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11 Things to pack when travelling abroad with only a carry-on

Travelling only with a carry-on is a freeing experience that simplifies the journey. Once you get in the habit of forgoing a heavy checked bag, you won’t be able to look back.   

“Travelling with only a carry-on bag is the best way to travel,” CAA Travel Consultant Alyssa Uusitalo says, “The convenience of getting off the plane and not waiting around the luggage carousel is the greatest feeling in the world. It’s amazing the amount you can bring with just a personal item and carry-on bag.”  

Say goodbye to standing in additional lines and checked baggage fees or the stress of lost luggage. With just a carry-on, you don’t need to worry about others handling your bags or where to store your heavy luggage before you check in to your hotel. 

To help you pack, our travel experts share tips on what to pack when you only bring a carry-on. 

Shampoo bar

When travelling without a checked bag, you cannot bring a full bottle of shampoo and are limited by the amount of liquids you can pack.   

“All liquids need to be under 100 millilitres, including the container, regardless of its amount. Keep in mind that even toothpaste and mascara are considered a liquid,” agent Alyssa Uusitalo advises, “I make sure to pack all my liquids in the 1-litre bags provided at the airport, but we do provide them at the CAA stores as well when you book travel plans with us.” 

Travel restrictions do not limit shampoo bars and soap bars of any kind. Plus, they hold more uses than a 100-millilitre container of liquid shampoo. Packaging bars of shampoo, conditioner and soap will save luggage space for other necessary liquids.  

No matter your hair concerns or scent preferences, has a collection of many different shampoo and conditioner bars. CAA Members earn 5% back in CAA Dollars on purchases from 

Adaptor and chargers

Chalabala | iStock

“Charging cords are an essential item when travelling to ensure a means of communication and access to travel documents on varies devices,” Rachel Brooks, CAA Travel Consultant, reminds travellers.   

While you don’t want to forget chargers for your electronics, you should also have a universal travel adaptor so you can use said electronics wherever you visit. Universal adaptors are convenient as you only need one device that works in multiple regions. If you’re jet-setting to Europe, the UK, Asia, or anywhere else, you want to be able to use your various chargers. Many adaptors also have multiple ports to charge more than one device.   

You can find travel adaptors at some CAA Rewards Partner stores. If you’re a member, earn 3% in CAA Dollars when shopping online from Staples. 

Laundry strips

“Instead of bringing multiples of the same kind of clothing, bring some dry travel laundry detergent and a travel clothesline to keep things fresh,” travel agent Sharon Lewco suggests.   

Laundry detergent strips are lightweight and thin, so they are a major space saver, barely taking up any room in your luggage. The concentrated detergent is activated when in contact with water, so you can use them if you have access to a washing machine or hand wash a load in a sink or tub. Run out of socks or stained a shirt you planned on wearing again? No problem, you can clean some clothes wherever you’re staying.   

Tru Earth eco-strips laundry detergent is available in multiple scents or fragrance-free, and you can shop them on CAA Members earn back 5% in CAA Dollars on 

Disinfectant wipes

Sanitize airplane tray table
nycshooter | iStock

You come in contact with many germ-covered surfaces while travelling, from the airport and airplane to the hotel room and public places. While bringing hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes is also a good idea in your carry-on. For example, many of the dirtiest surfaces of the plane are ones you’re touching frequently.   

A CBC study found that bacteria, mould, and yeast are found on most flights, and the headrest is the most contaminated surface of the plane. The top five filthiest surfaces also include the seat pocket, the washroom handle, the tray table and the seat belt.   

Next time you catch a flight, bring out your sanitizing wipes and clean these surfaces as best you can. You’ll also want to wipe down dirty hotel surfaces like the washroom faucet and the remote control. 

Microfibre towel

Microfibre towels are lightweight, absorbent and fast drying, making them perfect for travel. The compact size leaves ample space for your clothing and toiletries, and bringing one along has many other benefits. Whether your rental is low on shower towels, you need to dry off after a swim, or you are looking for a makeshift blanket on a chilly plane ride, it will come in handy.   

