Ditching checked-in luggage is a game changer 

In July 2023, I departed for a long awaited, long planned for, seven-week solo trip to Bali – with only 7kg of carry-on luggage.

After years of single parenting my three kids; from enduring sleepless nights, nappy changes and months of breastfeeding; to kinder, primary school and high school; to years of driving countless children to and from parties and sports practice and part-time jobs; to watching hundreds if not thousands of football games, crickets games, lacrosse games, swimming carnivals and sports days, and enduring one incredibly painful dance season; to completing year 12 four times (only one of these was for me); cooking dinner at least 300 times a year – year in and out; teaching three teenagers to drive; and so on, I declared to my young adult children that 2023 was all mine. 

I was off to Bali on my own – all alone, solo, with no-one else, unencumbered, with nobody, sans kids, sans anyone, simply … sans. 

My idea was to live and work in Bali to get a taste for being a midlife digital nomad. My aim was simple – I wanted to simplify my life. 

I planned to base myself in Ubud for five weeks where I would indulge in daily yoga, eat well and write, and then devote the last two weeks of my trip to tick off a very big Life List goal – learning to surf.

The aim of simplification was important to me. I was desperate for quiet. For peace. To remove everyone’s access to me. To stop having to make decisions for everyone else. To simply be. Simple.

Keeping things simple meant removing possible obstacles and stress for the travel experience. This included trying to minimise the high anxiety of arriving in Bali – of not knowing which queue to join; whether I had the correct visa; finally finding the right queue and standing in it for hours; to getting through customs, which always feels terrifying, as I wonder whether anyone could have slipped a boogie bag worth of Mary Jane into my luggage; to waiting and waiting and waiting for my luggage at the carousel (again worrying about the drugs); to walking into the arrivals hall to be met by hundreds of drivers holding signs and calling out … my heart palpitates just writing this. 

To minimise this stress, I engaged a concierge service to arrange my visa (with the promise of being able to extend it for me as I was staying beyond 30 days), allowing me to bypass at least one queue, and then being walked to an arranged driver. Lovely.

The final hurdle was what to do about my luggage. I was going to be in Bali for seven weeks and would be enjoying a range of experiences from an overnight hiking trip up an active volcano on Lombok to yoga to surfing to working. Surely this would require around 20kg of checked in clothes, shoes, books, my computer, a gazillion power cords, bathers, undies, beach towel, toiletries, sunscreen, hat, hiking boots, my puffer jacket (for the overnight trip on the volcano), etc, etc.

Things started to feel a little stressful again. Post COVID – at a domestic level – I had already experienced multiple delays waiting for checked-in luggage to be delivered to the carousel. My worst nightmare was a 65-minute wait after a flight from the Gold Coast to Melbourne. What would an international experience be like?

When I dug a little deeper and checked the data on lost and mishandled luggage post COVID – things got worse. The 2023 Baggage Insights report from the aviation company SITA reported a massive 75 per cent increase in mishandled baggage in 2022, with 26 million bags being misplaced. That’s 7.6 bags for every 1000 travellers. International travellers were hardest hit with 19.3 mishandled bags per 1000 travellers. According to a report from Compare the Market, a third of all Australians have lost their luggage while travelling.  

Checked luggage was suddenly a hard no for me. It was time to cull 20kg of checked-in luggage down to 7kg of carry on luggage – to ensure I travelled light and experienced a seamless, stress free (or significantly stress reduced) trip.

My five luggage rules for seven weeks in Bali – rules that I now live and die by for a full carry-on experience regardless of the length of my stay – are:

  1. only pack what I can’t buy at my destination
  2. only pack one of everything except undies and socks
  3. wear all the heavy or bulky items on the plane (for Bali this included my hiking boots and puffer jacket)
  4. invest in a Kindle 
  5. find a great local laundry. (In Bali, the Mae Mae Laundry was at my doorstep in Ubud, providing a next day full laundry service for 20,000 IDR per kilo. That’s $A2.)


