Travel Around the World with a Carry-on Bag

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Why would anyone want to organise a 6-week holiday to la belle France and travel with an airline-approved, international carry-on bag as their only luggage?

I can hear you.

Is it even possible? Why would I want it to be possible?

Ask my ex. After all, my inexplicable desire to cram 45-odd days of living into a case designed as a weekender would have fit the bill perfectly as one of those, um, questionable qualities of mine which invariably drove him to distraction.

Me. Being organised. Being particular


It’s important to be compact. Considered...and a little bit crazy. Is it God – or the devil – that’s in the details?

Let's begin.

I start weeks beforehand, purchasing a few new items (lippy, mascara and chic stockings) which I know will stand me in good stead as I unpack my few delicious things at my destination. I polish my shoes. I repair my jewellery. I dry-clean my stoles and scarves. Minimal doesn’t mean meagre. I want lush. I want cashmere.  It's only a carry-on bag, so I bring only the best of what I have.

I consider the weight, function, practicality and versatility of every item being packed. Every gram of ‘what-the-heck, I’m bringing it’ translates into sheer ‘merde!’ when it’s being hauled up the inevitable 5 flights of stairs to that chic little apartment in Paris. Each ‘I-might-want-to-wear-that’ item bulges in the not-so-chic suitcase at peak hour in the Metro, screeching ‘tourist’ to every pick-pocket within cooee.


First, versatility. Think two colours. Maybe three. Whew! That’s the fashion side of things sorted. Did I mention that I like elegant, classic style? Don’t really do fashion. How many things can this black silk knit top go with? Seriously? It's coming.

Second, think natural. Cashmere. Bamboo. Cotton. Silk. Choose voile and lightweight knits.

Finally, think layers. Take a vacation from the chunky look when travelling. Too bulky and heavy to pack. The word 'luggage' is literally the noun of 'lugging'. Just sayin'...


Herein lies a definite quandary. Everyone knows that you can make so much more of your wardrobe with a change of accessories, but shoes - sadly - are difficult to justify for the lightweight pack. They are heavy, spiky (well, mine can be) and notoriously difficult to pack into a tiny space. No amount of trying to squish seven pairs of panties into the toes (the maximum) can warrant the unsightly mess that shoes make of expertly folded clothes. Gone are the days when you could try to make amends to your neat packing system by arranging toiletries into the arches and around the heels. Everything in Zip-lock bags now, remember?

So, back to black. One pair of dress heels (bien sur!). One pair of flat, uber-comfy, red ankle boots for fashionable walking – the winners! And the last pair? Hmmm. The woman in me wants heels. The sensible-me says flats, and the Libran-me wants to get out of having to make a decision. So, it’s into decision-land for the shameless shoe-lover. Some kind of purgatory...


Back into heaven we go. Scarves are the ultimate traveller’s friend. Lightweight, versatile and delicious, scarves can transform an ordinary outfit into sublime chic with a casual flourish. Wear a scarf around your hair, waist, neck, or on your bag. The thoughtful addition of a wrap to an ensemble can enable us to linger as the sun sets, and the air cools. Flung out over a cushion, they provide a reliable place for a siesta. And, of course, they are absolutely ‘de rigeur’ en France. For that reason alone, I must take five.


Per cubic centimetre, jewellery is heavy. Fact. Most jewellery is made of metal, stones (read ‘rock’), wood or glass.

This is where quality is definitely streets ahead of quantity, and diamonds really are a girl’s best friend. Seriously, though, a few carefully chosen pieces will serve you infinitely better than acres of bling - which is heavy, gets tangled, and which you'll probably grab and stash in the ‘just-in-case’ category. Think it through, choose well, and consider wearing your favourite, heavier items (as long as they are comfortable) on the journey.


Finally, pack everything everything else into plastic. Use plastic bottles, Zip-lock bags (excellent for jewellery, cosmetics, and digital hardware). This is the time to bring the miniature cosmetics and skin-care samples out. I even have a tiny red Estee Lauder lipstick that I keep for travelling!

