How I Use a Single Carry-On Bag to Travel Lighter

Ever since I did a video blog of my laptop bag, I have wanted to do one on my current carry-on bag. However, after watching George Clooney in Up on the Air, I was inspired to see if I could ditch my laptop bag and get everything into one carry-on. I even found a web site called “One Bag” that is devoted to this concept. Thankfully, my MacBook Air has made this possible.

So six weeks ago, I stopped carrying my laptop bag—at least on overnight trips. In fact, I am only using a separate laptop bag when the trip is longer than two nights. This may sound trivial, but traveling with just one bag has made a big difference for me. I arrive at my destination more rested, without the stress of keeping up with two bags.

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I demonstrate how I pack my carry-on in the video above. However, I thought it might be helpful for me to describe my process in case you would rather read than watch.

  1. Start with the right suitcase. I use the Eagle Creek Travel Gear Tarmac 22 Carry-on. I love all their products, as you will soon see. I bought this bag several months ago after Chris Brogan recommended it. It has multiple compartments and makes very efficient use of the space. It is the best overnight bag I have ever owned.
  2. Pack your dress clothes. I pack my shoes first. The Tarmac 22 even has a sealed compartment for them. This protects your clothing if your shoes happen to be soiled. I then carefully fold my suit and dress shirt, wrapping them in the thin plastic I get back from the dry cleaners. This keeps fabric from rubbing against fabric, dramatically—though not entirely—reducing wrinkles.
  3. Pack other interior items. I then pack my underwear, pajamas, belt and a Philips goLITE Blu Light Therapy Device. (I have written about this last item here. I use it for 30 minutes a day during the winter months.) I use an Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Quick Trip for my shaving bag.
  4. Pack an electronic cables bag. I use an Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Half Tube Cube. This is what I use to put my MacBook Air power cord, mini-DVI to VGA convertor, mini-DVI to HDMI convertor (for newer projectors), KeySpan “Easy Presenter” Remote Control for clicking through slides (along with a spare battery). When I speak, I just hand my laptop and this bag to the production tech, and they have everything they need to get me set up.
  5. Pack an in-flight bag. I use an Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Quarter Cube. I store this on the outside flap of the Tarmac 22, along with my bag of liquids. This makes it easy to get to at security, at the gate, and in-flight. Inside the bag is a Verizon USB760 Wireless Modem (which I wish Apple would build into the Air like they have done the iPad), a Kingston 16GB Data Traveler flash drive, MagSafe Airline Power Adapter, Shure Noise-Canceling Headphones (various models are available), a few snacks, and over-the-counter medicines.

You may be thinking, what about workout clothes and running shoes? I generally don’t take these unless I am going to be gone more than a day. If I do, I plan my wardrobe, so I can get by with one set of dress shoes and pack my running shoes instead. The Tarmac 22 has plenty of room for the extra clothes.

Also, I use the Belkin Black Neoprene Air Sleeve for Macbook. It provides protection from scratches and is very low profile.

Note: Thanks to Nancy Duarte and her magnificent team at Duarte Design for creating my new video intro and outro. I love the work they do!

Question: What tips and tricks have you found that make packing and traveling easier? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Jesse Mutzebaugh

     Brilliant idea with the dry cleaning bags!
    It’s funny – packing for missions trips is WAY different than packing for business. Thanks for the tips!

  • Bill Martin

    I like this idea. Option of traveling with one bag makes the trip easy. The benefit of one bag means less luggage to lug around and fewer chances of your luggage getting lost. Thanks for the nice article.
    cheap flights to paris

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  • Kikipotamus the Hobo

    OMG, that is SO sexy. Being able to travel light is the most freeing feeling! Thank you for sharing the names of all the bags you used to do this. My conference is this weekend, so it’s too late for me to get this bag in time for that, but I see a Tarmac 22 in my future. ;)

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am still using it and still love it!

  • Allen Sweart

    very nice blog
    Negozio Orved sta offrendo i suoi servigi a molti suoi clienti di molti anni e ha assicurato di

    provata del suo meglio. Orved negozio offre applicances migliore cucina e molte cose per molti anni ai

    suoi clienti.

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  • Royce Phillips

    What a great post.  I travel so much on business and really want to get down to one bag.  You offer practical advice and product suggestions – I’ve got to try this!  Thanks!

  • Bfa654

    Excellent advice! Thanks for sharing.

  • Christopher Battles

    Thank you Sir.
    I currently do not travel, but still found this informative.

    K, bye

  • Leon McKee

    Just got my hands on the new-for-2013 Tarmac 22. I got mine at the local REI and they only had 1 available. I’m pretty excited as I did not care for the design of the last version (the version just after this review). Here’s some info from the press release I found online:

    The frequent flyer’s choice for lightweight travel functionality has been upgraded with new organization features, as well as Bi-Tech™ and Bi-Tech™ Armor weatherproof fabrics to withstand any travel adventure.

