One bag travel

Traveling light is what I prefer. Traveling with one carry-on can make such a difference in your airport experience. The beginning and the end of your trip will be much more relaxed. To help you figure out how to travel lightly take a look at the site One Bag. It is a great resource that simplifies what and how you pack. From the site:

If there is a bottom line, it’s that travelling light is simply a better way to go. You have more time, because packing takes little. You waste less energy hauling stuff. You know what you have, and where everything is (as you pack your bag the same way every time). We’ve all seen those hapless folks at the airport, with too much baggage and panicked expressions, worried that they have lost track of something, or left something behind.

The paragraph above rings true with Unclutterer’s philosophy: living a more simple life without all your stuff getting in the way. This idea definitely applies to travel. One Bag gives you tips on what to pack, how to pack it, and what to pack it in. It is a one-stop shop for all your packing needs.

43 Comments for “One bag travel”

  1. posted by kim on

    Great advice. Would love some suggestions on applying this strategy when traveling with young children. I try not to take anything I can get easily at my destination, but I still end up hauling way too much.

  2. posted by Colin on

    I’m generally in favor of this approach – the missus is the queen of traveling light, and managed to successfully indoctrinate me by getting us through our 2 week honeymoon in Italy using only a carry-on suitcase and backpack each.

    Good luck applying it with children under the age of five, though – the high incidence of clothing disasters means a higher need for redundant clothing, even if you’re going to have easy access to cleaning resources.

    One note off topic – the Onebag website also suggests an environmental benefit to hauling around less weight. That may be true in the “every little bit helps” sense, but if you’re saving ~25 lbs on an intercontinental flight (example weight of fully laden 777 is 665,000 pounds), it’s statistically irrelevant.

  3. posted by One Bag Nation on

    I recently read about this website at NPR, where I saw some diagrams that were very helpful.

    I’m traveling across the country tomorrow and I intend to pack light this time!

  4. posted by Eden on

    My husband & I went to Scotland in cool weather with two carry-ons apiece. That meant heavier clothing, etc. and we were there for a week. It really can be done. And, depending where you’re going, certain things you can buy when you get there if you really need them.

  5. posted by Doug (the "OneBag" guy) on

    “Uncluttering” is certainly an appropriate way to view what I espouse; thanks for the mention! To Colin, who notes that the effect of travelling light on the ecological footprint of a 777 is irrelevant, I hasten to add that this isn’t only about airline travel; it’s about all aspects of one’s journeys. And that includes the taxis one doesn’t have to hire, the “stuff” that needn’t be bought, etc.

    Travel in cooler climates is best dealt with by layering, not by “heavy clothing”. Last month I took a two week trip to Moscow (45 degrees, rain) and New Delhi (115 degrees), with only my regular one small carryon bag (which included my laptop and other computer gear, all my business materials, etc.).

  6. posted by greer on

    I don’t agree with onebag’s statement about rolling backs. i’m a small person, and having to carry around a suitcase would severely hurt my back. backpack, wheels are useless, but for a suitcase i wouldn’t touch anything without wheels.

  7. posted by N. & J. on

    I definitely prefer the experience of travel without checking bags but I hate not being able to bring liquids on like shampoo or conditioner, and I can’t bring my safety razor so I end up having to use the cheap stuff in hotels and I create a lot of plastic waste.

  8. posted by Empress Juju on

    I am a reformed Overpacker, but now I am a big fan of one bag travel!

    I just got back from a weekend away, in which half of my carry on bag was empty! But my safety razor was in it, and I had no trouble at all carrying it on. I packed so lightly, I forgot pajamas, but I made do by sleeping in my tee-shirt, and just loved breezing past all the people at baggage claim when my plane landed.

  9. posted by Yinna on

    I do a lot of the same kind of travel (eg visiting my family overseas for two weeks, or 4-day business trips). My rule is: if I didn’t use it this time, it’s not coming next time. I’m now down to a carryon suitcase that contains a tightly rolled up gigantic sports bag for all the stuff I haul BACK from Europe…

  10. posted by Catherine on

    Just got back from 7 days in Italy yesterday, with my one bag and carryon. The only downside is I couldn’t bring back olive oil or wine. One thing that I do is go to an Internet Cafe’ on our trips and see if I can buy the local product I want at home. I found the Chianti we fell in love with was sold at Total Wine just down the street.