Gather together all the things you are looking to take. Just feel how heavy they are.

Now, picture yourself (in the absence of some uber-cute homme helping you) lugging it all through the metro, and up endless flights of stairs, at the end of a 32-hour international flight. (I'm from Australia...). In isolation, individual items may not feel that heavy, but along with everything else (and I saw you pack that extra pair of shoes…) it’s no kind of a way to say ‘bonjour France’.

Sometimes, I do put my carry-on bag into stowage, so I can get my nail file and scissors through security (having had to bin my beautiful scissors at the security gate once), but I still choose to travel with a onboard bag for the sheer pleasure of moving around with it. If you doubt the advice that I'm offering, go park yourself at a train station at peak hour near the airport for 30 mins one day, and watch the strained faces of the delightful travellers arriving in their version of paradise.

Travelling with 30+kgs of baggage is just (not) fun. No matter how much you paid for the extra-light bag.

Comments 9

  1. Wow! This is amazing ideas. Well-written blog. Regards to the traveling guide on the things we must carry on our journey. I’ll save this one and sure to share this. Keep posting. Love it.

  2. Hi Louise, try as I might, I can never travel with just a carry on lol… I read your list and that’s even a little more than I take clothes wise so I’m in awe it fits and is ok weightwise in your carry on:) But most of all I’d love to know- do you buy stuff when you’re there? I always buy shoes, books, things from the brocantes… and makeup!:) I definitely need a suitcase coming home:)

    1. Post

      Hi Tish, thanks for your feedback. It’ll be fun testing my list when I travel again in 5 weeks time back to la belle France! Everything depends upon the weight and bulk of the fabrics, from my experience. I usually travel in Summer or shoulder season (in which case I’ll wear an extra cardigan and maybe a jacket on the plane) and I wash every couple of days in the apartment wherever I’m staying.

      I’m afraid I’m not a shopper at all. I pretty much never buy anything overseas, actually I’m a bit of a minimalist anyway – so that helps. I have the domain which I one day dream of turning my attention to, and have even been investigating tiny houses as a way of life – for so many reasons.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply to my blog post, I look forward to hearing from you again. Louise. XX

  3. Bonjour Louise
    I am an Aussie living in London, and I get to travel alot too. I just love your site and posts, please keep the beautiful pictures and great tips coming. Merci xx

    1. Post

      Hey, Lulu (love your name…my nickname!). Thanks so much for your lovely feedback. You are sooo lucky to live just across the channel from la belle France. I am insanely jealous! I plan to be putting up a lot more content in the future as I’m trying to make this my full-time- gig 🙂 Yay!

  4. Dear Louise,
    Just stumbled upon your site. I too only travel with a wheeled carry on and a backpack for Euro adventures. Had good advice on my first trip 20 years ago from my mother (moms always have good advice right?) to only bring what I was willing to haul over cobblestone streets and up narrow staircases. Over the years I have learned to pack even lighter. Friends are astonished I can pack so light and I have invited them to travel with me only if they can do likewise. I’ve come to love the destination and not so much having unlimited wardrobe options, so much less travel stress!

    1. Post

      Hi Amelia

      I’m definitely a bit of a minimalist, which you might gather from my other posts, so I have to agree. Anyway, that’s what cashmere, silk and linen were invented for. Lightness and incredible comfort. I’m not particularly fashion-conscious, so it’s easier for me, I guess. I’m working on a Travel Checklist at the moment, a tick-the-box-and-relax style of document, which I think many people will find useful. Any thoughts on what you would consider are must-have’s?

  5. Ready, set, go. You’re soon off to France! Lucky you. Hoping to join you next year. Dream trip indeed. Love, love your blog. I will take all your advice wisely. Wishing you a most wonderful and safe trip. I’ll join you this time through photos. Blessing to you every step of the way.

    1. Post

      Dearest Debra

      Thanks so much for your lovely wishes…I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you beside me on this journey. It really means a great deal to me indeed. You’ll be seeing all the spots we’ll be visiting next year on IG or FB. Until then, blessings to you, too, dear lady 🙂

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