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The Ultimate Carry On Only Packing List

The Ultimate Carry On Only Packing List

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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.

*This post contains affiliate links.  By purchasing through these links, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you. That Texas Couple is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.  As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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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Michelle Snell-Founder That Texas Couple

About the Author

Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures.  While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time. 

Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple.  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.

Are you considering traveling with only a backpack? We do it all the time and love it. This post outlines how we make minimalist travel work. Check it out to understand the benefits of traveling with only a backpack. #minimalisttravel #backpack #travel
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