    Tarmac 22 (EC-20428) MSRP $290
    Capacity: 2450 cu in; Weight: 7 lbs, 4 oz; Size: 14 x 22 x 9 in
    Expanded: 2675 cu in; Size: 14 x 22 11 in
    Tarmac 25 (EC-20429) MSRP $320
    Capacity: 5125 cu in; Weight: 9 lbs, 2 oz; Size: 17 x 25 x 12 in
    Expanded: 5750 cu in; Size: 17 x 25 x 14 in
    Tarmac 28 (EC-20430) MSRP $350
    Capacity: 6600 cu in; Weight: 10 lbs, 8 oz; Size: 18 x 28 x 14 in
    Expanded: 7625 cu in; Size: 18 x 28 x 16 in

    • Lockable quick stash 3-1-1 pocket contains:
    o Coat Keeper™ securely holds outerwear to luggage
    o Key fob with Porter Key™ bottle opener
    • Detachable Cargo Net provides versatility for internal compression or attaches to outside of bag as a Utility Net
    • Built in durability:
    o Bi-Tech™ and Bi-Tech™ Armor fabrics for extreme abrasion and weather-resistance
    o Ultra rugged wheels with sturdy wheel housing, skid plate and bumper protection
    o Travel-tested recessed handle system
    • Padded exterior pocket (22” size with additional padded tablet sleeve)
    • Expandable main compartment adds 15% more packing space
    • #10 lockable, self-repairing zippers with finger friendly zipper pulls
    • Multiple padded grab handles on top, side, and bottom for easy grab and go
    • Reflective accents for dusk and nighttime visibility
    • Integrates with the Pack-It™ System, suggestions included
    • Color: Black, Olive, and Slate Blue

  • Gary Thomas

    I discovered the OneBag web site several years ago and it transformed the way I pack for my trips. I purchased the RedOxx bag that is recommended on the web site. And I started packing my clothes the way he describes. I once went on a 6-day business trip to Vancouver with just the single bag (carried on the plane) and probably a small backpack. Trips 3 days or less it is just the bag. But the RedOxx bag is overkill for a one-nighter. I might look into the bag you use for those trips. I haven’t checked a bag on a work trip for years. Vacations? That’s another story.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Jacqui Wilson

    This weekend, I am headed to a conference to speak.This was right on time. I will definitely try this. Bless you.

  • Mike Gosnell

    Michael, I just recently found this & went out immediately and bought the bag from REI. I travel almost every week and it has been valuable. Only thing is that apparently Eagle Creek has made a new addition since you and Chris have posted these videos. The inner pockets on the lid are no longer there and you have to purchase the “Pack It” Shoe Sac separately. None the less, great bag.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I wish EagleCreek still made the one I bought. I get asked about it a lot.

  • Blanca V

    You continue to amaze me! This is such a helpful video. Last trip, it was difficult checking a bag and taking a my rolling laptop bag on board. I’m checking out this bag. Thanks a million.

  • Hugh O’Donnell

    Thanks, Michael. The most valuable suggestion here for me is to get rid of the extra briefcase that’s mainly for the laptop. I’ll work on it!

  • Brad Wegelin

    Good stuff! I roll my socks and put them in one shoe, and If I’m wearing a tie, I roll it neatly and put it sideways in the other. The shoe protects the tie from being crushed, damaged, or wrinkled by other objects in the case.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great tip!

  • Neville Sarkari

    I actually use an Eagle Creek Tarmac ES 20, and I can get everything I need for an overnight (or 2) and it will fit in the overhead of most regional jets too (sometimes with a small shove). I also have the 22 and 25 when needed. Great choice!

  • luismboc

    Love it. One-day trips are rarely a challenge, though. I try to keep it to one bag up to whole week. yes, get some wrinkles here and there, but easy to fix at destination.

    A few suggestions: try stuffing socks and underwear into the shoes; it’s a hollow space that goes unused otherwise; use the ‘cleaners’ plastic bags usually found in the wardrobe at the hotel to pack your shoes in case they are soiled. Suit jacket: I prefer to turn them inside out and the stuff shoulder the way you do…if something spils, it’s on the inside of the jacket, nobody will ever know.

    Also, risk of getting everything into one bag is that sometimes airlines run out of overhead compartment space and they make you check in the roller bag at the gate (urgghhh!). Need to have a backup plan for that scenario.

    Haven’t taken much toiletry with me lately, besides razor, hair gel, tooth brush/paste, deodorant. Everything else, they typically have at the hotel (usually in the room or complimentary at the front desk, if you ask nicely or are frequent traveler).

  • TorConstantino

    This was FANTASTIC! The suit coat fold demonstration was awesome. I’m in the market for a new carry-on and was considering Tumi but I’m sold on Eagle Creek – thanks so much!!!

  • Philip Kilpatrick

    I’ve used my iPhone for mobile wifi using tethering for a couple years now and it works well. Michael, I know you’re pretty tech savvy so there’s got to be a good reason you don’t do that. Can you share it with us?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I wrote this post back in 2011. I use mobile tethering now. Thanks!

      • Philip Kilpatrick

        Thanks Michael – makes sense now!

  • Bruce Turner

    I fly every month to the home office of Christian Care Ministries in Melbourne, Florida. For 5 years my old Swiss Gear 20″ Pilot has served me well but it was past time to replace it. Your article and video could not have come at a better time for me. I ordered my Olive green Tarmac 22 last night and can’t wait for its arrival. I also ordered one of the Eagle Creek, Pack-It Starter sets as well. With this bag, I feel like I’m ready for the next 5 years. Oh… and my Acer C720 Chromebook will ride nicely in that padded tablet sleeve on the front. Thanks Michael!