7 Ways to Luggage-Free Travel (Yes, It’s Possible)

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Frustrated man trying to open locked suitcase with screwdriver

How realistic is no luggage travel? For the obsessive packer, the thought of going baggage-free might seem daunting. But traveling light with just a carry-on can be gloriously liberating and make for more enjoyable travel.

Traveling light and forgoing checked bags is the go-to travel style of many travelers. Taking only a carry-on with the bare essentials allows you to move around quickly and freely. You’re less restricted from luggage holding you back from spontaneity.

Many cultures, like the Japanese, swear by minimalist living and its many benefits. So, why not transfer such a positive philosophy into your approach to travel? Whether you’re after clutter-free travel to welcome a less materialistic mindset or you’re after avoiding the extra cost of checked baggage, you can benefit from a luggage-free trip.

But how does one travel with only a carry-on or just the clothes on your back? Is traveling without luggage possible? Does baggage-free travel mean you can’t bring anything (not even necessities like a toothbrush)? 

How does the practice fare compared to traditional traveling? Is it a convenient way to say goodbye to baggage claim at the airport, and enjoy a more stress-free and liberating travel experience? Or are you setting yourself up for a massive headache? Here’s everything you need to know. 

The 3 Different Types of Luggage-Free Travel 

A woman with a backpack staring beholding a lake

While traveling luggage-free means bringing absolutely nothing for most people, the practice differs among travelers. Some travelers, especially the braver ones, don’t flinch at zero luggage travel. Others take a milder approach and bring bare essentials in their pockets or a day bag as a carry-on bag. 

This way, luggage-free travel must not be likened to simply packing smart. While packing smart offers you the privilege of traveling with a few extras, this type of travel encourages bringing no extra baggage, which means you’ll be on a path of complete hassle-free travel.

It’s a completely legit way to travel to any destination. Breeze past baggage claim at the airport with just a small carry-on backpack or nothing more than your boarding passes and a personal item or two, like your mobile phone! Here are the three types of ways you can travel light on your next trip.

See Related: The Travelers Guide To The Best Places to Buy Luggage

Absolutely Zero Luggage

A man zero luggage traveling

In this type of luggage-free travel, you travel with only the most crucial essentials like your passport, mobile phone, wallet, and clothes on your back. It’s one of the most radical forms of baggage-free traveling. 

Zero-luggage travel is excellent for travelers looking to break free of lugging around luggage in order to more easily act on spontaneous traveling decisions. Globetrotter Jonathan Yevin is famous for traveling to many countries this way.

While his travel stories are aspirational, one cannot help but be intimidated by them. Can anyone try zero-luggage travel? The truth is, not just anyone can. 

Those traveling with zero luggage will encounter many challenges wherever they might be headed. For example, when you’re traveling to more than one destination, you might come across different climates. In hotter climates, you’ll struggle with maintaining adequate hygiene. In cold weather, you might need more preparation to battle the elements.

See Related: Essential Solo Travel Luggage & Accessories

Pocket-Only Travel

A man storing an iphone in his pocket

The less-radical version of zero-luggage traveling. If you’re wondering how to travel without checked luggage, this is the best way. Pocket-only travel is still limited but allows you to travel with more stuff than going with nothing.

Travelers who go this route usually don outfits with multiple pockets and storage spaces like cargo pants and vests. While others bring a small backpack with only essential stuff, other pocket-only aficionados can fit an entire backpack’s worth of items into their pockets.

However, stuffing enough items into your pockets to equal what you would pack into a travel backpack anyway does beg the question of whether this can be considered ‘luggage-free travel.’ It’s a thin line, but having items spread out in pockets does mean you’ve still got the freedom of not having a back on your back or strapped around your shoulders.

And while pockets afford more space than zero-luggage traveling, they still limit the items a traveler can bring. So, it’s still a minimalistic approach to travel.

