Budget Travel

Your membership includes:

  • Access to our exclusive booking platform with private rates.
  • Newsletters with weekend getaways, trip ideas, deals & tips.
  • Sweepstakes alerts and more...
  • Don’t have an account?Get a FREE trial membership today. No credit card needed. Sign up now.
  • FREE trial membership. No credit card needed. Limited time only. Already have an account? Log in here.
    By creating an account, you agree to our Terms of Service and have read and understood the Privacy Policy
Close banner
ADVERTISEMENT

How to Fly With Just a Carry-On

By Maya Stanton
updated September 29, 2021
Passenger using carry on luggage as foot rest
Mykyta Starychenko/Dreamstime
Our tips will help you travel light.

In an era of airline cutbacks, overbooked flights, and delays, delays, delays, there’s a long list of reasons why traveling with only a carry-on is preferable to checking a bag: Your luggage stays in your sight, so there's less risk of loss or damage; you won’t have to jump through hoops to retrieve your belongings if you miss your connection and get stranded overnight; it’s less expensive (no checked-bag fees!); and you'll save the time otherwise spent at baggage claim. Of course, if you’re a food and beverage connoisseur, you may find yourself checking a bag full of goodies for your return leg, but whether you’re aiming to avoid overweight baggage charges or keep your gear close at hand in the overhead bin, our tips will have you zipping through those security scanners in no time.

1. Prepare to Rewear

First things first: Check the weather where you’re headed, count the number of days you’ll be away, and tally up how many outfits you’ll need. Will you be doing a lot of walking, hiking, or working out? Will you have to change into something nice for dinner? Does your hotel have a pool? Pack twice as many pairs of underwear and socks as you think you’ll need, and plan to mix and match a capsule collection of basics for everything else. Undergarments aside, you can rewear pretty much anything at least twice, especially if you manage to avoid spills and stains. (A travel-size laundry kit will help if you’re accident-prone.) Shoes and bulky top layers take up the most space, so pick a few items you absolutely have to have and work around them; some hotels will provide workout gear, including sneakers, for a nominal fee, so do your research before you leave. Wear the things that take up the most space on the plane, and always, always pack a swimsuit. You just never know.

2. Pick the Proper Personal Item

If you’re traveling in basic economy, you probably won't have the luxury of overhead-bin space, and your carry-on will have to fit under the seat in front of you. In that case, we recommend a slim backpack with a 24-liter capacity or less—Cotopaxi’s Nazca pack and Timbuk2’s Never Check Expandable pack are both good options. If you're a light packer, a sleek little underseater is all you need, and Delsey makes a nice one. If you’re in plain old economy class, though, you can stash your rollaboard overhead and use your personal item as another packing tool. Pro-tip: Stash toiletries at the top of your bag where you can easily pull them out for screening, and group food items together so you won’t have to repack completely if and when those organic materials trigger the scanner.

3. Don’t Sweat the Liquids Rule

Technically, the TSA’s 3-1-1 mandate—as many 3.4-ounce bottles as you can fit in a clear, plastic, quart-sized bag—is still in place, but you can usually get by with keeping your liquids in a regular Dopp kit or toiletries bag instead of a ziplock, as long as the bottles themselves aren’t larger than the prescribed 3.4-ounce volume. If you’re attached to your daily routine, decant large bottles of product into smaller travel-sized ones, or pick up what you need once you land; if you’re not, rely on your hotel or Airbnb to provide passable alternatives for the length of your stay. To streamline your kit even further, consider solid perfumes and facial bar soaps or wipes instead of liquid versions.

4. Shop Accordingly on the Ground

It’s hard to resist a good souvenir shop, and honestly, you shouldn’t have to—mementos are a great way to remind you of experiences and adventures past. We highly recommend bringing at least one reusable, packable bag for the treasures you pick up on the road, and/or traveling with enough room in your suitcase to accommodate potential purchases. (We know of at least one shopaholic who carries a mostly empty suitcase for just that reason). If space is at a premium and you can’t cram anything else into your carry-on, plenty of stores will ship purchases back for you; if you’re going big and your suitcase is exceptionally heavy, sending it home with a mailing service like Luggage Free instead of paying the airlines’ overweight baggage fees may make more sense. Just be sure to run the numbers before you buy out the store, as costs vary based on where you’re going and what carrier you’re flying with.

ADVERTISEMENT
Keep reading
Travel Tips

Cheap Flights for Spring

Our friends at Skyscanner have the cure for the winter blues: Now is the ideal window to book airfare deals for March and beyond. Whether your dream spring getaway is an immersion in all things Disney in Orlando, a visit to one of the best budget destinations in Europe, or checking out the latest crop of Broadway shows in NYC, the time to shop for airfares has arrived. Best Time to Book Airfare Skyscanner, the global travel search company offering free search of flights, hotels and car rental, has crunched the numbers and reported that spring travelers will find the best savings by booking eight weeks in advance for domestic flights (that’s right now for March travel) and 12 weeks in advance for international flights (that’s right now for April and beyond). Those windows match Budget Travel’s general tips for finding affordable flight deals, and the worst savings, not surprisingly, will be found by booking one to two weeks in advance. Some Sample Airfares for March 2019 Where will you go next? Skyscanner is reporting some great deals right now, including the following samples (remember, airfares are always subject to fluctuation): Chicago to Orlando r/t: $88 Los Angeles to New York City r/t: $237 Boston to Paris r/t: $330 New York City to Tel Aviv r/t: $595 We recommend you start your spring airfare shopping now, and arm yourself with our best tips for booking, packing, breezing through security, and enjoying your flight.

