Traveling with carry-on · Tips

Traveling with carry-on · Tips

This is probably my fourth attempt of putting together a decent packing guide for those of us, who prefer to travel only with one bag, my favorite bag – called the carry-on. In the past few years, I came across so many people who can’t believe that a four-week journey fits in a small backpack with 40L capacity. Yes, getting started isn’t easy – most of us don’t want to leave their favorite bag or jeans at home – but it’s all about minimizing and prioritizing and once you started, you don’t ever want to travel with two bags or suitcase again. I stopped traveling with suitcases when the fifth suitcase that I handed in at the Check-In one day arrived damaged at the arrival airport.

Traveling with one small backpack comes with so many advantages: you don’t have to deal with lost luggage anymore, it’s light, you won’t get a sore arm anymore from pushing a suitcase on wheels around at the airport, broken escalators will force you to take the stairs, no broken suitcase handle etc. – no problems with a backpack… So, like I said: many advantages!

There is so much that you’d have to consider before even start packing. Learning by doing, that’s how it works with packing a backpack. Here are a few tips that I have come across over the years and found very helpful:


Osprey Farpoint 40 – my favorite

First, let me introduce you to my favorite travel item – the Osprey Farpoint 40! It’s a real game changer. I traveled with Deuter and Patagonia backpacks before, but when it comes to carry-on luggage, the Osprey Farpoint is a MUST! Here are a few reasons: firstly, the measurements of this Osprey backpack fit perfectly for almost – I don’t dare to say for all – airlines. The Osprey Farpoint 40 is a standard carry-on and recommended by so many other travelers who share their views on personal blogs and many review sites. Secondly, the packing cubes that I mention in the next paragraph fit perfectly! The backpack and the packing cubes are practically made for each other (more on this in the following paragraph). Thirdly, you probably already researched a picture of the backpack, but don’t let yourself be fooled by how small it looks.

Personally, I never buy backpacks online. Comfort is key and so I always shop backpacks in stores to see how they fit on the back. This buy was rather spontaneous since I visited the store for another product and my boyfriend and me – once we saw the Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack after reading so many good reviews on it – decided to take on the challenge and just travel with a carry-on (this was probably only one or two days prior to our flight to Indonesia, the best last minute decision I have ever made). If you decide to buy a backpack, may it be for hiking or traveling, ask yourself the following questions: does it fit comfortably on my back? Can I adjust some features of the backpack so that it fits perfectly? The advantage of buying backpacks in a store are various. But the best one definitely is the consulting by the staff because in case a backpack doesn’t fit, they can come up with another alternative.

For those living in Vienna and who look for a shop to buy the Osprey Farpoint 40: I bought mine at Steppenwolf (Kirchengasse 34, 1070 Wien).


How to get everything in the backpack – my advice


You might ask yourself how you can fit as many pieces of clothes in a packing cube: The secret behind it all is to roll up your clothes! Plus, many say that by rolling up your clothes they won’t get as many wrinkles.

Use packing cubes

You won’t believe how much actually fits in a packing cube (14,5l) and another one (either 14,5l or the smaller one – depending on how you want to organize things). There are many companies out there who produce packing cubes, but I will only recommend the ones from Eagle Creek that I have been using and here is why: since day one, I have been very happy with the packing cubes from Eagle Creek because they meet the needs of a minimalist traveler like myself. These packing cubes have two compartments on each side that are separated by an inner layer of fabric. So when packing, I only use one compartment and during the travels, the other compartment is filled up with my worn clothes that need to be washed.

Less is more!

Yes, I am talking about the number of clothes that we girls want to bring on our holidays.

For Indonesia for example, I only brought a few items with me since I wanted to do some shopping over here. But, in case I don’t find anything I like, I could still wear the stuff I packed. So normally, this packing cube is just filled up to the maximum with clothes – that normally makes two rows, but as I brought less to leave some space for “newcomers”, there’s only one row. I will clarify later, how much fits in such a packing cube in a side note underneath my list.

Also, bear in mind that washing is key when traveling with carry-on. You don’t have to bring one shirt for every day of the trip, just try to mix it up to your liking and try be more flexible when you’re traveling: one day you can wear the shirt with jeans and on another day you just wear it with another pair of jeans in another color or a skirt. Having clothes washed in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia or Morocco is so damn cheap and you’ll get them back by the next day! I usually have it washed once on the entire trip. For this trip to Indonesia for example, we already needed our clothes washed. We paid 91.000IDR which is around 5,40€ (6,80USD).

