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The Ultimate Carry On Only Packing List

Are you considering joining the movement of packing and traveling lighter?  Well, then you’ve come to the right place.  Marty and I have been practicing minimalist packing using only a backpack for years. 

We have traveled with only our backpacks for years and love not only the freedom of not having a bag but also the money that we’ve been able to save on baggage fees.  LOL! 

This type of travel does take some careful planning.  So to save you from some of our packing fails, we wanted to share with you our ultimate carry-on only packing list. This list is great whether you are hitting the beach or the mountains!

This is the third post in our minimalist travel series.  The first step in succeeding in minimalist travel is to have a great backpack, so we started this series with The Best Travel Backpack for Europe…and Beyond.  This post will help you choose the best backpack for your travels before moving you on to the second post in the series, How We Travel With Only a Backpack, which provides you with all of our tips to make traveling with only a backpack easy and fun.

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Carry On Only Packing List

The purpose of this post is to ensure that everyone can travel easily using only carry-on luggage, which for us is our backpacks.  I’ve broken this list down into different categories that you can add to or delete based upon your needs. 

For instance, if you aren’t traveling out of the country, then you obviously don’t need your passport.  Our categories include must-have items, clothing, electronics, and health & beauty.

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    Must-Have Items For Carry On Only Packing List

    You passport is part of your Carry on only packing list


    You definitely don’t want to leave home without your passport if you’re heading out of the country.  Be sure that your passport is up to date and ensure that it won’t expire during your trip.  You want to be sure you can get home!  I always put my passport in one of the small pouches in the front of my bag to ensure I have easy access to it at the airport.  Once I’m through airport security, I then put my passport in a more secure place further inside my bag.

    Local ID

    Having an extra identification document, like your driver’s license, never hurts.  Besides, if you’re renting a car at your destination, you will need it anyway.

    Boarding Pass

    Download your boarding passes to your mobile phone or take a screenshot of it if you’re afraid that you won’t have internet access.

    Copies of Your Important Documents

    Absolutely make copies of your important document including your passport, debit/credit card, and local ID.  We not only carry copies of these documents with us, we also upload them into a password-protected cloud for easy electronic access if needed.  You will have a much easier time replacing documents if you can prove easily who you are.

    Prescription Medication

    I don’t think this one needs much explanation.  Make sure that you have your prescription medication and that you have enough pills to get you through the entirety of your trip.

    Credit/Debit Cards and Cash

    Make sure that you have options when it comes to resources on your trip.  You will definitely want your debit card so that you can access the ATM machines at your destination.  It also never hurts to have some cash on hand.  A little cash can go a long way in a crunch.

    Car and House Keys

    I know this sounds silly, but be sure that you have your car and house keys with you and that you always keep them in a safe and secure location within your backpack.

    Clothing Items

    backpack and camera are part of your carry on only packing list

    Of course, clothing is a personal choice and will depend on the weather of your travel destination.  The following items are suggestions based upon our travel experiences.  Keep in mind that these are only suggestions. 

    You should definitely take the suggested list and make it your own.  If you’re more of a t-shirt and jeans person, then by all means, pack in that direction.  The last thing you want to do is to be uncomfortable while on vacation.

    With that in mind, here are some of our clothing suggestions:

    • Tops (6 total)
    • Pants or Shorts (2)
    • Socks (6)
    • Underwear (6)
    • Bras (2)
    • Skirts or Dresses (2)
    • Sweater/Jacket/Coat (1-only if needed)
    • Pajamas or Yoga Pants (1)
    • Glasses/Sunglasses
    • Swimsuit
    • Scarf or Sarong

    Tech Items

    picture of computer and tablet carry on only packing list

    We all depend on our technology these days, so don’t leave home without the essentials you need on your trip.  We include our camera equipment, phone, phone chargers, portable power pack, camera batteries, converter, iPad or laptop, and headphones. 

    Health and Beauty Items

    We pack as few health and beauty items as possible, but there are a few things that I always take with me.  The other items we either purchase once we arrive or use the hotel freebies.  LOL!

    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Deodorant
    • Razor
    • Face Wash
    • Make-up (very minimal-powder, eyeliner, mascara)
    • Hair gel
    • Comb
    • Floss
    • Non-Rx Meds (Tylenol, Benadryl, etc)

    Miscellaneous Items

    • Gum
    • Extra ziploc bags
    • Journal and pen

    Final Thoughts on Carry On Only Travel

    If you’ve made it this far into this post, then you are truly committed to this carry on only packing list!  Well then don’t stop now.  Check out the section below where we have linked up some of the exact items that we take on with us on our travels. 

    And yes, we only take our backpacks everywhere we go!  I promise, once you’ve done it a couple of times, you will be a pro as well!!

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    Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

    Book Your Flight:

    We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best flight prices. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines worldwide to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.

    Book Your Vacation Package:

    If you want to book an entire vacation package, we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use, and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.

    Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!

    For full guided vacations, including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all your needs while ensuring a great experience. allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop shop.”

    Book Your Accommodations:

    We always begin our search by checking out honest reviews on TripAdvisor hotels. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site!

    There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is because it offers a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.

    Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!

    HotelsCombined is another cool site. They allow you to compare all the top travel sites with one search to ensure you find the best deal out there. Kayak works in this way as well.

    If you want a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.

    Tour Companies We Trust:

    We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!

    For a guided city tour, check out City Sightseeing and BigBus Tours. These bus tours are so much fun and easy to hop on and hop off at top attractions in cities around the world.

    CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.

    Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.

    Looking to Save Time and Money?

    Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!

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    Michelle Snell founder of That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel

    About The Author

    Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel.  Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.


    Wednesday 28th of July 2021

    Thanks for the helpful advice!


    Thursday 29th of July 2021

    Thank you for reading.

    Sage Scott

    Thursday 14th of May 2020

    Great list! One thing I have learned to carry on when traveling abroad is at least one outlet converter. There's nothing worse than finally landing after a long flight and being unable to charge my phone or laptop because all of my outlet converters are in my checked baggage!


    Saturday 16th of May 2020

    This is so very true!!! Thank you!!


    Monday 11th of May 2020

    I love how this list is so detailed. Especially regarding how much of every piece of clothing to bring. I have only traveled once with a carry-on and that was a domestic flight. I loved that there was no waiting around for luggage. This is very helpful.


    Monday 11th of May 2020

    Thank you so much for reading. I am so glad you found it helpful!

    Holiday House Management Northern Beaches

    Monday 26th of November 2018

    Before going to anywhere guidance’s is really important. The way you wrote everything that’s so good. Thanks for sharing this with us.


    Monday 22nd of October 2018

    Great list! I second the scarf. I always carry a scarf shawl, which comes in handy also as a picnic blanket, airplane blanket, etc :)