Finding a Perfect Carry-on Bag

So perhaps, looking at your luggage pile, you’re starting to think Carry-on Travel is worth a try. If so, I’d like to share a few tips. Maybe they’ll keep you from making some of the mistakes we made during our transition to true Carry-on Travel.

When minimal travel was far from our minds, we lugged a lot of luggage around. (Never as much as in the above photo, except during our overseas moves, with all four of us!) But even in normal travel, we toted far too much. And with all the stairs in Europe, it was a real hassle.

1st Tip: you probably won’t be successful at first, but keep working at it!

Basically our journey toward traveling lighter progressed something like this:

From 2 suitcases, 1 carry-on, and 1 tote bag each, we went to 1 suitcase, 1 carry-on, and 1 tote bag. Then down to 1 suitcase + 1 totebag.

Improvement! But I still couldn’t get that big suitcase up and down stairs by myself. And we were still exhausted from dragging so much luggage around, with a lot of things we didn’t even use!

So at that point, I got serious and decided to pare down more. And we decided to travel with JUST a carry-on + computer bag. But this presented one big problem. I had already gotten rid of our carry-ons! Which of course, meant buying new ones. * sigh * And we ended up buying some that were too big. * double sigh *

So our 2nd and 3rd TIPS: Avoid getting rid of bags right away, and take your time about choosing new ones!

But during this process, I discovered, where the “go-light guru” Doug Dyment teaches people how to travel with one bag. Just one small carry-on bag.

I loved all the tips and ideas, and started working toward traveling in such a fashion. With dreams of traveling like a pro, and whizzing past the baggage carousels dancing in my head!

I made a lot of mistakes along the way. (Besides buying the wrong carry-ons first time around.) Sometimes not packing the right things, or not quite enough of the right things. And once even had to go out and buy some bras.

But for years now, we’ve been traveling nearly as suggests. Customized Daily Espresso-style, of course! 😉

Which brings me to my 4th TIP: Wait to invest in a bag!

Invest in a proper bag only once you think Carry-on Travel really is for you. And after you have some idea how to do it. (Unless of course, you don’t have any carry-on luggage at all. Then you would, obviously, need something!) But it would be a shame to spend the money, then discover you’re not cut out for this kind of travel! And by making do with what you’ve got for a while, you’ll gain a better idea of what you want in a bag, and what to expect from one.

For instance, I imagine the suggested bags at are extremely well-made. (They better be for the prices!) But they are also well beyond our budget. But keeping in mind the 3 main things to look for in a bag: quality, capacity, and portability, I do believe I’ve found a comparable replacement, from IKEA®.

It’s quite durable and well-made, plus more affordable. 🙂 And I can wheel it (unlike many bags recommended for light travel). And that, for me, is an indispensable feature. No wheels is fine, perhaps, for men and younger people. But, if you ask me, not for older to middle-age women with bad backs like mine!

So what features of this bag make our Carry-on Travel so easy?

First, it’s also a backpack! So you can decide to carry it on your back, or wheel it!

But it’s 2 backpacks in one! Just zip them apart and you have both a larger backpack, plus a smaller one. Upon boarding your plane, bus, or train, just zip them apart, and stow the larger overhead. Keeping the smaller near you, everything you need along the way is handy. Before disembarking, just zip together again!

The larger backpack has a telescopic handle and wheels, so you can also roll it along like an ordinary bag. Or carry it by its top or side handles.

And both backpacks have well-padded shoulder straps. The larger even has a padded shield for back protection.

The larger one is perfect for a minimal traveler’s shoes, clothing, toiletries, and laundry supplies, with inner side pockets for small items. And straps to keep everything in place.

While the smaller one comes padded for carrying a 15-inch laptop or tablet. And also has handy organizers for pens, documents, sun glasses, cell phone, etc. Plus a snap-hook for easy-find keys.

Both backpacks are lockable. And the larger has an outside pocket, ideal for a water bottle or umbrella!

It’s fairly small, making it easy to handle!

Width: 13¾ inches
Depth: 12½ inches
Height: 22¾ inches
Max. load: 44 lb. 1 oz.
Volume: 11 gallons
Width: 35 cm
Depth: 32 cm
Height: 58 cm
Max. load: 20 kg
Volume: 40 liters

(These measurements are for the two bags zipped together.)

One disadvantage I have found is that the main compartment doesn’t zip open as far as I’d like it to. But considering the low price, sturdiness, and other great features, I’m willing to put up with what, to me, is a minor defect! And I’d say for most people wanting to travel minimally, it’s a good alternative!

Which really brings us to the point of carry-on travel. When you come down to it, it’s about being free to enjoy the journey. You won’t have a different outfit for each day. And you won’t probably won’t win any fashion contests. But it can help your travels become more relaxed and less tiring. Because you won’t be dragging unnecessary stuff around, or worrying over keeping track of it all.

So our final tip? Keep in mind that traveling should be enjoyable and relaxing. And choose a bag well adapted to both your physical strength and/or limitations, and to the type of travel you plan. For back country backpacking you probably need a professional mountaineering backpack. Or on whirlwind sight-seeing tours, a wheel-less backpack might work best.

We chose this bag because we don’t do sight-seeing tours. We travel on our own, because it allows a more relaxed pace. And we plan in such a way that we don’t have to lug our bags far.

But no matter which kind of bag you choose, we’re pretty sure that you’ll never regret traveling with less!

So Buon Viaggio, and happy light travels!

[Featured image ©TheScorziellos-Mario]

2 thoughts on “Finding a Perfect Carry-on Bag

    1. Great, Heather!! Let me know what you think. So far, we love our new bags. The only thing that’s bothering me is – WHY didn’t I do this years ago?!!


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