Real life one bag travel – 7 reasons why one carry on bag is essential for frugal travel

Hi Frugalistas!


One small bag makes life so much easier and cheaper

Anyone who looks at my blog will see that I post alot about packing light, and specifically one carry on bag only travel.  So why is packing light, and just taking one carry on bag so important to me?  What’s it got to do with frugal travel anyway?  Well, here are my 7 top reasons why one carry on bag is essential for frugal travel:

1.  Airlines

Budget airlines are obviously a boon for the frugal traveler.  But regular users of budget airlines will also know that they can charge crippling fees for excess or even checked baggage.  One carry on bag will often get you around these problems.

Even full service airlines are often stricter with baggage limits.  If you love a good shop when you are traveling that can be risky.  Pack light to start with (even if you take a bigger bag and don’t fill it) and you can shop to your heart’s content knowing you won’t get any nasty surprises.  Paying excess baggage is not frugal.

Don't forget your small containers for light and frugal travel

Don’t forget your small containers for light and frugal travel

2.  Using public transport

It’s just common sense that if you want to get your bag onto a bus or train you need something you can easily lift and store.  Even luggage racks on airport buses can be small, and often storage racks on trains are limited.  You need to be able to lift your bag up onto the bus, and up onto a train – for trains in Europe that can be as high as 3feet (just on a metre).  The lighter and smaller your bag is, the easier all that is.

Nowhere to put large suitcases

Nowhere to put large suitcases

In a busy commuter train in France recently there were no luggage racks (it was a suburban type train).  The train was packed, with every seat taken and people standing in aisles.  My small bag was small enough and light enough to balance on my knee without getting in anyone’s way – impossible with a full size bag.

3.  Smaller hire/rental cars

If you want to drive, it obviously makes sense to book the smallest car you can manage with, if saving money is your goal.  Not only will you save money on your rental/hire costs, but obviously your fuel costs will also be significantly reduced.  Take smaller bags, and you need a smaller boot/trunk – and save money!

4.  Budget hotels

This is a particular issue in Europe.  Budget hotels often have tiny or even no lifts.  That makes them hopeless if you need to lug a heavy suitcase up stairs or try and fit them into tiny lifts.  Doesn’t it seem crazy to have to book a more expensive hotel just because you carry a big suitcase?

A typical European winding staircase

A typical European winding staircase

5.  Shopping

Most of us love to do some shopping when we travel.  Even if it is just some gifts for friends and family.  If you only take one carry on bag, you’ve got wriggle room to fit into the luggage allowance – and to be able to manage your load!

6.  Tipping

If you can carry your one small bag yourself, you don’t need to tip.  Good, huh?

7.  Traveling with children

If you are traveling with children small carry on bags make life much easier.  Even quite young children can manage their own wheelie bags if they are small.  Or adults can manage two small bags.  A small wheelie bag makes wrangling toddlers much easier than a heavy, full sized case.

So, are you convinced?  Carry on bags make frugal travel so much easier!

Related posts:

My packing list

5 common packing mistakes and how to avoid them

A kid’s one bag packing list for the tropics

One bag packing list for winter

One bag packing list for Europe in the spring


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12 Comments on “Real life one bag travel – 7 reasons why one carry on bag is essential for frugal travel”

  1. Lynne in NC 25/06/2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Jo~ for these seven reasons (and obviously more) I love subscribing to your blog.
    Your posts are well thought out and very insightful. We are able to glean great tips and advice from your travels. Thank you!
    All four of us are hand carry only and it is so helpful when navigating planes, trains and automobiles at home and abroad.
    As always, your post is so timely as we begin our summer travels here in the States.
    All the best!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 26/06/2013 at 8:39 am #

      Thank you so much Lynne, that’s very kind of you. Best wishes for happy, and frugalfirstclass summer travels!

  2. Don Nadeau (@DonNadeau) 27/06/2013 at 7:01 am #

    Excellent post. Totally agree with every point and have, with little exception, been traveling with one bag for years. If only travelers knew how very liberating this is.

    So can more easily fit into the space available, I highly recommend a bag without wheels. Frankly, after sitting while traveling, it’s good to have a little extra exercise if you are physically up to it.

    One bag also increases your security. On trains and buses, a second bag is often stored out of sight. What goes on top of a rural bus may be gone by the time you attempt to retrieve it. I know people who can vouch for that!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 27/06/2013 at 8:07 am #

      Yes, I agree. Must admit I do like a bag with wheels, but appreciate those without are lighter and have better storage capacity. One of things I like about one small bag is that it so much easier to keep your belongings near you. I also choose a coloured bag (never black) because it is more instantly recognisable – my current one is that claret coloured one in the post.
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

  3. The Hack 27/06/2013 at 7:55 am #

    You know where I’ve learned to pack light…my involvement in the Boy Scouts. Not only do I pack light, I make sure everything i pack is something I can handwash and will quick dry.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 27/06/2013 at 8:08 am #

      Yes, packing things you can easily wash and dry quickly is key to successful one bag packing.

  4. Anita Mac 12/07/2013 at 5:18 am #

    You make such a good point with the public transport point. Even with van pick ups, smaller has its benefits. I brought too much gear on a recent trip. Not only was it a pain every day to load it in and out of the van, but like you also suggested, carrying it up and down the stairs at the hotel and cottage rental was a right pain in the butt! Had way too much stuff and not enough hands on that one. You’d think I would have learned from years of travel. Sometimes I think I forget my head!

  5. contentedtraveller 20/03/2014 at 6:47 pm #

    I am going to a 1 bag policy. I/Gordon have found it to be too hard this time, or not fair when Gordon has to lift it onto to trains etc as I can’t. When we get home from this trip I am going to pack one bag for next and leave it somewhere safely – just in case.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 20/03/2014 at 7:19 pm #

      Yay! Lifting cases onto trains in Europe is not easy. As a solo traveller much of the time, I don’t have a Gordon with me, and you can’t and shouldn’t expect to have a Knight in Shining Armour to rescue you and your heavy bag.

      Go one bag Paula, and I guarantee you will never go back!

  6. Jen Miner 04/05/2014 at 11:47 pm #

    OMG, Jo, I am RIGHT with you. I’m a travel blogger too, and the last time I checked luggage was…I think 9 years ago. Yes, Air France lost it, somehow, in between Paris and Florence (though it made it across the USA and the Atlantic, explain that one). My spouse, kids and I always have one suitcase and a backpack now, every tingle time. Never waste a couple of your precious travel days hunting down your missing suitcases!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 05/05/2014 at 6:18 am #

      Thanks Jen. Yes, while I didn’t cover it in the post, losing your luggage is definitely an expense you don’t need. Whether it’s having to buy clothes or toiletries to cover the loss, or just the loss of time chasing up with airlines etc, losing your bags has a cost attached.


  1. Real life one bag travel – man’s packing list for Europe | frugalfirstclasstravel - 27/07/2013

    […] Why packing light is essential for frugal travel […]

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