic about it not making it to your destination), you save up on insurance, and it makes you think twice before buying that blouse just because it's on sale, and not because you really need it. 

What are your feelings about travelling with just a carry-on? Any other tips you'd give?


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