The ultimate guide to stress-free packing that also saves you money


As a keen user and advocate of the Getting Things Done approach to stress-free productivity, I am always looking for ways of improving (that is making them simpler, easier and less stressful) the way I do most things.

For example, I hate the way hotels clutter up the limited space in their rooms with magazines, brochures, laundry lists, and many other things I probably don’t need. So the first thing I do when I get to my room (following the round of Twenty Questions at check-in) is to clear everything off the desk and tables into the bottom drawer (if there is one) or failing that the bottom of the closet, tempted though I am just to dump it all in the trash can.

So, imagine my interest being piqued by being asked to review an early draft of Erin McNeaney’s The Carry-On Traveller, The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, which is now available  (on Amazon in the UK and in the USA) for the price of a short bus ride or taxi fare. You will save many times this amount the first time you travel on an airline that charges you to check in a single bag!

Erin and her partner Simon are “digital nomads” who, for the last six years have been continuously travelling the world with their entire possessions strapped to their backs and have NEVER checked in a bag! As Erin says in the introduction “every time I whiz through an airport in ten minutes while others are crowding around the baggage carousel, every time I waltz onto a bus without worrying if my bag will emerge from the luggage storage at the end of the journey . . . I am convinced it’s the best way to travel“.

But this saving in time and hassle is nothing compared to what you’ll save in travel costs by not needing to check in a bag. Just look at the costs of checking in a bag on every major domestic airline in the US here or with UK airlines here. Erin’s book costs $4.99 in the US and £3.49 in the UK – that’s a ridiculously small amount compared to what one person could save on a single trip.

What’s in the book

The book is available for the Kindle and falls into five main parts:

Part 1 – Getting Started

Why would you want to do this? It’ll save you stress and money, time and back pain. It’s more secure and gives you greater freedom.

Why wouldn’t you want to do this?

Some basic principles need to be mastered, including:

  1. You don’t need as much as you think
  2. It makes no difference how long the trip takes – only pack for one week (unless it’s a shorter trip)
  3. Don’t take things just in case
  4. Buy it when you get there – this is especially important with toiletries as the airlines restrict you to 100ml per item in carry-on.

As do the individual airline’s restrictions.

Advice on what luggage works best for carry-on is provided.

Part 2 – What to Pack

This section provides advice on the best travel clothes with a section on women’s clothes and a (predictably) shorter section for men’s clothes.

If you’re heading for the colder climates, then there’s advice on what to wear.

Then there’s a section on toiletries, electronics (the longest section of the whole book!), miscellaneous and luxury items (if you must), and documents and money.

Finally, she tells you what NOT to pack!

Part 3 – Preparing for Departure

This section is about HOW to pack and for those with a GTD-sense of the world, her advice on packing organisers is really sensible. I’ve already started using packing organisers and they make packing and unpacking really easy and quick!

There’s a short section on overcoming any concerns you might have with what may seem a minimalist approach to packing.

Finally in this section, some advice on security and travel insurance. When you’ve got your entire worldly possessions on your backs (as Simon and Erin have), you can’t be too careful. But you previously trusted the airline with your bags and nothing ever went wrong there did it?

Part 4 – Interviews with Carry-On Travellers

Although I originally thought this was the least useful section, the advice from the wide range of travellers that Erin has interviewed helped me understand what would work for me.

Here you’ve got backpackers, retired people, those who want to travel in style, those travelling with a toddler, short term and long term travellers, a camper, a solo traveller, and an artist. Even if none of them is you, they all have elements of their lifestyle that will match some of yours.

Part 5 – Practical Help

Though this isn’t a titled section, this is where you’ll find some Final Words which contain one of the key lessons, not only about packing but checklists in general:

Write a packing list and stick to it – don’t panic and add extra items at the last minute!

I would add one further piece of advice, as with any checklist, if you decide on this trip that there’s something you need to take next time or, more importantly, that you don’t need next time, then make it a Next Action to update your packing list. In this final section, there’s a link to

In this final section, there’s a link to bonus packing resources to help you. Plus what Erin and Simon’s packing lists and other travellers’ packing lists. The latter are particularly useful as you may identify more e with them than the NeverEndingVoyage ninjas!

main-us-tortuga-osprey-farpoint-40-backpacksFinally, there’s a useful list of the airline’s carry-on restrictions but check these before you travel as they’re always changing (usually not for the better!)

As I said at the beginning, you’ll reap many times the cost of this book when you make that next trip without checking in a bag. Erin McNeaney’s The Carry-On Traveller, The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light is now available  (on Amazon in the UK and in the USA).

You can read an excerpt from the book on using packing cubes here and about the ups and downs Erin had when creating her first book here.

. . .  and if you want to know how I got on when I first travelled with carry-on only, read the interview with the lady who wrote the book at Never Ending Voyage.



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