    I also disagree about the roller wheels being bad, and also about the removable backpack/daypack being bad. My bag is a rollaboard with removable daypack and I love it. In fact, here’s a link to a picture with the bags my husband and I took on a trip last year. (Black bag on the left is mind, the green one is his, and another daypack/carryon):

    Packing light…

  11. posted by Karen on

    I like to travel light, but I really prefer traveling with my fully stocked toiletry bad. It’s nice to know that if I need something, it’s there. If I get a cut, I have bandaids. If my period comes unexpectedly, I’m prepared. If I need to wrap up wet clothing or dispose of icky trash, I have some extra bags. If I’m delayed and have to stay an extra day or two, I have plenty of shampoo and toothpaste and contact solution. I could buy these things when I reach my destination, but often there isn’t a drug store that’s easily accessible (especially if you don’t have transportation).

    Unfortunately, because of the ridiculous TSA rules about liquids, it’s difficult and inconvenient to do this without checking a bag.

  12. posted by Jay on

    Although I have traveled regularly and have always traveled light (I’ve never checked a bag), I have never achieved the minimalist extreme of my aunt, who used to visit us by car with no luggage. As a kid, I was intrigued and asked her where her luggage was. I’ll never forget her reply: “I’ve got a couple of panties and a toothbrush in my purse. What more do I need?” My parents did not pack that light, but they made packing fairly stress-free by pointing out that if you forget something, you can probably live without it, and, if the item is truly indispenable, you can always borrow or buy it at your destination.

    From a “stuff” perspective, traveling with children is challenging because they have and need stuff, but they are unable to carry it. For domestic airline travel, mainly to visit family and friends, my wife, four-year-old son, and one-year-old daughter travel light, or as light as we are able to.


    We mail diapers to our destination. We either order the diapers from a mail-order company or mail them ourselves.


    We bring only what our luggage can hold, and we limit our “bags.” Our “bags” determine how much we bring. Currently, my wife and I each use a Pelican 1510 case (without interior foam), which is a hard-sided, wheeled carry-on. While the 1510 is not superlight, it is AWESOME (I do not work for Pelican). It is, without much exaggeration, indestructible (check out some YouTube videos showing people throwing it down a rocky cliff, setting it on fire, running over it with a car, etc.). It is guaranteed for life and is water resistant (if I recall correctly, it floats while fully loaded). One can sit on it at the airport. The wheels spin smoothly. The extended handle is wide and flat and would be hard to break.

    The kids’ stuff is split between our cases, with overflow going into a soft-sided canvas tote bag. My son puts some toys into a small Pelican 1300 (he wanted a hard-sided case) with a rope around the handle. We bring a car seat and stroller (small umbrella stroller from Wal-Mart) for my daughter and booster seat for my son. I put the booster seat in a pillow case secured with rope (with a loop at the other end).

    For maneuvering around the airport, we usually put the two 1510s, 1300, tote bag, car seat, and booster seat on an airport cart (the cases stack neatly because they are hard and flat), and we put my daughter in the stroller. If we are unable to find a cart, we piggyback the two 1510 cases with two camping straps, so one is behind the other. We put the car seat, booster seat, tote bag, and 1300 on the cases (we drape the ropes from the booster seat’s pillow case and 1300’s handle around the 1500’s extended handle). When pulled by the 1510’s extended handle, only the wheels of the front 1510 touch the ground. (Yes, the 1510 and its extended handle can support this load.)

    For boarding the plane, we use the second configuration (the piggybacked Pelicans with everything but the stoller on top). So far, it has been narrow enough to go down the airplane aisle. Either my wife or I deal with my daughter and the stroller. The other handles the luggage. My son is luggage-less. The stroller is gate-checked; the car seat is put into my daughter’s seat; the two 1510s are put in the overhead bin; and the 1300 and tote bag are put underneath a seat in front of us.

