backpacking tip – travel only with carry-on baggage and bypass checked baggage fees, save time, and move about with ease.

The first of my backpacking tips is to only ever travel with a carry-on sized backpack. This will save you so much time, and money.

Here’s why.

By only traveling with carry-on you do not have to wait for your bags to (hopefully) appear on the conveyor belt some time after you have landed in your new city. Upon arrival, all you need to do is grab your bag from the overhead compartment in the plane and proceed to customs/immigration. That’s it. You are then free to explore the new land in record time whilst others are waiting (hoping?) to be reunited with their bags.

Further to that, by traveling light you will not feel the need quite as urgently as one traveling with a big and heavy backpack to find somewhere to dump your bags before you can explore your new city. With a 30 – 50 L backpack on your back, finding a hostel or set of lockers where you can store your bags is not such a pressing need.

Secondly, by traveling with only carry-on you obviously don’t need to have to pay for check-in baggage every time you fly with a budget airline. As budget airlines and low-cost carriers often offer amazingly cheap airfares to many different parts of the world, chances are that as a budget traveler you will be making use of their services. Indeed, we are truly blessed to live in an age when flying to newfound lands is so affordable.

carry on passed
Backpack passed!

Don’t offset these savings by having to purchase check-in baggage. Many times the cost of checking in a single 20 kg bag is more than the cost of the flight itself! Especially in South East Asia. So take heed of this backpacking tip and save money each time you fly.

And trust me, the smaller your bag, the more enjoyable your backpacking experience will be anyway. You will have less of a hassle getting on a crowded local bus or train, fitting your pack on the back of a minivan already packed to the brim with 60 L plus backpacks, and your back will thank you for it at the end of the traveling day. You may even save money here as you won’t have to pay someone to manipulate and massage your back and body back into shape. (But hey, don’t forget to treat yourself every now and then; it is important you remain in optimum physical condition on your travels…Ha!)

Last but not least, by traveling with a carry-on sized backpack, other travelers will look at you with envious eyes as you effortlessly stroll around the bus or train station, and get on and off local public transport with such grace usually seen in ice-skating olympians. Isn’t that enough of a reason in itself?

I believe this to be one of the most important and useful backpacking tips out there. You will often hear from experienced backpackers that less is more when it comes to traveling. There is a reason for their common agreement.

Plus, speaking from my own personal experience, you will create a sense of wonder, and surprise, among other travelers when they see you carrying around a small backpack on your back. They will instantly realize that it is in fact possible to travel the world with only a small bag. You will be a role model, even a legend spoken of for years to come as each traveler returns home and shares his or her tales of the road…”oh I met this backpacker in Cambodia and he/she traveled for 8 months around the world with only a tiny little backpack…” Instant fame from afar.

Double plus, traveling light forces you to limit your indulgent spending, and only buy what you really need…This will help with sticking to your budget, which will ultimately mean you can traveller further or longer, or both!

So remember: travel light and travel better by only taking a carry-on sized backpack with you on your travels. You really don’t need that much. And the money and time you save by not having to check-in luggage is certainly worth it in the end.

What have your experiences been with traveling with only carry-on baggage? How big is BIG enough when it comes to a backpack for long term (or short term) travel? Have you run into any problems carrying a backpack of this size? Please voice any questions or comments you have on this backpacking tip. I want to know your thoughts…

Stay tuned for the next of my backpacking tips!


backpacking tip – wash your own underwear with shampoo as you go.

The next addition to my backpacking tips concerns something quite personal: your underwear.

In traveling around the world, we are limited in what we can pack in our backpacks. We must choose to carry only those items that are absolutely necessary, and preferably have multiple uses (see backpacking tips #6 for a suggestion on packing multiple-use items in your pack).

When backpacking, finding the right number of t-shirts, shorts and pants to bring is different for different people, as everyone has their own tolerance when it comes to wearing the same article of clothing again, and again, and again. I personally, am quite happy to wear the same t-shirt for 2 or 3 days straight, as long as I don’t stink too much! Hey, that is just me. But for others, a fresh t-shirt must be worn each and every day.

However, I do believe that wearing a fresh pair of underwear every day is necessary in order to maintain hygiene on the road, and to ward off any travel nasties. I carry around 7 pairs myself – one for each day of the week. I find this to be the optimum number when backpacking. It is enough to ensure cleanliness, but not too much to take up too much space.

how i wash my clothes
How i wash my clothes while i’m traveling

But if we only carry 7 pairs of underwear, that means we must do our laundry every week, right? Wrong!

Sometimes when we are backpacking, getting our laundry done is annoying, or hard to come by. Or downright expensive. However, I have found that it is possible to wash your underwear with shampoo whilst taking your daily shower. Shampoo, when lathered up, is able to clean the under garment quite effectively, and the shower is great for rinsing. Further to that, underwear doesn’t take long to dry at all. How is that for one of my backpacking tips!

You will be (most likely) carrying shampoo with you anyway, and so you can use it to not only wash your hair, but your clothes. This will save you having to carry another bottle or packet of washing powder or detergent…and this situation is what you want as you want to travel as light as possible – see backpacking tips #1 for reasons why.

Here is my routine: each time I take my morning shower I wash one piece of underwear and then hang it out to dry – either inside the bathroom, or outside. 90 per cent of the time, the underwear is dry by the next morning. In this way I always have a fresh pair of unmentionables to slide into for every day of the week.

Unfortunately I have not found this method to be effective in cleaning other items of clothing, e.g., t-shirts, socks, shorts, pants, towels etc. Most of the time I find that these items are still wet the next day, and still, well, smell! I think these items need professional care!

So of course, every so often you will need to get your clothes properly washed. In my backpacking experience, I get my laundry done every 2 weeks or so. This is enough for me. And boy do I love the smell of freshly washed clothes.

So remember: whenever it’s time to take a shower, think soap, shampoo, underwear…you get it…

Stay tuned for another of my backpacking tips soon!