See Related: The Best Travel Backpack For Europe: Top Picks

Day-Bag Only Travel

A woman with a day bag

This is the easiest to do, even for non-seasoned travelers. With day-bag traveling, you must fit everything in one tiny day pack.

While this may ruin the definition of traveling luggage-free, day bag traveling may be interpreted as travel without checking luggage – ergo, luggage-free. 

The practice only requires walking around with a small day bag with everything you need. This may include a change of clothes, a few toiletries, and some medicines. 

See Related: Best Travel Backpacks & Carry-On Options

How to Travel Without Luggage

1. Make the Most of Technology

Woman holding a cellphone

Consider your smartphone to be your most valuable travel buddy in luggage-free travel. From storing boarding passes to keeping important documents, your smartphone will be your go-to!

Before your journey, download helpful travel apps to make your next trip more convenient and comfortable. Get the Kindle app to replace bulky books and Genius Scan to quickly save receipts.

For booking accommodations, download the Booking.com app to keep all bookings in one convenient spot. This makes such valuable information ready for quick reference rather than noting them down in a physical notebook. Other useful apps that can also do this for you include HostelWorld and VRBO.

2. Choose Practical and Versatile Clothes

Running shoes splashing on water
I T A L O / Shutterstock

A luggage-free trip requires you to only bring one pair of shoes or travel sandals and continue wearing that same pair day and night. With that said, your choice of footwear is very important. 

With your destination’s terrain and weather in mind, select shoes that will efficiently protect your feet from the elements. Remember, most travel requires a lot of walking, so make sure your choice is also comfortable. 

  • Zhuanglin Quick Drying Water Shoes are exceptionally lightweight and great for walking and running.
  • Teva sandals are extremely durable and dry quickly after getting wet. 
  • Skechers walking shoes, especially those with Go Walk technology, offer outstanding comfort if you walk for hours. 
  • Merrel’s shoes are a great option for rough terrain, thanks to their high-performance rubber soles and superior breathability. 

In the same respect, you’ll also want to find clothes that are versatile enough to wear for any occasion. TACVASEN’s convertible shirt can transform into a long-sleeved and a short-sleeved shirt, so you can quickly adapt to different climates. It has a breathable back slit, multiple pockets, and a mesh lining. 

3. Buy or Borrow

Thrift shop

If you’re traveling light with only the bare essentials, you’ll quickly discover the need for replacing items along the way. Baggage-free travelers must buy or borrow certain items to make their travels more comfortable.

Luckily, the world is full of shops and stores where you can get everything you need. You can grab a pair of flip-flops when you’re heading to a beach or hit the thrift shop for a warm hoodie or some summer shorts.

Unsurprisingly, money is essential to the baggage-free traveler, who mostly relies on currency to compensate for his lack of items. Travelers not looking to splurge can find absolute steals at certain thrift shops, or you could borrow instead. Ask a fellow traveler for some toothpaste or hit up a friend in the area to borrow a jacket.

Otherwise, if you want to opt for a hybrid attempt of no luggage traveling, you can ship luggage ahead of you before even leaving. This is a great way to test the waters of this type of lifestyle to see if it’s right for you.

See Related: Monos Luggage Review: Is it Worth it?

4. Choose Travel Gear with Pockets 

Women's KUHL Freeflex Cargo Shorts
KUHL / REI.com

If your travel is pocket-only, you’ll need strategically located pockets to carry around the items you choose to take with you.

Thankfully, you’ll easily find a seemingly endless selection of brilliant travel gear with spacious pockets for your favorite travel accessories. Some companies, like ScotteVest, specialize in developing this type of gear.

