Two Countries, Two Weeks — One Carry-On Bag!

Back in June, I pledged to take the one-bag challenge for my trip to Eastern Europe. Now having returned from my journey — I am proud to report that I managed the entire trip out of one carry-on bag.

This saved me a lot of time because I didn’t have to wait in line to check the bag and then wait once again at my destination to pick it up from baggage claim. This also provided the added convenience of having everything on me at all times; in case I wanted to change out my shirt or grab an extra sweater.

Then of course, was the ability to move a lot faster…literally. When you aren’t struggling with a bulky suitcase or having to move a luggage trolley, it becomes easier to maneuver the crowds as well as enter and exit airport buses/trains quicker.

Packing for the trip probably took as long as it would with a regular suitcase because a lot more thought went into the little I could take. I considered the practicality of what I was bringing — especially with clothes. I had roughly four outfits that I could interchange and layer up depending on the weather. But, the trip was much less cluttered and therefore keeping track of all my belongings was easier. In past trips, I constantly checked and re-checked a room before I left it in fear that I had forgotten something. That wasn’t an issue this time because I had a very clear idea of EVERYTHING I had brought and knew exactly where it was.


There were a couple of challenges involved with bringing only a carry-on bag. The first is that my carry-on luggage comes in the form of a shoulder bag. After about 30 minutes of walking around with it, my shoulder began to ache. Having a bag with wheels in an airport is a huge benefit in this case. However, I was later walking down a lot of cobbled stone streets where wheeled suitcases would not have done so well.

I found that having one bag with you means you’re forced to wear your bulkier items whenever you’re in transit. This is a good idea, but unfortunately it is not as comfortable for the plane journey. I had a pair of Frye ankle boots that I had to wear at every airport junction because they wouldn’t fit in my bag. Moreover, they were a major pain to take on and off whenever I went through security. Lastly, I didn’t have the luxury of wearing sweatpants on the plane as it was more practical on my packing needs to wear jeans.

Helpful tips

There are numerous travel sites that will tell you rolling your clothes, as opposed to folding them will help you fit more into a suitcase and also keep them from wrinkling. I tried this out for myself and while i’m not sure how much more space I saved — I was impressed that my clothes didn’t need to be ironed after a ten hour journey in a small bag.

When flying on an airline you are usually allowed a personal item in addition to your carry-on luggage. Rather than just have my purse — I took a foldable canvas bag. The bag was able to hold my purse, two bottles of water, a magazine, an iPod, socks, eye-mask, chap stick, and sanitation wipes. My advice; don’t limit yourself to a small bag for your personal item.

One major benefit I had in this trip is after the first leg in Budapest; I was able to stay with my in-laws in Lithuania where I could do my laundry. But, even if I hadn’t been staying somewhere with a washer and dryer, finding a laundromat would have probably still been feasible.

Overall, the benefits outweighed the challenges considerably! I think for future trips I will continue to rely on a simple carry-on bag.


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