Tips for traveling light – ultimate packing guide (+ carry-on packing list!)

Save time and money with tips for traveling light and the carry-on packing list for your next travel!

I love traveling just with a carry-on. I went to the west coast of the USA just with a laptop bag and traveled through Asia with hand luggage. And last year’s 19 days trip to Asia, including a wedding in India, a stopover in Singapore, and holidays in Indonesia with activities like snorkeling or climbing volcanoes, had me putting all I needed into one 30-liter backpack.

But it wasn’t always that way.

I remember times when I was dragging my huge 60-liter backpack around because I needed to have things “just in case”. Time wasted waiting for the luggage to arrive at the airport, lost suitcases, and the additional payments for the check-in bags. No, thank you.

So with a carry-on packing list and several tips and tricks, I started traveling light. And so can you!

But first…

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Why just carry on luggage?

#1 It’s faster

You don’t need to go to the airport super early to make sure to come on time for check-in. No need to wait for the bags to come out of the plane after arrival. Catch that earlier airport bus and start exploring when everyone else is still behind.

#2 It’s cheaper

Most budget airlines don’t include the hold luggage in the price of the ticket. Even premium ones started doing this too. With just hand luggage, you can save yourself that hard-earned cash and spend it on something more meaningful (like another flight ;)). And recently, even the bigger hand luggage requires a ticket upgrade. So, if you want to fly for the cheapest price possible, small hand luggage like the one offered by Cabin Zero is the way to go.

#3 It’s more comfortable

No dragging of the heavy suitcases around, no problems when there’s no lift in the building or nobody to help you. Be it bumpy pavement in Asia or winter roads in Norway, sometimes even the wheeled suitcase can be a pain to carry around. And if you have a stopover in another city, you don’t have to worry about leaving your things, you can just go for short sightseeing with your well-packed and light bag – as I did in Bangalore.

Tips for traveling light – the carry-on packing guide

#1 Take the best bag

Depending on the type of your trip, you might opt for a suitcase or a backpack. I’m usually for the backpacks, as they are more versatile. If needed, you can squeeze them and shape them in a way for them to fit in different places – an airline measures checking boxes at the airport or in a flight compartment. Backpacks are also lighter, which matters when your hand luggage has weight limits.

The type of backpack also depends on what type of trip you’re going to. For shorter trips or a weekend away, I can highly recommend the bag from Cabin Zeroclick here for 15% off your order. I took it for a trip to Helsinki and loved it!

Cabin Zero is an adventure-proof, cabin-sized backpack, that will actually survive even a longer trip. It comes in 5 sizes from 28 liters to 44. You can get it in different colors and choose from several types of designs – from urban to adventure.

The backpack comes with features like a built-in lost and found system, lockable zippers, and 10 years guarantee. The material is water-resistant and it feels very durable. I really loved the horizontal opening of the bag which allowed me to fit many things in. I was really surprised by the capacity of the bag. In a bigger-sized bag of 44L, I could easily fit all my warm clothes, cosmetics, camera equipment, and additional shoes and I still had a lot of space left. A smaller version of 28L fits perfectly in the new budget airline regulations for smaller hand luggage and is perfect for weekend trips in the summer. I was quite proud of myself when all my summer clothes, laptop, and accessories fit into this backpack when I was traveling to Poland for 5 days. Another time, I took only Cabin Zero 28L and Cabin Zero 44L as hand luggage for a 10-day trip to Albania, and the 44L bag has my and my boyfriend’s clothes in it!

I am sure CabinZero will come with me on many more trips. Click here to get 15% off your order for everything in the Cabin Zero shop.

Inside of CabinZero bag - Tips for traveling light - ultimate packing guide Carry On Packing List
Inside of CabinZero bag

For longer trips, that include a lot of hiking you can use a backpack with additional hip support. This adds to the volume of the bag, but it’s very useful for hiking. You can find alternative backpacks for the outdoors here. 

#2 Limit your clothes and shoes – choose neutral colors and multi-purpose shoes

No, you don’t need another pair of jeans just “in case”. If you don’t wear it when you are at home, you’re probably not going to wear it on your holidays either.