    (While we have never used their cases, PorterCase make cases that convert into luggage carts. They might also be useful for traveling with a family. )


    As for kids’ clothes, Sun Protection pants and shirts by Solumbra are useful. They are comfortable and, most importantly, dry quickly. We can clean any messes on the spot, and the kids can keep wearing the clothes.

  13. posted by Rob Madrid on

    One issue I never sorted out is doing your laundary in a hotel room, unless your somewhere like Spain it takes forever for stuff to dry.

    My wife, as a business traveler, only goes with carry-on. Several of her co-workers who travel always check a bag. For a lady I can understand, but for a guy????

    One time when we do travel heavy is when we go home to Canada, then we bring loads back so having supersized suitcases payso ff.

  14. posted by Rob Madrid on

    I should add that the liquids rule is a major pain in the ass!!! Stupid Stupid Stupid!!!!

  15. posted by Mer on

    I spent five days in London in February with a carryon and a backpack. If I needed anything, I walked two streets over to Marks & Spencer or Tesco’s or Boots. It’s amazing what you can do without. It was very freeing. I came home wanting to toss out half the contents of my house!

    As for the liquids rule, it’s very easy. Everything I needed fit in one ziploc travel bag, which I kept in my backpack to make getting through security easier. Just don’t do what I did and forget to take out your water bottle when you’re leaving the country. The British dude who searched my bag gave me a stern look but was otherwise very nice, and I was appropriately mortified and contrite.

  16. posted by Catherine on

    Re: doing laundry — I have found that “travel” specific shirts, underwear, socks and pants tend to dry pretty well. On my trip this past week to Tuscany we had a nice cross breeze going between two windows, so even in the cool air, everything dried quickly.

  17. posted by Jay on

    Other small tips:

    (1) roll, don’t fold, clothes. Clothes take up less space and are more presentable.

    (2) pack for where you will spend most of your time. If you will be indoors most of the time, don’t pack for the outdoors. If your outdoor exposure will be only moving about between lodging, vehicles, restaurants, movie theaters, etc., don’t pack a bulky jacket, even in winter.

    (3) don’t pack to handle everything that may go wrong. When you are at home running around town doing fun things or errands, you are often away from home all day without, most likely, having “packed” for every contingency. Travel doesn’t have to be any different.

  18. posted by Mary on

    I traveled light when I roamed Europe in my 20’s – I could make it for a week with a small day pack. I learned to shed extra clothes and bags when I found that hauling all that stuff made me too tired to enjoy my destination after I arrived! Shedding the bags sheds a lot of hassle too!

    Like Mer said – it is very freeing!!

  19. posted by Vik on

    More importantly to worrying about forgetting something, it means you can skip baggage claim in an airport!! (I wouldn’t have missed a plane in Philly if I hadn’t had to wait for my bag… Philly airport = teh suck!)

  20. posted by Barb on

    One way to get around the shampoo and conditioner issue is to check out Lush. They have shampoos in bar form and a few have conditioners built in (cocoa butter.) They’ll last for up to 3 months and you can purchase a tin (or receive one for free if you buy two shampoo bars.) Not for colour treated hair, however. I used one of these bars on my last trip and it was comforting to know there were two fewer bottles to potentially leak all over everything in my bag.

  21. posted by Karen on

    I discovered this website through another blog I read and I LOVE it and can’t wait to use the tips and tricks for my next trip!

  22. posted by Katharine on

    I’ll confess. I’m a bag checker. I find it really relaxing to walk on the plane with only my purse and a book. Even though my two bags are small enough to be carry-ons, I prefer the simplicity of checking the bags on the curb/at the desk, and don’t mind gathering my bags at the end of the trip. When I get to travel without the kids, I really appreciate not carrying “activity” and snack bags, along with assorted electronics. These flights are probably my most uncluttered times.

  23. posted by Elle on

    LOVE the One Bag idea, my husband and I are believers!

    We did two weeks in China (in the winter) with only one carry-on each! It’s about asking, “What are the bare essentials I need for this trip?”

