wikiHow to Travel With One Bag

Two Methods:Packing ChecklistTraveling with One Bag

Travelling with one bag can help you avoid numerous troubles. Airline fare wars, spiking fuel costs, lost luggage that never made it to the baggage claim: it's been a rough couple of years for air travel. Unless your trip is highly specialized, or requires carrying certain items, traveling light will ensure that you can avoid checking a bag and will be able to keep track of your own stuff.

Packing Checklist

One Bag Packing Checklist

Traveling with One Bag

  1. Image titled Travel With One Bag Step 1
    Choose the right bag. Your choice will evolve as you consider what you need to put in it, but consider:
    • Size: The largest that airlines will allow as a carry-on is a good starting point. Consider a bigger bag if you need to carry extra items such as winter clothes, gifts, a computer, or a fancy camera. Go for a smaller one if you want to carry the bag long distances.
    • Weight: Some airlines weigh carry-on bags before you board, so try to make sure that most of the weight comes from what's inside, and not from the bag itself. Avoid the need for expensive extra-light materials (such as the ridiculously priced titanium luggage) by choosing a simple tough, floppy nylon bag. Avoid heavy and bulky extending handles and wheels and opt instead for a bag with a strap, or, preferably, much more comfortable and unrestrictive, one with backpack-type straps.
      • Big, easy to carry, durable and modestly priced bags are especially important to soldiers. Try a "giant duffle [sic] backpack" from a "tactical" store for checked baggage (the cylindrical girth and somewhat bigger length maximizes permitted volume, and the stowable backpack straps preserve mobility); or a maximum-carryon-sized boxy-shaped backpack. The color selection may be limited, but black is generally available and may helpfully avoid a military appearance in travel out of of one's own country.
    • Storage: Multiple pockets help keep things organized. Pockets accessible from the outside provide convenient access to travel paraphernalia such as an inflatable neck pillow or other sleeping aids and snacks, without unpacking or rummaging through everything else.
    • Extra space: Your choice of bag may evolve with your choices for its contents. It should have just a little room for extras, not so much that the carefully packed contents shift around in transit.
      • A nylon or light synthetic canvas shoulder bag that folds into a little pouch is a great backup to have on hand in case you decide or happen to accumulate souvenirs. If you have at least some self-control, size it to avoid an airline bag fee by being, say, a modestly sized "personal item" to complement your carryon. (The previous personal item like a purse or laptop bag could go in it.)
      • If you must have two bags, try a relatively light rolling duffel and a carry-on sized backpack to maximize mobility and weight 'off' your back. An airplane "personal item" such as a purse or laptop bag, or even the backpack, can ride on the roller's handle.
  2. Image titled Travel With One Bag Step 2
    Determine which items are really necessary. Ask yourself what you need to function day-to-day, or which items will dramatically improve your traveling experience. At the relevant destination, could any item be feasibly rented, borrowed or bought (and not kept to bring back)? Gather only the absolute essentials. Here's a short list of items that you might need to bring:
    • Three changes of clothing (at most). Perhaps more socks, underwear and shirts than pants. (Consider packing synthetic fabrics, which are lighter, fold up smaller, slide past each other readily rather than distorting piles, and dry faster––especially for pants, where any difference in feel is less noticeable.)
    • Toiletries, such as a toothbrush, floss, soap, shampoo, razors, and anything else you need for grooming. See below for more information about packing toiletries.
    • Medical items that you currently require, such as medication, bandages or eyeglasses.
    • Any charge cords or other accessories you need for your phone, laptop, or other electronic items.
    • Shoes, if you'll need a pair besides your traveling shoes.
    • Empty water container. A bottle will do. A flexible "hydration pack" can expand to hold more and is more convenient to carry when in use, but if the main bag is a backpack, check that the hydration pack can be comfortably carried when full along with it.
    • Empty plastic bags. You can put dirty clothes in them until washing to keep them from contaminating the clean ones. They should be clear so they aren't confused with trash and thrown away. Try produce bags.
    • Laundry detergent for washing by hand. Put a few scoops of powdered detergent in a plastic sandwich bag if you're going on an airplane. An inexpensive, lightweight, and long-lasting alternative is to carry a bar of laundry soap.
    • A portable clothesline (available at any camping or travel goods store).
    • A universal sink stopper (a flat rubber disk, available at any hardware store). A rubber ball can be an alternative, but check that it doesn't tend to float and is large enough so as to not risk falling in.
  3. Image titled Travel With One Bag Step 3
    Pack with a technique that uses as little space as possible:
    • The bundle method. Wrap clothes around large and/or semi-delicate objects (such as bags of toiletries, pairs of shoes, or electronics), rather than folding or rolling clothes. Stuff underwear and socks into shoes to save space and to prevent crushing shoes. The bundle method saves space and also reduces wrinkling.
    • The rolling method. Pack only those things that you really need and use rolling method to pack clothes; it saves a lot of space. Roll each item of clothing into a tight cylinder. This saves space and minimizes wrinkles. See how to roll clothes for details.
  4. Image titled Travel With One Bag Step 4
    Manage toiletries. Buy toiletries in miniature sizes, or transfer liquid contents like shampoo into smaller travel bottles. You can buy travel-size toiletries at most big-box stores, or simply save the small ones you get at hotels.
    • Put toiletries that could leak (shampoo, gel, etc.) in plastic bags to avoid the hassle of having your clothes covered in liquid soap. If you use bar soap (which can substitute for other forms of soap such as shampoo and shaving cream), get a ventilated holder for it so it doesn't turn to mush through use and storage.
    • For quicker trips through airport security, try to use solids rather than liquids. Shampoo is available in solid soap-block form and even single-use sheets. Check at a backpacking or outdoor store for more options.
    • Alternatively, purchase toiletries at your destination to avoid security issues. They may even be cheaper, depending on the currency.
  5. Image titled Travel With One Bag Step 5
    Try to leave electronics at home. Minimize the number of items in your bag that require electricity, especially those that need to be plugged in continually rather than briefly to recharge, as converters can be costly and space-consuming.
  6. Image titled Travel With One Bag Step 6
    Mail home or give away items not necessary for traveling, such as finished books or souvenirs. Trading books is a great free way to keep your travel library fresh and can net you some interesting new friends as a result of the exchange.


