The Minimalist’s Guide to: Carry-on Travel

The Minimalist’s Guide to: Carry-on Travel

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know Alex and I are spending the first week of July in British Columbia. You’ll also know I do quite a bit of traveling (we were in Banff in October and Hawaii in February), which is why I’m kind of surprised I haven’t done this before, but:

This is the first time I am taking a full vacation with just a carry-on. 

Normally, for a beach vacation I wouldn’t think twice about this (bathing suits and tanks hardly take up any space), but last time we took a summer trip to BC it was 25 celsius in Victoria and 5 in Whistler. Needless to say, you have to pack creatively for both the summer heat, the unavoidable rain, and the potential for a light dusting of snow when you’re traveling along the west coast.

Anyway, I’ve finally done it and I truly don’t think I’ll ever go back to a full luggage. For one, you save time and money. And, perhaps more importantly, it reminds you why you’re even traveling in the first place: to experience new things, meet new people, and learn about other places; you don’t need your whole closet to do this.

So here are my tips on how I packed with just a carry-on + personal bag when you’re packing for (potentially) all seasons. If you have any other tips, please drop them in the comments below!


Hard-case carry-on

I bought myself a hard-case carry-on that’s airline approved for over-head compartments. It allows me to pack items on both sides while holding its shape. I bought mine on sale at The Bay for around $70 (on sale from $275)


My personal bag is always a backpack. It’s easy to carry around, and Alex and I generally try to get as much hiking + walking in as possible, so a backpack is always ideal.

Since we’re going to BC where the weather is unpredictable, we’re also bringing a waterproof backpack cover, similar to this one here.

Luggage organizers

These organizers have totally changed how I pack. I bought this adorable pink cactus set off Amazon. The pack comes with six different organizers including: 3 mesh cubes, 1 underwear bag, 1 draw-string bag, and 1 flat bag. Everything I need fits into these cubes, and it’s so easy for me to keep things organized while I hop from place to place during my trip.

minimalist carry-on travel tips


Capsule wardrobe

I’m all about the capsule wardrobe. It’s perfect for traveling, as I can mix and match pretty much anything to create day outfits appropriate for hiking and sight-seeing, as well as polished outfits for dinner.

Here are some of my must-have pieces of clothing when traveling – all of which I’m bringing to BC:

  • 2 pairs of shoes: a pair of black runners and a pair of black slip ons
  • 1 pair of hiking boots
  • 4 pairs of pants: 1 pair of black jeans, 1 pair of grey jeans, 2 pairs of leggings
  • 2 pairs of shorts: 1 casual, 1 pair of black workout shorts
  • 3 jackets: a neutral active-wear jacket, a leather jacket, and a thin olive military jacket
  • 1 thick black zip-up sweater
  • 6 casual tops: A couple basic tees, a couple cami-style tanks, etc.
  • 6 workout tops: 2 tank tops, 2 plain black moisture-wicking tees, 2 sleeve hoodies
  • 1 black shift dress + 1 black jumpsuit

I can mix-and-match any of these 27 pieces to give me a unique outfit day and night, while being prepared for both the warmer weather in Vancouver + the cooler temps up in the mountains. To save some space in my carry-on, I wear my heaviest pieces on the plane (it’s so dang cold in there anyway!)


Three words: travel-sized everything. Also put off buying some things at home until I see what our hotels offer, and then hopping into a drug-store to get anything I may need.

minimalist carry-on travel tips


I love make-up, but I generally don’t fuss with much when I travel. Aside from mascara, powder foundation, and brow powder, I’m bringing a multi-stick with me by Nudestix. It’s a lip, cheek, and eye stick all in one. It’s one of the best make-up products I’ve ever bought, as it looks natural, but is multi-purpose to bring you from day to night.

And there you have it! Of course I’ll have my camera, a couple books thrown in there somewhere, and some cold weather accessories, but that’s the gist of it. What are some of your travel-light tips? Have you ever traveled with just a carry-on, or would you be willing to try it?




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guide to carry-on travel

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