  24. posted by Michelle on

    My 8 year old son and I went to visit relatives in France for Christmas and selected carry-on friendly gifts for everyone. On the way back to the States we had to prioritize and even leave some Christmas treasures behind (olives and pastis…*sigh*) However, when we missed our flight from Paris to the US and had to run across the airport frantically trying to catch alternate flights I was enormously glad we had no checked luggage to worry about!!!

  25. posted by [email protected] on

    I had found this site earlier, everything he said makes sense! I never like to check luggage, too many times it doesn’t come back for months.

  26. posted by Suzyn on

    Thanks for posting about this site! I read the whole thing, enthusiastically! Every since I went to Europe for three months with WAY TOO MUCH STUFF, I have been a believer in light packing. But the site took light packing to a new dimension – one I’m now inspired to try out.

  27. posted by tangentbot on

    My wife and I are currently on a three week vacation all over Japan. We each brought a carry-on bag, plus I brought my laptop bag and she brought a small backback; it is STILL way too much. We are actually shipping some of our stuff back! (…along with all the stuff we bought, of course) Next time, we are only bringing one small bag each.

  28. posted by stockbridge consultants on

    in traveling its a good way to carry things that are very handy and we dont need a lot of things to bring only the most important 1

  29. posted by Cheska on

    Thanks for sharing this site! It came in at a really opportune time; I’m travelling back to NY this weekend for a week and I have been driving myself crazy over the past few days trying to decide what to pack. I’m obsessive about outfits and I hate to admit that I couldn’t even bring myself to bring less than 4 pairs of shoes… but this time I will be out in the Adirondacks so there’s really not much use for high heels. 😛 This site brought things into perspective for me 🙂

  30. posted by Iris on

    I just returned from a 3-day trip with my 13-year-old daughter where we had one roll-aboard bag, her shoulder bag with books and so on, my purse and my tote, which included laptop and airport amusement material.

    Once again, I was tagged for the escalated security search. I really get irked at having carefully packed a bag, and having them tear it apart. My husband laughs that I put socks and undergarments into ziplocs, but this is not funny. This is not the first time. I am so far from the demographic they are actually looking for, that they use me to balance their statistics.

    However, on our family trip coming up in June, I am going to test my conclusion that I get this 3rd degree when I don’t have checked luggage. In the past, we have often put all of our checked bags (2 for the 3 of us) on my husband’s check in, and hand-carried airport amusements and a change of underclothes. Yes, I know, but our family vacations are at least a week, and often involve multiple venues, climates and temperatures. This time we’re each checking one bag per adult ticket, and I’ll see if I get tapped again.

    As for minimal packing, I do try, but this trip involves a night-time observatory experience at Kitt Peak, where they warn you to dress warmly for the 7,000 foot altitude, in the open roof observatory, in spite of what the temperatures in Phoenix and Tucson will be (80-90F+) for other parts of the trip. I’m assuming they are responding to previous experience with oblivious visitors.

  31. posted by Crystal D. on

    On a related note, thought I’d share myGuide to Pain-free Packing.

    One of my tips is to pack like those clever Europeans and bring a lot of black or other neutral clothing that can be mixed and matched for multiple occasions and settings.

    Thank you,
    Crystal D.
    Sparkleizer and Home Organization Expert
    E-mail [email protected]

  32. posted by Scooter in Japan on

    I traveled the UK for five weeks in 2006 with one bag, following the great site. Included a few handy items for packing, hygiene, and laundry from Rick Steves, and off I went!

  33. posted by Bacchus on

    I’m a confirmed checker as well. Very rarely do I carry on a bag, other than my briefcase. It is so much more relaxing to take my briefcase and just walk on the plane. I also don’t have to worry about finding a space for my bag on the plane. I’ve done a lot of traveling for both work and pleasure and I’m always amazed at the lack of courtesy from people shoving and cramming bags into too small of a space.

  34. posted by Mary on

    I’m a one bagger myself. My rule of thumb for travelling is never to take more than I can comfortably carry with me. I have a carry-on sized backpack and a rolling suitcase that both work well (I take one or the other, depending on the situation, never both on the same trip). I always carry my bag on getting to my destination. However, on my way home I sometimes go ahead and check my bag.