  • Label your suitcase inside and out; luggage tags can get ripped off in baggage handling machinery. Glue a note to the inside of the case lid (or put one in an inside pocket) with your address /phone details. Do this too, with luggage taken onto the plane with you.
  • Plan to dress in layers, especially if you anticipate changes in the weather. For example, you could wear a sweater with a shirt underneath.
  • Pick neutral colors so your outfits are easier to coordinate.
  • Even if you're checking one main bag, be sure to take one change of clothing and all your important items (documents, prescriptions, etc.) with you in a carry-on bag, in case your checked luggage is delayed or lost.
  • Take photographs of your travel documents and credit cards, and keep these photos securely online, as well as leaving copies with family. You can retrieve online photos from an Internet cafe or hotel business center, or using room internet access. That way, if anything gets stolen, you will have the information when reporting it.
  • Pack prescriptions in their pharmacy containers to avoid problems with TSA.
  • If you're bringing a purse, try to fit it in your larger bag. That way, you'll have fewer pieces to lug around.
  • Roll your clothes and pack them into plastic bags with the air removed by a vacuum. Use the plastic bags later for dirty clothes or souvenirs.
  • When traveling in a group, share common items (shampoo, detergent, books etc.).
  • Pack shoes at the bottom of the case, heel to toe and wrapped in a plastic bag; this helps weigh down the end, and acts as ballast to the case, esp. if it has wobbly wheels on. Oil the wheels before use, with a dollop of Vaseline.
  • Consider taking an e-reader, as this will take up much less space than any books you might have taken.
  • If you're travelling abroad and taking any type of electronic device, be aware of differences in electricity outlets so you can be ready with the appropriate converters/plug adapters.
  • Most youth hostels have laundry rooms and most hotels have laundry services, if you prefer not to wash all your clothing by hand.
  • Consider fast wicking (drying) layers of expedition clothing. These clothes are light, designed for frequent washing, have high durability, and are rated by "zones" for specific climates.
  • If the trip is longer than a few days, you may consider doing what certain travel writers do: take only the essentials with you on the plane and ship everything else to your final destination (if possible). Buy insurance to cover any damage your stuff may incur when it is shipped.
  • You can simply pack medicine and grooming products and plan a 'shopping' trip when you arrive. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and 2nd hand stores can often be a fun adventure in the quest to create a wardrobe for less then the price of checking a bag. This also works well for unplanned weather.
  • Put your clothes in first, then put in your toiletries. It will save a lot of extra room. If you're taking nightwear, pack it so it's easy to access (just below the toiletries) so you don't have to unpack your whole bag when you arrive at your accommodation.
  • Don't take the entire guidebook . Photocopy or use print outs of the pages you need.
  • When packing, make sure to put your shoes and toiletries in separate bags.
  • Photocopy your passport and keep it safe in safe at hotel, walk around with copy of your passport or driving license only. Keep important records at home and use photocopies whenever possible.
  • Never leave your bag unattended.
  • Try storing your shoes in a shower cap or plastic bag. It keeps the shoes from contaminating other luggage, and you can wash off a shower cap later.
  • Take photographs of your important documents and keep them online, retrieve them whenever required.


  • Try to avoid putting valuables in any checked bag. Bring valuables onto the plane in your carry-on bag.
  • If you are prescribed a number of different medications and are traveling to another country, make sure that you contact customs both at your starting destination and at your ending destination to find out if there are any regulations concerning your medication. Try to get whatever they say you need in writing. Start this process as early as possible; if there are doctor certificates or permits that are required, they may take some time to get. Some countries can be slow to respond and you do not want to have your trip postponed or try to take your medication in that country illegally. Do not pack your medications in your checked bags; pack them in clear zip lock bags with any necessary documentation and carry them yourself. Do not carry medicine in unmarked or wrongly marked containers; make sure they are all in the prescription containers they came in.
  • While travelling to different country make sure to find out if they have any regulations regarding your prescribed medications.

Things You'll Need

  • One bag
  • Lightweight gear and clothing
  • Travel documents and funds
  • You need to carry money and your travel documents.

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