One-bag packing hacks to change the way you travel

One-bag packing hacks to change the way you travel

    You love low fares, we love low fares. It’s why Jack’s Flight Club exists, and it’s why you’re here! If you’ve ever tried flying anywhere on a budget, you’ve no doubt run into low-cost airlines like Ryanair, easyJet, Spirit or Frontier. With fares that are often dirt-cheap, it’s hard not to be lured in…

    But when it comes to actually booking your flight, you quickly find out that these prices come with seemingly endless additional fees for things we used to take for granted. Sitting with your travel companions, having a drink (even water!), and—their top moneymaker—bringing a regular-sized cabin bag onboard can apparently be classified as true luxury these days.

    That’s where so-called “one bag travel” comes in. More than just a logical way of being tight-fisted and sticking it to the man by refusing to pay up, it’s become a whole way of life with a passionate online community. In fact, many travellers prefer the one-bag life, even when they don’t have to pay extra for a checked bag.

    I can already hear the cries of “that won’t work for me!” and “just pay up!” from through the screen. So, how on earth are you meant to pack for anything longer than just a couple of days using only a “personal item”?

    The community of minimalist packers over on One Bag Travel has most of the answers you could possibly want.

    Their example packing lists for different lengths of trip and destination are good for inspiration, but it’s the Carry-On Travel Backpacks section that is worth its weight in gold (or would be, if it weighed anything). It’s basically a comprehensive database of backpacks suitable for use on different airlines, including dimensions, capacity, user reviews and links straight to Amazon.

    Rummaging around the site, I also spotted an ‘Ultimate Guide to Packing for Carry-On Only Travel’. There are lots of handy pointers there to get you thinking practically before you pack, especially when it comes to being selective about the clothes you bring. That said, I personally draw the line at the suggestion of only bringing one pair of underwear!

    It won’t surprise you that many among the JFC team also like to travel light (or, in my case, resent the idea of paying for a full-size cabin bag!). Knowing that it’s something they do a lot, I asked them for their top tips on keeping those bags under control:

    Olivia: Collapsible everything! Only buy water bottles, Tupperware or household goods that you want to keep with you if they can collapse.

    You can find lots of “10 best collapsible water bottles” articles online, with options for all budgets. I’d recommend checking reviews for mentions of durability and leakage—the last thing you want is your one bag to be soaked through!

    Tara: Packing cubes/stuff bags!

    Absolutely no disagreements from me. Flight Finder Lauren swore by packing cubes to keep everything in order when backpacking across Europe, and I’d go as far as to say that packing cubes are now an essential part of my packing regime at all times.

    Regardless whether I’m travelling light or with a full suitcase, I rely on them to maintain some semblance of organisation. Even my giant, sturdy (absurdly neon) Herschel number gets the packing cube treatment these days!

    Flight Finder Kristi puts her somewhat superhuman packing skills down to her cubes, too:

    I'm very good at packing. We usually travel carry-on only, but even for our year of digital nomadding with two kids, we got enough stuff for 4 people for 1 year - from winters in Iceland to summer in Croatia - into 2 bags. One for clothes and one pretty much just for emergency medication! The key is packing cubes!

    Next step, packing the kids in the cubes?

    Andrea: This bag went viral, and now it’s on my whole family’s must-have list!

    I must admit, it does look like an especially smart solution for carrying a suit or dress that you don’t want to get creased in your bag. Not everyone is an expert in tight rolls!

    Lauren: I am obsessed with this Osprey backpack in 24l. I've never been able to fit more in a carry on than with this. And you can adjust this one for small people, so the hip straps fit properly and you don't get back pain. I got mine fairly cheap as apparently nobody wanted bright orange, so it kept getting reduced!

    And nothing to do with packing, but my larger Osprey comes with a built-in whistle, which I almost had to use as our only form of self-defence when attempting a sketchy group walk between airport terminals in Tanzania!

    Okay, bright colours might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re going to invest in a nice bag, you might as well take the discount! And the whistle definitely deserves some bonus points. Lauren isn’t alone in her love of Osprey, either, with Olivia and Robin firm brand loyalists.


    • Pockets = free storage and don't count as bags.
    • Wear a coat through security and stuff it full.
    • Wear combats/techy travel gear with leg pockets.
    • For your carry-on, get something rectangular that maxes out the dimensional allowance. I don't bother with wheels as the hardware takes up space. Do get shoulder straps, though.
    • Buy used bags on eBay way cheaper than brand new.
    • Don't be precious about outfits. Take gym/active wear type stuff that is quick drying. Wear one, dry one, rotate. Avoid socks.
    • Portable vacuum pack is your friend too.

    Stuffing your pockets definitely feels like something from the Joey Tribbiani school of packing! While I’m all about being cut-throat with my clothing choices, I’m really not convinced that I could go without socks. Too many cables, however…

    Drew: Two that I use a lot:

    • Remove the foam from a neck pillow and use the cover to fill with clothes
    • Most of my devices are USB-C now so I just take one cable. For anything not USB-C I have tiny little adaptors

    Even though the team’s tips seemed pretty comprehensive, I took to Reddit (r/onebag) just to check whether there were any other tips the gang were yet to discover. And actually, there was one in particular that I was sold on right away!

    Travel towels are typically made of microfibre, making them compact, lightweight and quick drying. Sounds good, until they don’t quite dry properly before you have to pack up, and they develop what can only be described as a stench.

    Overwhelmingly, Reddit’s one-baggers recommend Turkish towels, aka peshtemals. As well as making a great quick-drying towel, peshtemals can double as scarves or blankets if you get chilly on your travels, or be tied into sarongs or bags for beach trips. If that’s not a packing hack, I really don’t know what is!

    Are you a dedicated one bag traveller? How long can you live out of one carry-on-sized backpack? So far, we have reports from JFC members who have spent as much as 100 days travelling with just a single bag. If you think you can do better, get in touch and impress us with your skills—pictures and packing lists more than welcome!