Here are some of the best travel clothing for pocket-only travelers:

  • SCOTTeVEST Women’s Travel Hoodie: This sleek sweatshirt features 18 pockets to hold everything you need, including documents, gadgets, electronics, and other handy accessories. 
  • OCHENTA Men’s Casual Military Cargo Pants: These cotton cargo pants come with eight pockets: four at the side, two at the back, and two hand pockets. They’re made from rip-stock fabric, which is super durable and comfortable. 
  • Gihuo Men’s Utility Vest: While it’s mainly used for fishing, this cotton-polyester vest does a great job of keeping your valuables safe. It features multiple pockets for convenient organization and is lightweight, so it is perfect for those summer months.

Be on the lookout for clothes with secure pockets to lower the risk of theft. On the same note, have travel insurance for unforeseen events! Use visitorscoverage.com to scour the web to find the best possible comprehensive travel insurance plan that can keep you and your valuables protected against the unpredictable nature of travel.

See Related: VisitorsCoverage Review: Is It Legit?

5. Layer on Extra Clothes

A man skiing during winter

No luggage travel will have you traveling mostly with only the clothes on your back. In this case, you may want to consider layering. A zero-luggage traveler may want to consider wearing a vest, a long-sleeved shirt, and a t-shirt underneath it.

If you’re a pocket or day bag traveler, consider bringing extra socks, underwear, and a spare t-shirt. You can use these spare clothes while your others are drying after a wash.

6. Mail Souvenirs or Extra Gear

Red Mail Post
Michael Derrer Fuchs / Adobe Stock

Many people wonder, “Can my luggage travel without me?” Remember, you can’t use an airline service to send your stuff to a destination without you. Regulations prohibit an airline from transporting luggage without its passengers across international borders

But you can post it! Airline luggage fees can be costly, so many of today’s travelers try to save money by mailing their stuff to their destination instead.

For example, those traveling from warm to cold climates can ship their warm clothing to their first cool destination. This requires you to make a pre-arrangement with the hotel you plan to stay at. 

Different companies have different luggage shipping prices. For a cheap luggage shipping rate, it’s best to go with a company that can quote you a price over the phone. Moreover, ensure they can pick up luggage from your home for a good price and then ship them overseas.

Similarly, going luggage-free doesn’t mean you can no longer buy souvenirs. If an item interests you so much that you want to take it home, hit the local post office and mail it home. 

7. Utilize Local Storage Facilities

Storage Units and boxes
Seventyfour / Adobe Stock

In the past, when traveling for an extended period of time, I’ve utilized local storage facilities to store my bulkier winter items if taking a mini-trip to warmer climates. If you know you will be coming back, you can leave your winter coat and other warmer items behind and just pack the bare minimum for that beach getaway.

With a good snoop around, you’ll find that many places will offer this service to tourists as well as locals. It just takes a monthly payment to keep your items in storage until you return.

I’ve not even got a whole unit; some storage facilities will provide a box storage service, which can really help bring down the cost. The cost of this can vary, but I’ve never paid more than about $8 a month to keep a few items in box storage.

Companies like NannyBag are a good place to start looking for luggage storage facilities. You can store items at a NannyBag facility for up to one month, but I’ve found facilities that allow you to store goods indefinitely if you need something more long-term. So look around for a service that suits your travel needs.

What Challenges Will You Encounter with No Luggage Travel? 

A group of travelers in Georgia

1. Say Goodbye to Little Luxuries

The most obvious difficulty you’ll encounter in luggage-free travel is the limitations of what you get to take with you! There’s the inability to access much of the stuff that makes traveling more comfortable and convenient. For some, this is liberating; for others, it’s a nightmare.

You’ll have to leave your 8-step skincare products at home, and you’ll need to think twice about bringing a travel camera or those extra pair of fancy shoes ‘just in case’ the opportunity might arise to wear them.

Zero luggage travel requires you to commit to a minimalist life, but don’t fret. You’ll get way more in terms of experience!

While you won’t travel with as many luxuries, this means you’ll have less to lose! If you’ve ever had to deal with lost luggage, you’ll know it’s a bit of a headache. While utilizing travel insurance plans from the likes of SafetyWing to cover a lost bag is helpful, it’s much easier to avoid the issue altogether with no bag for airlines to lose in the first place!

