Over the summer of 2018, I went to South America for 3 months. I traveled to Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. I managed to pack everything I needed for the three months in a carry on bag and a backpack. I had to pack for city life, hiking in cold and hot climates and have a formal outfit.
In order to bring all your clothes in a carry-on, you will have to be willing to do laundry. This could be going to a laundromat, bringing it to a wash and fold, or washing it in your sink with doctor bronner's. This really depends on how badly you need the clothes and how much it costs to wash it.
The biggest pro is that it is so easy to get around with just a carry on and a backpack. You do not need to check a bag or be afraid of losing your luggage. I have always traveled with just a carry on and would never do it otherwise. My father would refuse to pay for a check bag so I learned how to pack light from a young age.
Also, when you do not have a lot of outfit choices it makes it very easy to choose what you will wear. In the morning, when I am traveling I spend a lot less time thinking about what I am going to wear.
One of the biggest problems I have with such few is about around the 6 week mark of traveling. Every time at 6 weeks, I get very tired of the clothes I am wearing. I stop wanting to wear the clothes. I get very annoyed and feel ugly. However, after about a week I accept the clothes and I am fine again. Also I usually will buy one or two new pieces of clothing on my trips so that I can spice up my wardrobe and try to avoid this problem. Such as in South America, I bought an overpriced Adidas sweatshirt because I really wanted to wear something super comfy.
Any carry-on suitcase will work for the trip. I used a AWAY bag for the trip and I really liked how the bag opened in the middle with two zippered sides. However, I ended up returning the bag because I did not think it was worth the price. I never used the portable battery function and found always having to remove it irritating.
Clothes I Packed
7 basic t-shirts - These were basic short sleeve t-shirts. I find you can tie them up into a tighter top to go out in or tuck in a tight black shirt. These shirts also work for everyday travel. They are just shirts I feel comfortable to wear ever day.
3 long sleeve shirts - Since it was winter time in Argentina and I went to the tip of Argentina. I need some cold weather shirts. I brought two UNIQLO heat tech shirts. Then I brought a grey waffle knit long sleeve from Brandy Melville.
2 dri fit tops - Before leaving for three months I went to REI and bought the REI brand dri-fit short sleeve tops. These are the best workout tops I have every bought. I own Lululemon, Nike, and adidas however these are the shirts I always grab for now. I LOVE THESE SHIRTS. They work so well for hiking, biking and running. I would recommend bringing this tops if you want a multi-purpose workout shirt, that is easy to wash.
1 fleece layer - I brought one fleece layer that I used underneath my puffy jacket when I was very cold. I also ended up sleeping in it because my apartment in Argentina did not have heating.
1 grey sweatshirt - This was another piece I used for layering. It is a very casual jacket that you can put over the fleece layer but also underneath a down jacket for extra warmth.
2 pairs of Jeans. I brought one pair of tight black high-waisted jeans and a pair of boyfriend jeans. I chose to use the black jeans to use for more formal event instead of bringing a dress.
1 pair of leggings - These were for when I did not want to wear jeans or hiking pants. Also they work great as an extra layer instead of bringing long johns.
1 pair of hiking pants - My mother and I hiked the Inca travel so it was very important to have hiking pants. I brought a cropped pair of hiking pants from Patagonia. They were very comfortable but I would not recommend cropped pants because of mosquitoes. I instantly stepped out of the train and got bite by a mosquito on my ankle. Which almost six months later still have a scar from.
2 pairs of longer running shorts - These I brought for warmer weather, swimming and running. I went to the Galapagos on the trip so I knew I needed some shorts. They are easy to pack and definitely a necessity for me.
1 thin down jacket - I brought a silver down jacket that I have owned for awhile from the Patagonia outlet. This worked great and was perfect however the color really bothered me. Before going on the trip I did not really like the color however after the trip I had to sell it. I had a great life with the jacket but I could no longer look at it. So defiantly make sure you like the clothes you are bringing before you leave or they might really bother you.
1 raincoat - I brought my raincoat. I would definitely bring a raincoat. Maybe this just because I have been living in Eugene, Oregon for almost three years. No one likes being soaking wet. So it is always a good idea to bring a raincoat no matter where you are going. Also it works great as a windbreaker when it is not raining outside but cold.
1 pair of PJ’s - Just to sleep in. I feel you only need one pair but I am sure it is a personal preference.
Socks and underwear - I feel this is something you should decide on your own about how many you should bring.
1 pair of long johns - I planned on skiing on my trip so I brought these for extra warmth. I used them regularly to sleep in and I used them underneath my outfits throughout the trip.
1 swimsuit - I brought one swimsuit for going swimming.
Accessory and Shoes
1 pair of gloves - Only necessary if going somewhere cold. Very handy to have.
2 scarfs - I brought one scarf and one swimsuit cover up that is similar to a scarf but it also works as a scarf. It worked great because they would spice up an outfit and they also made me warm in the cold weather.
2 pairs of sunglasses - I brought two just so I had options and there easy to pack. I ended up losing one pair so I am glad I brought two. RIP to my sisters tortoise shell Ray Ban Wayfarers
Waterproof boots - I had purchased a pair of formal black waterproof booties from SOREL in the winter. They are great and throughout the trip I used them as my formal shoe. Also, being waterproof made them great if it was raining and I needed to walk around.
Waterproof trail running shoes - I got a pair of Salomon trail running shoes. I knew I would want to run on my trip and hike, but I did not have room to bring two pairs of these shoes. So I opted to get trail shoes and they worked great. Also now I hike exclusively in trail running shoes because I like them so much better.
Flip flops - These can be used as shower shoes or just for walking around in a hotel. Also if you are going somewhere with a beach these are essentially.
Black vans - I used these as my everyday shoe when it was not raining outside. They are my favorite sneakers. I just think it is important to bring a pair of sneakers. -
1 cross body purse - I always bring a small cross body purse to use as a purse. I prefer a cross body purse because it helps eliminate theft. I would never use a backpack in my everyday travel in a city.
3 books - I love to read so books were an essential. The number of books you want to bring really depends on how much and how fast you read.
Book light - This is so I could read when others I was sharing a room with were asleep.
Laptop - Depends on the type of trip you are going on. I usually do not bring my laptop but since i was leaving for so long I decided to bring it.
What I Would Have Brought
A camera - I was unable to bring a camera because I did not already have one. I also did not have the money to purchase one at the time. However, I would recommend this so that you can get good quality photos.
Sweatshirt and sweatpants - I really wish I brought this items. I regularly were sweatshirts and sweatpants so I missed them a lot during this trip. I eventually ended up buying a sweatshirt but it would have been best if I just initially brought one.
Warm PJ’s - When I left, I had only packed a pair of shorts and t-shirt as pajamas. However, once arriving in Argentina I quickly learned that my apartment did not have heating. The apartment was on the 8th floor and got a good breeze at night. So i quickly went out and bought a pair of long pajamas.
So I hope this makes you realize that it is realistic to travel with just a carry-on. I truly would recommend it to anyone. It is a really freeing experience to not have a lot of stuff with you. However, I would recommend trying it on a shorter trip first to get used to it the limited clothing options. I have only ever travelled with a carry on so I know no different.
I hope you honestly think about traveling this way. It is one of the easiest and best ways to travel.