The 100ml liquid challenge – not a challenge anymore! (3.4oz)

Seems impossible, but really, it’s a piece of a cake! Either you buy stuff like small bottles of body lotion, shampoo and shower gel on arrival at the nearest supermarket or you want to save the environment some plastic and invest in shampoo bars and soap. Make sure to put the soap and bar in a convenient box for traveling. We’ve been using a leftover tin from Grether’s Pastilles and cut the two soaps into the right shape to fit both in. You can also buy the tin right at the Lush store, but I lost the last one and wanted to repurpose the Grether’s Pastilles tin.

Then, you could also buy mosquito repellent at your destination. If you continue your travels, always keep in mind that you’re not allowed to go beyond the size of 100ml when taking a new flight. When traveling with carry-on it’s all about being flexible.

Make sure to put the plastic bag containing all the liquids somewhere you can easily reach when going through securities. I always put it on the very top of the biggest compartment in my backpack.

Use microfiber towels

They are a real game-changer since, as opposed to normal towels, they don’t need much space. I only bring one beach towel because as you might know Airbnbs and hotels already provide towels for the bathroom. I personally use microfiber towels from Gelert, they come in different sizes with a very handy packaging that I then use to pack my bikinis, underwear and beach towel in each of them (I have several towels and therefore many packaging sacks).

Contact lenses and liquids – my advice

I know, I know… Before I said you should cut out on some plastic but when it comes to this topic, I just don’t have many options and saving space is key when packing light. Traveling for four weeks with monthly lenses isn’t easy. Basically, there are two options:

Since you’re only allowed to bring bottles of max 100ml you could buy 5-6 travel bottles, each with 60ml (and then make sure you bring one spare pair of new contacts just in case).


You could skip the bottles and buy daily contacts (30days). Personally, I have found the daily contacts version better, since I also didn’t lose much space because of the liquids.

Another item that I would like to address: Sandals

This is in no way a sponsored blog post, but I gotta say: I LOVE Birkenstock sandals. I will never buy any cheap sandals again after having spent two entire days walking around on the compound of Angkor Wat – first day in Birkenstocks and second day in cheap sandals – I could barely walk after the second day because my calves were hurting so much! The very next day after having walked hours in cheap footwear, I realized that the money is best spent on some good quality shoes that provide the ultimate comfort. And since I only bring one pair of sandals, Birkenstock is the only brand I currently trust in providing a comfortable wear.

But what about the 7 or 8kg max? Here’s my personal experience

Honestly, I have always had more than 10kg. Cameras, liquids and all that stuff all together are kind of heavy. But I have never had any problems. This time, we each had 11kgs (I will also put a list of what I brought with me in the following parts) and no one bothered checking the backpacks for the weight.

If you do not bring camera gear and laptops – 7 to 9kg shouldn’t be a problem for you.


my packing list

Here’s a list of the necessary items that I bring on my travels for around three to four weeks. Priorities are different, so this list serves merely as a guideline. Feel free to add or leave out anything you want:

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • socks
  • underwear
  • swimwear
  • shirts
  • tank tops
  • hot pants
  • dress
  • jumpsuit
  • blouse (to give save my arms a pause from the midday sun on the beach or when riding a scooter)
  • beach towel
  • sunglasses
  • sandals
  • mosquito repellent
  • sunscreen
  • makeup: concealer, eyebrow gel mascara and mascara
  • make-up remover
  • deodorant
  • hair oil
  • hairbrush
  • 30-day contact lenses
  • snorkel
  • mask
  • short swim fins
  • dive computer
  • diving logbook
  • medicaments & band-aid
  • sanitary products

SIDE NOTE: as I wrote above, I normally fill the packing cube to the limit, which makes in total 14 items: 10 shirts, 1 hot pant, 1 jumpsuit, 1 dress and 1 blouse.


What I wear on a flight

For the flight, I prefer wearing leggings to jeans since the trouser button made sitting very uncomfortable for me.

  • pullover
  • Converse
  • leggings
  • shirt
  • glasses
Technical stuff

However, for our travels in Indonesia, we’ve brought more technical stuff than normally (just one camera per person), so here is a list of what we additionally brought with us to Indonesia. Please bear in mind that we – me and my boyfriend – split the technical stuff! I put a small note to what I could fit in my backpack:

  • chargers
  • a small camera
  • underwater housing
  • bigger camera
  • drone (me)
  • additional batteries and memory cards for the drone and cameras (me)
  • laptop (both) – we always keep track of our spending and in addition, laptops make travel planning such as booking flights and accommodations way easier

If you have any questions, please let me know via Instagram or mail!

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