    I manage to travel with a minimum of toiletries and still make room for some first aid items, my feminine products, and a little travel pot for heating water. I have been finding lately that you can’t assume you’ll have anything to heat water with in your room, so I always take a sandwich baggie with a handful of tea bags and a few packets of instant soup.

    I also pack a sandwich-sized baggie with 2 days worth of cold/flu/stomachache etc products since I’ve experienced how unfun it can be to deal with trying to find those when you manage to get sick on the trip.

    The trick is in choosing all your items carefully and with attention to being able to wear the same thing a few times (cleaned or not). Eliminate unneeded clothing/shoes. Don’t obsess over planning for contingencies. Plan for the most likely ones, and know that you’ll still be able to buy things you’ll need.

  35. posted by Laura on

    I like to travel light AND check my bag. I walk thru the airport w/ only a small purse for my id, credit card and book. – talk about feeling uncluttered! I always feel bad for the folks traipsing through the concourses with a bunch of stuff in tow.

  36. posted by One Bag Nation on

    I packed my bag yesterday following the one bag diagrams. I unpacked my ONE bag tonight and I’m here to tell you: Doug’s bundling method rocks! It looked like my bag had hardly even been through baggage handling.

    I’ll post a photo on my blog when I get home.

  37. posted by Jennifer on

    I`m just in an internet cafe in Osaka waiting to go to the airport to return home after three weeks away. My husband and I used the OneBag site for packing for this trip and it was awesome! Still ended up with things that didn`t get touched in our suitcases so next time I think we will be even lighter. We did have to purchase a small suitcase to bring back everything, but it was mostly due to the few bulky and breakable items that we bought for home decor.

  38. posted by Chica & Jo on

    We’ve travelled extensively and have come up with a small bag of necessities for the airplane that is lightweight and takes up very little room:

  39. posted by Enjoying Travel With Kids on

    A few years ago we went to Europe with a family member who took a large bag weighing 28kg. It was a complete pain in the neck. We now travel with cabin luggage only, and my goodness it is liberating! With two kids in tow, travelling light is still easy enough – you just need to plan well.

    We enjoy travelling light with our kids and would recommend it to anyone!


  40. posted by Kim on

    RE toiletries on planes: It’s a pain, but I’ve found the allowed amount is enough for me for about 2 weeks (I’m female with long hair). Much better than carrying huge bottles around. I’d recommend at least trying it.

    RE laundry: I always take only 3 day’s worth of fast-drying clothes. This gives them enough time to dry, and in most climates I have a clean & dry set ready to go. I pack each set of clothes in a separate plastic bag which makes it easy to grab & go.

    Doing this, I travelled for a month from northern hemisphere summer to southern hemisphere winter with one daypack – it was wonderful. I did get searched at every customs point though – single young female with no luggage looks dodgy, I guess. The plastic bags worked well here as they just checked each bag without going into it, and it was easy to repack.

  41. posted by Ellen on

    I go back & forth between preferring to just check a bag & not do battle with carry one space, and not wanting to deal with baggage claim & carrying the bags on. I sometimes compromise & take advantage of the plane-side baggage check/claim. I normally pack light but am still working on versatile coordinated items that will satisfactorily cover most eventualities. My biggest struggle is minimizing pairs of shoes (as a female of a certain age) – wanting different styles for a range of activities. One item I have added lately to my must-take list is comfortable lounge pants or pj’s that are decent enough (not too much of the pj look) to wear outside the hotel room.

  42. posted by Jamaal Zungu on

    Interesting piece, reminded me of something I saw years ago on Rolf Potts’ blog. No one travels lighter than this guy:

  43. posted by Michelle on

    When I wash clothes in a hotel I roll the wet things up in a towel (I have a super absorbent travel towel for this purpose) Twist it, kneel on it or step on it and the clothes are already half way dry. In Australia I once hung some damp clothes on a fallen tree limb in a park and took a nap while the sun dried my clothes.

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