Shop for microfibre towels online from SAIL and earn up to 5% in CAA Dollars if you’re a Member. 

Simple layers

Woman packing suitcase for travel
martin-dm | iStock

Less is more when packing for vacation (except for maybe underwear), especially when you have limited Less is more when packing for vacation (except for maybe underwear), especially when you have limited space. Layering is essential for weather changes. Bring lightweight, simple layers so that all of your articles match and they don’t weigh you down. Breathable materials and neutral colours go a long way.   

“Think multi-purpose for larger items like shoes and outerwear,” Sharon Lewco, CAA Travel Consultant, recommends. A light rain jacket is practical as it folds up small, and you can add multiple layers underneath for warmth if needed. 

Members can earn CAA Dollars when shopping online at multiple retailers including Roots, Joe Fresh and Lolë.  

Moisturizing balm

Planes, trains and automobiles; travelling around can make you and your skin feel dry. You’ll want to bring moisturizer with you when jetting off on a big trip. If you’re someone who moisturizes daily, the travel liquid restrictions really limit how much cream or lotion you can bring. So, it’s handy to find a moisturizing balm that doesn’t fall into the liquid category. It can be used anywhere on your body, from your face to your legs, so you don’t need to pack multiple products.  

You can find moisturizing balms online at, where CAA members earn back 5% in CAA Dollars. 

Water bottle

carles miro | iStock

Sitting on long dry flights, adventuring all day, relaxing before bed — staying hydrated while on holiday is necessary but not always convenient. Drinking water can help you avoid headaches and fatigue, as well as flush out toxins.  

When you bring your own bottle, you can be eco-friendly and save money by filling it up at refill stations available in many airports. It also keeps liquid colder than plastic alternatives, especially when travelling to hotter climates. Plus, having the bottle handy is a great reminder to take a sip.  

You can shop for different water bottle brands at Gear Up, saving 10% in-store and online, and from SAIL where you can earn up to 5% in CAA Dollars, with your CAA Membership. 

Packing cubes

“I pack all of my clothing in packing cubes as it saves so much room. I find I can pack twice the amount of clothing when I use packing cubes,” agent Uusitalo advises, “I also roll all of my clothing in the cubes as I find it makes everything more compact.” 

Not only are packing cubes a space saver, but they allow you to separate clothes by type, so items are easier to find. This makes unpacking and re-packing a much quicker process. You can also isolate dirty clothes so anything you haven’t worn yet stays fresh and clean.  

CAA Members can earn up to 5% in CAA Dollars when shopping for packing cubes from SAIL, and earn up to 10% when shopping online from Decathlon 


Summer Relaxation. Woman Reading, Relaxing On Beach. Summertime
puhhha | iStock

Forget about bringing bulky hardcovers when you’re packing just a carry-on suitcase. Electronic readers and books can hold thousands of books and take up very little space. Whether you’re lounging on the beach, relaxing before bed or are on a flight without a screen, it’s nice to have a form of entertainment nearby that doesn’t take up much space. Plus, you don’t need to decide what you want to read before your trip; tons of books are at your fingertips.   

Staples sells both the Kindle and Kobo brands of e-readers and CAA Members earn 3% in CAA Dollars when shopping online.  

Face mist

Long travel days can not only make your skin feel dry but greasy too. Airplanes don’t have much moisture, and travelling can be stressful; your skin produces excess oil to compensate for both. Face mists can give you instant hydration on the go, plus a cool face spray feels super refreshing mid and post-flight.   

There are many face mists out there, and the best one depends on your skin type. You can shop for face mists at Sephora, and as a CAA Member, you can earn 5% back in CAA Dollars.  

All packed and ready to go?

CAA Travel Consultants can help you book your next epic adventure. Book an appointment today to start planning.  

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