Take less, but better quality. Choose lightweight items with neutral colors that match each other.

My biggest issue when traveling light – is to limit the number of pairs of shoes I want to take. There are shoes for hiking, the ones for walking in the city, shoes that go well with a dress, and sometimes water shoes if I’m going to some rocky beaches. However, after I discovered Tropic Feel Jungle travel shoes,  this became much easier! I use them for all purposes, and they look pretty, so I can even wear them with dresses. They are water friendly, so you can swim in them, versatile for any terrain, super lightweight, and packable. Thanks to that they also allow you to reduce the number of different types of shoes you take with you for holidays, travel light and save money. Check them out here. 

For everyone who wants to travel light, be comfortable, but also feel fashionable there is a great solution – Kameleon Rose. One dress but 20 outfits.

When I heard about the Kameleon Rose dress I knew it would be a game-changer for my travels. Limiting the number of clothes always worked for me, but then I had one problem. I ended up having pictures wearing the same things over and over again. With the Kameleon dress, you’re not only limiting the number of items even more, but it also helps you to make your outfits more interesting with just one piece. It’s functional, yet stylish, made from quick-drying comfortable fabric and it converts into a dress, skirt, pants, or top very easily. The dresses are also made in my beloved Madagascar, so it’s another reason to support this great invention. Have a look at the Kameleon Rose website for more outfit inspirations!

#3 Wash it

There is nothing wrong with taking fewer clothes and washing them yourself. In most places in the world, they have running water and you can carry a bit of soap with you to do the washing yourself. I’ve even done it in rivers when hiking in nature. In that case, make sure the soap is biodegradable. For washing, as well as for the body, try Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile bar soap, it’s biodegradable, organic, and even vegan. In Asia, there are also very cheap laundry places that charge a small fee for washing.

#4 Pack it well

Space is a key, so you need to make sure you pack all your things properly so that everything fits.

There are different techniques for packing your clothes. First, make sure you follow a good carry-on packing list (more about it below). You can roll your clothes, fold them neatly or stuff things into each other.

I’ve tested so many different options and I can tell you what works the best for me. Hopefully, it will also help you!

-Use compression bags

Compression bags have been a true game-changer for my packing. To use them, just simply put your clothes in, seal the bags and squeeze the air out. You will be surprised how much space you can save. You can easily find them on Amazon – check the best compression bags here.  For smaller things, you can also use plastic zip-lock food bags.

– Roll and stuff

For things that you don’t normally put into compression bags, like socks or underwear, you can roll them together. I normally put all the socks together and put the underpants inside, making small “balls” out of them. Afterward, I just put them inside the shoes or stuff in between things in my backpack. Works like a charm.


Another way is to wrap your clothes around the central object. This will protect the object and make sure the clothes don’t get creased. You can also use a rubber band to keep things together and prevent them from falling apart.

-Use packing cubes

They don’t necessarily save you space but are great for organizing your luggage. I also love different types of small sacks, which are great for sorting and protecting things like electronics. It really helps when you don’t have to go through your whole backpack just to find this one charger tangled at the bottom of it. You can find some great packing cubes here.

-Wear the bulkiest and heaviest things on you 

For bulky items, that might not fit into your bag – wear them on yourself instead. Put the jumper on your waist, wear your hiking shoes on, and keep a book in hand.

carry on packing list traveling light - traveling in USA
My only luggage when traveling on the west coast of USA

#5 Organize your toiletries

When I travel, especially to hot countries, I usually leave most of my make-up products behind, to keep it simple. But for things that I do take with me, I try to find smaller and lighter replacements. The good toiletry bag helps too!

Remember the 100 ml rule

To even be able to go through security at the airport, you need to make sure that any liquid that you have with you is under 100 ml and that they all fit into one plastic bag of 1 liter. Many places sell empty plastic 100 ml bottles, that are great to use for pouring some of your cosmetics in. I also like to use the hotel samples, especially for shorter trips, as they are smaller.

