Our First ‘Carry on Only’ Travel Experience

Day Zero – Carry on only means stressing about tiny little details, what to cut and what to take! 7kg’s per person feels ambitious. And the response from friends and family when we tell them we’re travelling around the world for 12 months with carry on only is always one of shock – which reaffirmed our suspicions – carry on only for this length of time would be challenging.

There were serious debates about aqua shoes – do we really need a third pair of shoes each (to go with Teva’s and flip flops)? They’re heavy and we’re still 0.5kg per pack over our weight allowance, but we hear corals can be sharp on the feet. Hmmm… we cut Mum and Dad’s pair. However, there was no debate about this behemoth – whilst critical to our planning, it stayed home on the shelf.

What else? Bug spray – it’s heavy and we have a lot. We’re not sure of the quality abroad and how expensive it is and our budget is tight! During last minute hair appointments, Anne’s hairdresser gave us a top tip of some quality bug spray that’s readily available in Bali – Soffell. We cut quite a bit – and you know what? She was right – we now wish we’d left all that expensive mozzie repellant back in NZ and picked up the just as effective version from Bali, you can find it everywhere for around NZ$2 per bottle. Another 0.5kg saved.

What 7kg carry on only looks like!

We all cut a t-shirt each, I dropped a rash top and a pair of socks (who needs socks in 30 degree heat?) and we culled the chargers down to a minimum and bingo – we’re only a few hundred grams over the limit for each pack – prepared to do some serious repacking to make things work if Air NZ decide to put us to the test and weigh the lot (the packs did look suspiciously heavy, especially the way Phoebe was carrying hers; like a turtle with a house on her back!).

The final last-minute purchase – I reluctantly agreed to a semi cool shoulder bag from Kmart (the kids fondly refer to as fanny packs), but I’m so far from cool to makes no difference really. Emily and Lexie also have one of these – handy for exploring Bali (Emily’s our resident paramedic – carrying plasters, lip balm, hand sanitizer and hand wipes), but most of all, great for taking weight from our packs should we need it.

Sound tight?

7kg carry on only packing items

Yes, but no, actually not tight at all as it turns out. Air NZ didn’t give us a second glance – so far so good. Five nights in and we’re not missing anything at all that we would have padded out a few heavy suitcases with. And there’s still plenty of room for the travel trinkets we might pick up as we go.

Here’s my top 3 carry on only, way-too-early winners and losers items list.


  1. Shoulder bags – they go everywhere and let the kids look after some of their own stuff, greatly reducing the ‘Mum, can I have my lip balm again’ type requests.
  2. Power bank – we’re surviving with one phone and it’s already saved us getting caught out, keeping the battery alive to get us a Gojeck home, saving a very long, hot late night walk.
  3. Universal travel adaptor – it keeps all the wires in the same place, has 3 USB ports, and does it all and best of all, it’s a tidy. Keeping everything charged is a god send to overcome 3am wakeups from jetlag!


  1. Excess clothes – I have too many shorts (2 pairs, is 1 too many), Anne has 2 linen shirts (also 1 too many), Emily has too many t-shirts – we just didn’t need them all and overnight laundry in Bali is NZD $1.50 / kg overnight.
  2. Water filter – our accommodation provides clean drinking water (although being paranoid on Bali belly, I filtered all the drinking water for the first 2 days anyhow).
  3. Compact rain jackets (LOL). We’re travelling on the shoulder seasons in Bali so it’s a bit cheaper (and turning out to be a lot quieter) – rainy season starts in November, but so far so good!

The bonus item, although not packed, is the eSIM from Airalo – we set it up before we left NZ and much easier than looking for a SIM card when you land!

We’ll keep you all posted on what’s working and post our packing list when we finally recover from the jet lag (more on that soon).


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