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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 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 Travel

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

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

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.  See our travel link essentials below where we highlight the exact products that we use.

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

Packing It Up

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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If you're considering traveling with only a backpack, then this ultimate carry on only packing list is just what you need! #carryononly #minimalisttravel #backpack #packinglist

If you're considering traveling with only a backpack, then this ultimate carry on only packing list is just what you need! #carryononly #minimalisttravel #backpack #packinglist

If you're considering traveling with only a backpack, then this ultimate carry on only packing list is just what you need! #carryononly #minimalisttravel #backpack #packinglist

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  1. 100% yes! Travelling carry on only is a game changer and I’m constantly trying to see what else I can leave behind! I use packing cubes as well to get what I do pack down to as tiny a space as possible.

    • I love to hear this! To me, it has become almost a challenge! LOL!

  2. I do want to be more of a minimalist when I travel so this post is very helpful. We need to cut down on the amount of electronics and clothes that we bring.

    • I totally understand that, Anisa. The clothes are easy but the electronics are harder when you’re a blogger.

  3. So helpful! I’m starting to make the capsule suitcase. Last trip a forgot some items hahah

    • HaHa! Totally understand that. We have a capsule bag also and love it!

  4. This is great!! Thanks for the post. Going to bookmark for future travels!

    • Thank you so much!!

  5. I would love to be able to do this. My back pack is full with my prescription medication. So i still have bag that is checked in but I have managed to get it down to roughly 10-12kg…as opposed to putting my entire wardrobe in lol. I have more medications in my bag also.

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

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