Avoid baggage fees with these 5 tips to travel carry-on only

Dragging around a fifteen to twenty kilogram case or pack definitely has its disadvantages. From taking on the backbreaking weight to trusting that budget airline with all that you own, carrying everything with you can start to look pretty good. Or taking full advantage of that $13 flight on Ryanair from Edinburgh to London means you have to avoid baggage fees and not check a bag.

But traveling with carry on alone is a challenge, especially when you’re looking at weeks, if not months on the road. For those of you thinking of doing away with the suitcase and compacting your crap into a carry on load, here are five tips to help you out.

For US travelers: know that unlike in the States, many international airlines will check both the size and weight of your carry-on as well as your checked luggage.

Don’t pack toiletries.

In this you really don’t have much of a choice. Every airport you will be going through has pretty hefty restrictions on its liquids and gels. Finding airplane friendly bottles and refilling them as you go is a good alternative, as is simply buying once you land. Or even better, go liquid-free! Never heard of shampoo and conditioner bars? Learn how Jess does it here. 

avoid baggage fees cosmetics

Pack a bar of soap.

It’s time to get all ‘washerwoman’ up in here. Not only will a bar of soap eliminate the need to always be on the hunt for compact shower gel, but it will also help manage your limited clothing supply. Now remember, there was a time before washing machines, and now it’s your turn. Scrubbing down your clothes with soap in sinks and hanging them wherever you can is pretty standard hostel behavior, and one of the ways so many backpackers manage to travel with only a carry on. Dr. Bronner’s soap is great for this – can wash your body, hair and clothes.

avoid baggage fees soap

Wear your thickest clothing.

Donning leggings under pants, wearing multiple shirts and sweaters and even just tying that big coat around your waist is a must when it comes to compacting everything into the one backpack. If you’re starting out somewhere warm and eventually moving to colder climates, commit to buying the big wooly numbers while on the road. It might look silly, but if you want to avoid baggage fees, bundle up!

avoid baggage fees layers

If you can, pack just one pair of shoes.

Shoes will always take up the most room and weight in any bag. So try to find a pair of shoes that are multipurpose; like boots that are sturdy enough to walk in but can be still worn out on the town. Ideally, you should be wearing your main pair of shoes on the plane, with no more than flip-flops squeezed into the bag stored above you.


No books, laptops or iPads.

Next to shoes, these items will make or break your carry on. As much as you might think you will read a whole new series on your trip, it’s quite common for visions of reading to simply get away from you. Remember, if you really end up struggling, you can always buy books on the road (or bring one book and look for book exchanges along the way). Similarly, you may think your laptop or iPad is another essential you can’t do without, but between your phone and the computers at most hostels or hotels, you will find you barely need these extra kilos.

Note: Jess, on the other hand, devours books on the road, but also skips the extra weight and relies on audiobooks from Audible on her phone. Check her reading list here.

avoid baggage fees books

What are your tips to avoid baggage fees?

How do you avoid checking bags on your travels and keep bag fees down?

Post written by How Dare She contributor and fellow darer, Sarah Ison.

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Founder of How Dare She, Jessica is on a mission to visit every country in the world, and bring you along with through photos, video and stories. 6 continents and 98 countries in. She has a BA in journalism and Master's in innovation and change, but her real skill is plugging in a USB in 2 or less tries (most of the time). She believes daring isn't about being fearless, but choosing to opt in, in spite of fear. She dares to see, taste, experience and meet the world as she goes.