See Related: SafetyWing Review: Is It Legit or a Scam?

2. Hygiene Might be an Issue

Not packing self-care items like soap, deodorant, and a selection of clothes to wear between washes may wreak havoc on your hygiene. This is especially true if you’re visiting warmer destinations.

The only toiletries you’ll be able to use are those that you borrow or buy. I’ve often created more space in my bag by borrowing items like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at the hotel. This not only saves space but money, too!

Many travelers also get around the hygiene issue regarding clothing by either hand washing and hanging items up in their room or finding a nearby laundromat or coin laundry. You may be able to do this only if you layered clothes as you’ll have something to wear while you clean your other clothes.

See Related: Honest Away Travel Toiletry Bag Review: Worth the Price?

3. You’re Limited to Destinations with Consistent Weather

The difficulties of traveling luggage-free become more apparent when visiting countries with erratic or varying weather. With almost no change of clothes, dealing with sudden weather changes can be challenging.

For example, a luggage-free trip to Japan may present challenges as the climate varies significantly from north to south. Or, if you jump from one side of the equator to the other, you could be leaving warm, sunny skies for snow and frostbite.

Of course, you could always buy as you need and save money by opting for bargains at thrift stores, but it’s still an extra expense. If you’re not prepared to buy or borrow gear, this form of travel is not for you. 

4. You Might Raise Suspicions

Your lack of luggage may raise suspicions among government officials and travelers alike. Jonathan Yevin, who traveled Latin America in zero luggage mode, told a story about how he was questioned by immigration agents at airport security. They were particularly interested in how he intended to wash his clothes when it may lead him to ‘run around the country naked.’

However, there’s nothing legally wrong with luggage-free traveling, and you won’t be breaking any rules. If this is an issue or you haven’t done this before, consider shipping your luggage and bringing your receipt.

Choose a proven luggage delivery service that will help you have the same experience of claiming luggage even before going on your trip. This is no longer a thing solely for luxury travel or golf clubs. This is becoming more and more common, given the low cost of shipping around the world.

FAQs

Is it cheaper to fly with no luggage?

Pretty much every airline charges extra for checked baggage. Moreover, the heavier your checked baggage, the higher the price to check it in. So yes, traveling with no checked luggage or just going with carry-on bags is cheaper than traveling with a checked bag.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter whether you’re going on an international trip or domestic; it’s still cheaper to travel light with no luggage.

Does no baggage mean no carry-on?

Zero baggage and pockets-only travel means no carry-on bags. This is the type of daring travel I’ll personally leave to other travelers.

The lightest I’d ever pack is opting for a small backpack for the essentials in a carry-on. While it’s a bit of a stretch, this way of travel is still considered ‘no baggage.’ Technically, there’s no checked baggage involved, and you are only traveling with the bare minimum.

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Lisa Ward
WRITTEN BY

Lisa Ward

Lisa Ward is a travel writer based in Jersey. She loves hiking and adventure travel and has hiked to Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu, as well as through Patagonia and up several volcanoes across the world. Lisa cycled down Death Road in Bolivia, went canyoneering in Costa Rica, climbed canopies in Honduras. That school trip to Honduras sparked Lisa’s interest in the underwater world. She has since undergone basic training in biological research concerning marine conservation, most notably that of coral reefs. She is a PADI qualified Rescue Diver with a specialty in underwater photography. So far, she has dived in Jersey, Honduras, Indonesia, and the Great Barrier Reef.

After gaining her law degree and falling into the world of finance, Lisa gained a qualification in digital marketing before deciding to take the leap into writing full time. Lisa is also a trained English Language tutor with a TEFL qualification and specialty qualifications in teaching online and 1-1. Other interests include playing the clarinet, which Lisa played in orchestras from the age of 10 to 19, martial arts (black belt in karate), and quite literally anything outdoors.

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