I have just packed so decided to share my story of how to travel with only hand luggage.

Have you ever been in that situation where you have contemplated throwing your clothes away so you can get on an aeroplane without exceeding the luggage allowance? Your backpack is bursting at the seams. You get closer to that little rack they use to measure peoples hand luggage and the hostess starts asking people to put their bags in it. You are screwed! You break in to a sweat knowing damn well that your bag is way over size! To make this situation even more fun you don’t have access to any money to pay for it and you are only porting through this country. If you can’t get on this flight you are homeless in another country!

Bari airport in Italy last year. I had just spent all weekend waiting around at a ferry port in Greece, sailed across the Adriatic on a rust bucket, just about scraped together the train fares to get from Brindisi to Bari then spent all day sat in the airport waiting.

I had about €5 to my name due to not being paid by a client that I can only describe as a ****! I had no access to my other account because my card stopped working in France weeks before hand and I never did anything about it because I was too busy traveling. It was a Sunday night, the money I had shifted from my other account would not hit till Tuesday. Yet there I was chancing this journey to Malta because my options were limited!

Not catching the flight was not an option! I had a hotel paid for in Malta so given the choice of being in my cosy hotel room with breakfast and dinner included or being a tramp in Italy for 2 days I would ditch the luggage. I had too much anyway!

As I got closer to the hostess I put my hands together in the praying position and said please with a cheeky smile. To my surprise it worked! She had a quick look around and said go, I was on the flight.

Anyway the moral of this story. I had never given much thought to the logistics of traveling full time until this point. When I first set out on this never ending journey I was going on holiday but I never went home. I had only a small bag which I had replaced for a larger bag that fell apart. Then I got a hiking backpack which was the one in question that nearly caused me to miss the flight.

As soon as I got settled I Googled the best bags for traveling with and found a few that are actually designed to fit in to that luggage measuring rack with maximum capacity for storage. Being me I went completely OCD on this subject, thoroughly researching all the bags and options.

I had learned on the road what I do need and don’t need so I came up with a proper plan to lose most of my current luggage and travel like a boss. I decided on a Lowe Alpine AT 45 Carry-On backpack which I got off Amazon here. Mainly because I know with that name that it is going to be quality and hard wearing but also because it fitted my requirements..

Carry-on Backpack

My carry on backpack of choice.

My carry-on luggage requirements were simple.

  • Carry enough clothes to last at least a couple of weeks.
  • Top loading like a suitcase so it opens right up and I don’t need to unpack everything to get to the bottom.
  • External laptop compartment for quick access to my computer.
  • A fold away day bag that fits in my pocket. Also really handy to avoid another bad experience I learned from on a bus in Croatia when the driver insisted my bag was going in the boot and I had no smaller bag for my laptop etc.
  • Lockable zips because I have become a pro at sleeping in airports 🙂
  • One big storage area and not lots of little ones as I was going to use packing cubes. Still need a couple of external pockets though for times like taking toiletries out at airport security etc.
  • Comfy to wear!

And my packing list for minimal living.

  • 3 pairs of jeans. (Yes I know you can buy lightweight hill walking trousers but I do have some dress sense!)
  • 3 pairs of shorts.
  • 5 t-shirts and 1 shirt.
  • 2 hoodies.
  • 1 wool jumper for the colder times.
  • A jacket (This takes up quite a bit of space but better than looking like a gimp in a plastic bag type coat when it rains!)
  • Toiletries.
  • Chargers and plug adapters.
  • Laptop and laptop sleeve.
  • My travel blanket.
  • Underwear and socks. Not the most environmentally friendly way of traveling but these things are cheap in most countries so they go in the bin when It’s time to pack for maximum storage space.
Digital nomad packing

And there it all is, ready to be packed down in to hand luggage!

As you can see from the picture and my packing list I don’t carry towels, this is a major space saver! I always stay in Airbnb places, Hotels or hostels so towels are always provided.

One of the best tips that I ever got was use packing cubes. These things are great! The packing cubes I use, also from Amazon you can find here , they have 2 zipped compartments. One for dirty laundry and an aired one for clean. They make packing and traveling so much easier and they work like little suitcases.


Packing cubes are a really good addition to any travelers luggage set!

It’s not only financially smarter to travel with only carry-on luggage but it’s also a great time saver as nobody likes waiting in baggage reclaim lines. Especially when the bags have missed the plane! Another benefit is that minimalist packing makes traveling a lot lighter and easier.

Laptop sleave

Quick access to my laptop was a must have feature! This bag holds my laptop nicely. The compartment is designed for that purpose and is well padded on both sides.


Hand luggage

All packed. The internal straps really pack things down and hold them securely in place so nothing is falling about when using as a backpack.

Fold away straps

Another handy feature is the straps can be packed away. There is a shoulder strap and handles so this bag can be used in many ways.

My day bag is actually a gym bag, it fits nicely in to my pocket or backpack and has string shoulder straps. It is also big enough to hold my laptop and sleeve + power adapter.

My day bag is actually a gym bag, it fits nicely in to my pocket or backpack and has string shoulder straps. It is also big enough to hold my laptop and sleeve + power adapter.


So there you have it, that’s how I roll (Rolling wheels are actually the only thing missing with this bag) and travel full time with less luggage than most people take on a 1 week holiday! I’m sure I am not the only person who has figured out how to do this?