Can a family of four (two adults, two kids) travel around the world with carry-on luggage only?
In 2006 our family traveled from New Zealand to Athens, Rome, all
around Italy, the med, southern and western France, Paris, the
Caribbean (Disney Cruise), Florida (Disney World), LA (Disneyland) and
Hawaii. For over 100 days. We had carry-on only, until Paris where
there was a "liquid explosives" scare and we had to check one small bag
with our toiletries, kids medicine and sunscreen.
If you have ever traveled more than two flights with kids, and/or had
connecting flights, you've learned that the time spent waiting for (and
then hauling) baggage can be really exhausting.
It was really awesome to breeze through airports with carry-on only.
Fast check-in, fast transfers, fast exit, skip baggage claim, skip the
queue for transportation (while everyone else is claiming baggage) - we
literally saved hours!
Here's what we took:
One carry-on size bag each, with wheels and back-pack straps
One belt-bag (bum-bag) each
A generously-sized "camera/shoulder bag" for each adult (most
airlines talk about "one piece" of luggage, but then the fine print
says you are allowed a hand-bag or camera-bag as well)
So for 4 of us: a total of six bags, plus 4 belt-bags, plus what we could personally wear.
NOTE: Our destinations were chosen to be warm climates. If you are heading for ice and snow, this article ain't gonna help!
The wheelies each had:
Casual clothes for 4 days - 4 shirts, 4 sets undies, 2 shorts, 4 pair of socks
One set of semi-formal wear - 1 shirt, 1 pants/skirt, 1 tie, 1 belt
Swimwear: 1 swimming shorts for the guys, a two-piece and a one-piece for the gals
One light "fold into its own pocket" shower-proof coat
Open footwear: 1 pair strong walking sandals
Anything else up to 1 pound (0.5kg) under the carry-on limit (which was 7kg in our case - about 15 pounds)
No, you don't need 5+ days or lots of "options".
This is casual wear for site-seeing, and the other tourists are looking
at the sights, not at you! Take turns to visit a Laundromat every 3-4
days for 1-2 hours first thing in the morning. Only once in 13 weeks
did we have trouble finding a laundry, and we wasted maybe 1 hour
finding a tourist office where someone spoke English and was able to
understand what we were looking for.
For the kids we had an extra rule: if you aren't willing to carry it on
your back, don't pack it. Turned out they only took about 5kgs each, so
that gave the adults a slightly greater allowance!
Note: if the airline staff weigh a 5kg bag and an 8kg bag, and there's
a 7kg limit, they generally let it go - they know you can just move
items about and get under the limit, and they generally don't want to
make other people wait while you mess about "balancing the load". So,
this worked out well for us.
The belt-bags each had:
Travel tablets (jet lag remedy)
Anything else that would fit
We personally wore:
One full set of "cool weather" casuals: long pants/jeans, shirt, underwear, socks, walking shoes
All the "what if it gets cold in the evenings" clothes: jersey and jacket basically
Heavy extras - i stuffed my jacket pockets with the my shaver,
the power pack for the laptop (oh yes - i managed to fit the laptop
into the "generous camera bag"), the power converter and adapters and
anything else that would threaten the carry-on bag weights. Of course,
once weighed, all that stuff could be taken out and put back in the
After weigh-in, we'd start to overheat, so some
of the items (jersey for example) would end up back in the carry-on
bag... just remember to put it back on if you see any bag-weighing
dudes up ahead.
The generously-sized "camera/shoulder bag" for each adult had:
Passports and boarding passes
Medicines (like aspirin)
Digital camera and video camera in one, small laptop in the other
Sunscreen (until this was banned by the no-liquids rule)
Books to read (purchased in airports and then either given away or mailed home)
Drinks especially water
Anything else that would fit
And there you have it.
As we gathered more stuff - like a different style of clothes for a
particular restaurant, or the kids' craft items from a resort kids club
- no problem, we'd carry those until the next flight was looming and
then scoot off to a post office and send a parcel box home. We sent
three quite large boxes of holiday junk home from France for example,
for a cost of about 15 Euros per box.
Finally, Disney got the better of us and we ended up bringing a Disney
suitcase full of shopping home with us - but all around Europe people
were amazed - and many commented to us - that we were able to travel so
About the Author
James R Powell is a semi-retired business owner currently living in New Zealand. His online pseudonym is usually jamesviago. James is passionate about travel, Disney and coffee - he is currently working on a website for coffee lovers at How-Do-I-Make-Coffee.com where you can learn how to make great coffee and what common mistakes to avoid.
oooh no, that's not my case. I carry a lot of things with myself anytime. I am the best in solving the "what if" situations But on the other hand, I don't carry more than 2 bags. One at my back and one at my shoulder.
Back then when we took a charter flight to Roma, my friend didn't have anything in the luggage room of the plane, only in her hands. I had backpack (she had her cosmetics in it too). But she had no sleeping dress and it was too cold there in February and I lended her my trousers and sweater I had also.
I lended the trousers to my another friend at festival where was the storm and she had her only trousers wet. Oh my. That's not my case
Very doable ... that how my son does it regardless of where he's travelling to ... my daughters and myself are a work in progress ... I like comfort ... would really simplify one's life though ... am forwarding to my daughters ...
Scott, I wish that I could travel with only a small clutch purse in my hand. I hate walking around with a pocketbook slung over my shoulder so I only use a small hand-organizer.
Anyway, sure, a person can travel with a small piece of luggage. All they do is shop for what they need in the country they visit. When they're ready to return home, sell all the stuff they bought to a thrift shop or something.