1) Where have you traveled with just a carry-on and for how long? We have traveled for the past ten years with only a carry-on bag as well as a smaller day pack. Some of the places we've traveled lightly to are: France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Austria, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Most trips were during our school breaks (we are early retired teachers who lived and worked in Japan) but our longest stint using just our carry-on bags was all summer long for ten straight weeks of travel. That summer break trip took us from Japan to New Zealand before we moved on to the southern U.S. We had to pack for multiple seasons and climates, which was a bit of a challenge.
2) What are some advantages or disadvantages of traveling with just carry-on bags? Do you think it’s worth it? The advantages, for us, far outweigh any disadvantages and it's so very worth it. We love the ease of cruising calmly past a crowded and chaotic baggage claim area. We don't have to endure the frustration of claiming lost bags, especially in a country where the language barrier is an added issue. We are able to easily hop on and off of various and sometimes precarious modes of transport such as planes, trains, buses, water taxis, tuk tuks, and ferries quickly and safely. One example we've experienced is getting on and off water taxis on the canals of the Chao Praya River in Bangkok. It can become especially daunting if you have tons of bags slowing you down. They wait for NO ONE and don't help you with your bags, so into the river you'll go if you are straddling the pier while struggling to heft your bag on board. We also find that, from living in Japan so long, the hotels there are very tiny and there is very little storage area in them, so having our small bags made our stay so much less stressful. We don't trip over each other's stuff because it's all contained and organized in a small space. Another nice financial advantage for us besides avoiding any check in baggage fees for budget airlines is the fact that if the airline needs volunteers to be "bumped" to a later flight, we can easily change our plans and do that since the airline doesn't have to hunt our bags down. As for disadvantages, there are only a few. After checking in at the airport, we have our carry-on plus a day pack to contend with while waiting for our flight. We can't move about as freely because we have extra weight to haul around. However, we usually remedy this by heading directly to our gate's waiting area, finding a comfy spot to park our carry-on and then we'll take turns "babysitting the bags" while the other goes off for a walk, to freshen up, or to find something to eat. Another minor disadvantage is that we know we'll need overhead bin space for one of our two bags so we can't wait until the last call to board or we may end up having to gate check our bags if there's no space left in the cabin.
3) What luggage do you use and what do you like or not like about it? We have tried using traditional backpacks for traveling due to recommendations from other travelers. However, after a couple of long walks with them (shoulder and neck strain-ouch!), we found that we prefer using rolling carry-on bags instead. I use a Jansport Cargo Hold 22" roller bag and I love it because it has two corner mounted oversize 5" wheels that are much more rugged than the smaller wheels on most bags. It handles beautifully on uneven cobblestone streets in Italy or on muddy dirt roads in Cambodia because the bigger wheels raise the bag off the ground a bit. I like to think of it as the SUV of carry-ons. I also love that it has compression straps inside and on the outside of the bag to cinch my belongings in even tighter. I have never had an issue with it not fitting into an overhead bin, unless it was on a very small regional jet. My husband uses the Travelpro T-Pro Bold luggage system. He has the rolling carry-on and the matching smaller day pack as well. He loves his luggage and especially the day pack because it has a strap on it that slips easily over the telescoping handle of his roller bag and secures it there on top so he doesn't have to wear the day pack all the time. All of our bags are a darker "army green" color because we have found that this is the best color to camouflage the dirt and grime that happens when traveling, especially in third world countries.
6) Have you traveled in cold weather and how did you pack for it? Our summer trip to New Zealand (our summer is their winter) required us to pack more thoughtfully. We left Japan wearing short sleeves, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand to cold blustery winds and rain, and proceeded to even colder weather and snow on the South Island. From New Zealand's frosty "summer" we flew directly to hot and humid Florida. To travel to these varied destinations while still using only our carry-on bags we knew that layering would be the key. We wore our bulkiest items like hiking boots and fleece jackets on the plane and packed away our thinner, more lightweight clothing and sandals. I tied my water resistant jacket around my waist and then repacked it later during the flight. It made getting through security a little more time consuming with taking off and putting on boots and jackets, but we had room for everything we needed for a multiple climate summer vacation.
9) What technology do you pack? I have my iPad and a small Sony Cyber Shot G series camera. Randy has his Sony Vaio Pro 13" super lightweight laptop, extra portable 1 TB hard drive and a 8 GB flash drive to store our important files. Everything is backed up on our Google Drive. We each have a small flip-phone (no iPhones for us) with SIM cards we purchase on arrival in each country.
10) Do you travel with any luxury items (something you don’t really need but you like to have)? Through trial and error, we have really streamlined our packing over the years but I still manage to drag along my electric InStyler hot brush. It is rather bulky and a bit of an inconvenience to make space for, but I haven't been able to leave it behind quite yet because my hair is a frizzy mess without it. I've tried those mini travel-sized flat irons but they take forever or don't work well enough for me. Another item that we both pack even though we don't always need it, is our Kathmandu brand large microfiber travel towel that we purchased for our youth hostel stays in New Zealand. They have been invaluable because they still look like new after many uses, they never smell bad, and they dry in only about an hour. We are currently using them during our condo stay in Thailand because only one towel was provided there and it's the heavy, thick kind that takes an entire day to dry completely.
12) How do you organize your things in your luggage? Do you have any tips for maximizing space? I use the Embark brand packing cubes that I purchased from Target. I have two large ones for my clothing (they hold a lot!) and one small one for my smaller electronic items like camera, cell phone, travel adapters, etc. Packing cubes are amazing because I don't have to dig around in my bag looking for an item. I just pull out the cube that has the item in it. As for space saving, we tightly roll our clothing items and I use the inside of my shoes to store a few pairs of socks. To keep my shoes from getting the rest of my items dirty, I wrap them inside shower caps that we find at our hotel. I also carry extra zip pouches or plastic baggies of various sizes for storing all other items so nothing small or loose can get lost. It makes it a breeze to quickly repack when customs needs to search our bags.