Could you travel with only carry-on? Would you want to? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Travel packing essentials

Kate Christie
Kate Christiehttps://www.katechristie.com.au/
Kate is the best selling author of 5 books including 'The Life List'. She is a time management and goal setting expert, global speaker, corporate advisor and coach. With a passion for helping you master the time you have to live the life you want, Kate writes about travel, health and wellbeing, productivity, navigating the highs and lows of midlife, and how to ensure you live your absolute best life - right now.


    • The problem is people with oversize(never checked by staff) bags and multiples including handbags etc. Its a joke and SHOULD be policed more stringently. At a guess lots would be over the 7kg limit.!!! I only go carry on. 1 bag under 7kg. Trick is to use lightweight bags to fit more weight in. And yes buy essentials where going. Laundries are cheap and quick.

  1. We have just returned from 5 weeks in Europe visiting countries that are hot and ones that are cold. On a flight from Dubrovnik to Vienna in Economy we were last to board as had aisle seats. (window, middle, aisle boarding) There was no room in the overhead locker so we asked the hostess what to do. We were told we had to put our hand luggage in front of our seats. We are both tall and had a backpack and a bag both regulation size and weight. Above my seat the locker to cater for 9 seats was full with 4 pieces of luggage. All oversize and most probably overweight. We are both tall and did what was asked but in retrospect I should have asked who owned the big pieces of luggage and told them to put it in front of them. It clearly would not have fitted. I am sick and tired of these people who carry on two large pieces of luggage one a case and another a big backpack (when personal like handbag or umbrella is allowed). I am also annoyed with those people who continually write hints on the internet to get away with things in hand luggage. The airlines are missing out on $ when luggage should be checked in and customers have opted for the cheaper flight. The only way to get around this is for someone to be in the line before security and send people back to check in luggage. They would then need to pay more $ for that luggage than if they checked earlier. if all the airlines clubbed together at the airports and paid a person to police the luggage size and weight they would easily make up the wage with checked baggage fees. Passengers would soon learn to do the right thing and from then on it could be spot checks. The only time our hand luggage has been weighed was by Jetstar in Sydney by coming to the departure gate.
    However, those in the know come late as the person with the scales has gone by then.
    We don’t all have the money to buy new clothes at destinations and laundromats are scarce in Europe we found, so you have to have a laundry in your room and if not staying 2 nights it doesn’t dry. My hand luggage is half filled with my prescription medication as I have to leave in original packages and takes 5 weeks supply with me.
    You are fortunate to not have this. I took photos and sent a complaint to Austrian airlines in which I have received an apology but no solution to the problem or compensation for an uncomfortable flight.

    • Totally agree with you Glenda. Too many precious people who think rules do not apply to them. I was on one flight where my jacket had to be taken and was popped into the overhead lockers half way down the plane. I was seated at the front so after takeoff I got the FA to get it for me as I wasn’t going to try to get it out when the plane landed. Also, alot of people do have medication to take with them so that reduces bag space also. For my partner who has a clam style carry on, the medication takes up 3/4 of one side of it, so no clothes there. If going with just carry on makes some people feel good, great, but don’t try to guilt us by asking if we would like doing the same.

  2. This seems a bit outdated. The eVOA for Indonesia is very straightforward and no queues for Immigration with the new auto-gates. Customs clearance is a simple QR code.
    I used to travel with hand luggage only but the laws in place for many years prohibit sharp things like scissors, nail files as well as all liquids and gels of more than 100 ml etc etc – I’m not prepared to buy these every time I travel by plane.
    Must be desperate for a travel story

  3. I cannot believe people travel to far destinations with all that mountain of medication in the bags, they must be taking a gamble on surviving, and hope they have enough savings to cover the cost of a body being flown home, at least a couple of thousand $ or more depending upon how far away you are from Australia.. I must be very fortunate at 83 to just take Siomvastatin and Trimboe inhaler, that’s it.

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