Travelling the World in Retirement with Only a Carry-on, Plus Our Packing List
Our lifestyle is now minimalistic so our travel style should represent the same.
Since 2013, we have travelled the world with too much luggage. Do you know the feeling? How many times have you packed clothes or even shoes that you didn’t even wear? Our goal was to travel lighter and smarter!
In 2013, we travelled around the world for 12 months to South America, Europe and Asia with a 100 litre trolley bag, purchased lots of things and had to send 3 boxes of clothes back to Sydney.
We had some trekking gear in one of those boxes as we had just completed Machu Picchu and we wouldn’t need them on the next part of the journey… but, it was still too much “stuff.”
We knew we had too much stuff with us when we arrived on our very first day at our very first hostel and could not get the bags up the stairs to our room. That was only the first day. We had 364 days more of travelling and lifting in front of us.
“Just in Case” or “Just a Waste?”
What had we done? It was all those “just in case” clothes and items. Guess what… most of those “just in case” clothes and items could have been purchased, if needed, along the way.
A Smaller Bag Still Left a Big Packing Problem
In 2015, we thought we were so clever downsizing and travelling with a 65 litre trolley bag, spending only 9 months on the road and only in Central America. Although we had less trouble travelling around with a smaller bag, each we still had too much “stuff.”
One of our trolley bags was damaged on the first flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and, on the return from Panama to Los Angeles via Dallas, the TSA lock was cut. We thought that a TSA lock had a master key so that it could be opened for inspection. Apparently not!
Switching to One Carry-on and a Day Pack
For our next adventure, in June 2016, we set ourselves a challenge – one carry-on trolley bag and one day pack each for our indefinite travel journey around Europe, South America and, possibly, Asia. It does help in our packing when we are “following the sun” and “not doing cold.”
We researched and reached out to other travel bloggers on their experiences with carry-on luggage. We asked them what brands they would recommend and how they handled the rules and regulations on toiletries.
Then we thought we would put together an “only carry-on” pros and con list (see below) and the pros outweighed the cons!
Our next step was to put together a packing list (also see below) and this would help us to determine what size carry-on we should consider.
Many travellers we spoke to gave us a great tip – check the airlines that you are travelling with and then purchase a carry-on that suited that airline’s recommended maximum size.
We do note that many budget airlines have stricter regulations such as size, weight and quantity. Our choice of taking only carry on is based on our past international airline usage.
Here are the pros and cons of taking only carry-on with you on your next trip.
Pros of Travelling with a Carry On:
- No baggage fees
- No bag drop when checking in
- No waiting time at the luggage carousel
- No concerns about damaged or lost luggage
- Savings on cab fares, we can either walk or take a bus
- A lot safer as any potential robber can see we only have a small amount
- No more damaged TSA locks
Cons of Travelling with a Carry On:
- Longer security checks
- Size limits on toiletries
- No scissors
- Different carriers with different carry on size restrictions
Of course, if you decide to take only carry-on with you, you’ll need to be careful what you take. Here’s what was on our packing list.
- 2 black leggings, 2 trekking trousers, 1 pair board shorts
- 2 scarves, 1 Turkish Towel, 1 sarong
- 1 heavy jacket, 1 light jacket, 1 rain poncho and 1 rain jacket
- 3 pairs socks, 4 sets underwear, 1 nightie, 2 pairs swimmers
- 6 t-shirts, 3 dresses, 3 long sleeve tops
- 1 pair trekking shoes, 1 pair ballet flats, 2 pairs Havianas
- Facial wipes, eye makeup remover pads, coconut oil, 60ml body lotion
- Deodorant, Lush shampoo bars (these are great!)
- Nail polish, emery board, nail polish remover pads
- BB Cream – moisturiser, foundation – SPF15, sunscreen
- Eyeshadow, blusher, eyeliner pencil, lipstick, mascara
- 5 x Underwear, 6 pairs socks
- 4 x t-shirts, 1 jumper, 2 scarves, 2 long sleeve light jumpers
- 1 pair boardshorts, 2 trekking trousers, 2 jeans, 2 trekking shorts
- 1 rain jacket, 1 rain poncho, 1 light wind jacket,
- 1 baseball cap, 1 Panama Hat
- 1 Turkish Tower, 1 micofibre towel
- 1 pair thongs, 1 pair casual shoes, 1 pair walking shoes
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, tooth sticks for flossing
- First Aid Kit
Between us in our Day Packs:
- Business cards
- 1 x electrical power board
- 1 x travel adaptor
- 1 x Panasonic Lumix camera
- 2 x laptops
- 2 x iPads
- 4 x iPhones
- 1 x Android phone
- Notebooks and pens
Our Criteria for Choosing Our Carry-on Luggage
- Material that was durable for the amount of travelling we were doing
- Functionality – storage options
- Good reviews
- Luggage that could stand up on its own
- Strong wheels
- Light weight frame
- Total weight no more than 2kg
The decision was made to opt for the Osprey 46 Litre carry on. Their luggage simply ticked all the boxes for us. We approached Osprey and they kindly offered to sponsor our luggage for this adventure in return for our honest opinion on how their bags could stand up to long term continuous travel.
Read more about the Osprey Bag here: http://amzn.to/28k7MrH
Our lives for the next couple of years are in these bags. Could you travel the world with only a carry-on and a day pack? Is there anything that you would not leave home without? Please join the conversation.
Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith are nomadic semi-retirees, baby boomers, travellers, House Sitters and co-founders of To Travel Too. Their motto is “Age is no barrier when it comes to travel.” Although not yet pensioners, their goal is to travel the world on what is currently the Australian Age Pension of approx. AUD 33,716 (USD 25,110) per year, or AUD 92 (USD 69) per day for two people.