Another option is to minimize the number of liquids that you’re taking and at the same time make your luggage much lighter:

-Replace shower gel with a soap

The shower gel is just a soap diluted with water. If you take soap instead, you’ll save on space and on weight too. The most important thing here is to take a good quality soap, that will moisturize your skin and that you can also use for your face. I usually go for natural soaps with as few ingredients as possible. If you are planning to use it outdoors, make sure that the soap is biodegradable. I really like Marseille soap, 100% biodegradable and natural, or Dr. Bronner’s soap, which is organic, biodegradable, and also vegan.

-Replace shampoo with a shampoo bar

Initially, I was a bit skeptical about this idea until I tried it myself. On my last trip to Asia, I took a shampoo bar instead of the normal one and loved it. It lasts for very long and leaves my hair clean and soft. One shampoo bar can be the equivalent of 3 bottles of normal shampoo. More space and weight saved! Check out this eco-friendly natural shampoo bar.

#6 Cut on weight

While deciding what to take for a trip with you, think about the weight of each item. One pair of jeans might not weigh too much, but when you add them with other clothes, you will definitely feel the difference. Choose lightweight items and go for layers rather than thick and heavy clothes. Replace paper books with electronic copies, send them to your phone, or take a few photocopies, that you can later dispose of one by one.

carry on packing list traveling light pants-2
Lightweight clothes can be found in many places in Asia, especially in India

A carry-on packing list

This carry-on packing list works the best for a trip to warmer places, like Asia. From any trip of 1 week or longer. It includes items that can be used for hiking trips, colder evenings in the mountains, and active holidays, as well as going for a wedding or just chilling at the beach. Of course, every person and every place has its own needs, so you can adjust the list as needed. It’s here to give you an idea of what to put into your carry-on.

I traveled with a small backpack containing only the items below for 19 days in Asia, attending a wedding in India, enjoying the city life in Singapore, swimming with turtles in Bali and Gili islands, or climbing volcanoes in Indonesia. In my case, most of the space was probably taken by the camera equipment, as I take a lot of photos. If you don’t, you’d have more space for other things.


  • Passport/ID
  • Tickets/visas
  • Cash/credit cards
  • Insurance documents
  • Copy of passports and documents
  • Emergency contacts
  • Credit card contact
  • Guidebook


  • 3 pairs of thin long pants
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • One pair of material pants and leggings to put underneath– for colder evenings/mornings/hiking
  • 3 ankle socks + one trekking socks
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras (light and dark)
  • 2 swimsuits
  • One nicer dress
  • One beach dress
  • 4 tops
  • 2 thin long sleeve blouses
  • A jumper with a hoodie
  • Thin Parka Jacket
  • Light scarf
  • A hat


  • flip flops
  • sandals
  • hiking shoes/sneakers

Basic medicines (add more for specific countries/conditions):

  • Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol
  • Aspirin
  • Lemsip
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Imodium
  • Throat lozenges
  • Wound cleaning wipes
  • Elastic bandage
  • Gaza pads
  • Plasters
  • Small scissors
  • Pore tape
  • Needle
  • Hand sanitizer




  • Crossbody bag for camera and other equipment (preferably not made for cameras, it’s better to not to show what’s inside)
  • Bum bag for documents and small money
  • Small pouch for money
  • Cotton bag for city walks and shopping
  • Headtorch (for outdoor adventures or power cuts)
  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask
  • Water filter – Sawyer or Lifestraw
  • Dryer sheets to make your clothes smell nice

Print out the carry-on packing list so you make sure not to forget anything! The printable version is below:

Read more packing guides:

What to pack for the African safari

What to pack for Scotland – 4 seasons Scotland packing list

What is your carry-on packing list? Do you have any more tips for traveling light? Let me know in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “Tips for traveling light – ultimate packing guide (+ carry-on packing list!)

  1. What a great guide! I recently just traveled with only carry on luggage and it was so much easier than with a lot of luggage, I will do that again in the future haha 😀

  2. What a great list! I already do some of this. like rolling up the clothes, the compression bags are magic etc. I need learn about getting neutral clothes.

  3. For travelers, definitely want practical and perfect packing, this is great and I believe this helps them to packing in a perfect trip, thank you

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