Travel Tips

10 Travel Tips for LGBTQ Couples

Travel is all about discovery. And while many destinations welcome diverse visitors, not all of them are sure to be friendly toward out-and-proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers. On the bright side, members of the LGBTQ community tend to be both adventurous and prepared. With that in mind, queer couples know to flex their travel savvy when pondering their next Valentine’s Day, adventurous getaway, or everyday vacation. Here are some pointers for crafting the perfect—and safe—vacation to suit your fancy. 1. Research Your Short List Step one: Narrow down the top destinations for your next trip. Step two: Be discerning. Ask yourself and your partner what’s most important. Does it matter if it’s OK to show affection in public there? Do you care if that locale has anti-gay laws? (Yes, some countries and municipalities do enforce those laws.) Are you willing to travel somewhere where certain attitudes could diminish the experience? Be sure to research your short list of places, starting with “Before You Go” LGBTI travel advice from the U.S. Department of State, and the Equaldex LGBTQ global knowledge base (equaldex.com). 2. Make Safe Choices Safety is doubly important when traveling internationally, where the local customs and protections may not work the same as at home. Discriminatory behavior or rude comments may occur anywhere, of course. But in a foreign city, the safest response to offense of any kind is to walk away, and avoid any chance at escalation. In a hotel, restaurant, bar, or other establishment, consider notifying management or security if intolerance rears its ugly head. Communication can be the best step for personal protection, and for long-term change. 3. Find Gay-Friendly Businesses Even in the least likely, or most far-flung countries, including those where diverse visitors are not necessarily welcomed, there are LGBTQ-owned or -friendly travel companies. The fastest way to find those preferred tour companies, lodging, local tourism bureaus, airline partners, and more is via IGLTA.org, the website of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. And specifically for hotels, check out TAG Approved accommodations (tagapproved.com). 4. Consider Attending an LGBTQ Event If safety is your travel priority, a Pride or other gay event could be just the ticket. Cities around the world host LGBTQ film festivals. Sports lovers will enjoy the annual Gay Games, World OutGames, and gay ski weeks. And festivals for women, transfolks, and other niche interests build community all year round in various locations. (Check out IGLTA’s robust events calendar at IGLTA.org/events.) 5. Read Gay Travel Publications & Blogs There are many LGBTQ-specific publications, and most have regular travel sections—great for finding vacation ideas. Lesbians will especially appreciate Curve magazine’s frequent travel features, while all devoted travelers can find inspiration in Passport, the only travel magazine reporting for the gay community. There’s also a fabulous list of queer travel blogs, with some especially insightful firsthand destination reports from Travels of Adam, Dopes on the Road, and Two Bad Tourists. 6. Filter Your Search Results Travel search engines are great ways to explore deals and discounts. Fortunately, many of those helpful sites offer filters or specific pages catering to the LGBTQ community—including Orbitz, Expedia, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Marriott. You may discover new places to travel with these providers steering you in a more inclusive direction. (You can also track gay-friendly travel providers from their ads in LGBTQ publications.) 7. Visit Destinations’ Tourism Web Resources for LGBTQ Travelers Corporations aren’t the only ones who understand the value of serving LGBTQ travelers. Many destinations also actively pursue gay adventurers. Better still, many have dedicated web pages to inspire visits to their cities and countries. The list of gay-friendly locales is long, especially in North America and Europe. You’ll find robust resources from places including Sweden; Spain; Vancouver, British Columbia; Denver; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and New York State; and, of course, California (to name just a few). 8. Join an LGBTQ Tour If traveling with an organized tour sounds fabulous, there are several LGBTQ tour companies and travel agencies eager to serve. Women will appreciate Olivia’s array of land or sea tour options (olivia.com), while men can find enticing packages from Zoom Vacations (zoomvacations.com) and others. And among niche-interest tour companies, Wild Rainbow African Safaris (wildrainbowsafaris.com) takes mixed groups of travelers on unforgettable voyages through Africa. 9. Find Local Shows Once you’ve settled where to go, it’s time to focus on what to do. Take the initiative to research performance venues and nightclubs before your trip to see what’s on event calendars during your stay. In most towns with a “gayborhood,” you can usually find fun drag brunches, queer comedy nights, and other live performances that will put you squarely in the local LGBTQ mix. 10. Make Local Connections One of the best parts of living in the digital age is connecting personally with LGBTQ locals prior to a visit. Hop online or on an app like Grindr (grindr.com) or Her (weareher.com) to seek out your destination city, and see who’s there ready with tips for visitors like you. (Just be sure to clarify your intentions right away, since some apps are dating-centric.)

Travel Tips

6 Best Apps for Food-Loving Travelers

Finding great food on the road is a strategic endeavor—part art, part gamble. Sure, there’s always the chance you’ll stumble onto the odd gem, but you’re more likely to have memorable meals if you do some research and planning in advance, like reading local reviews, cross-checking against Yelp and Google, and combing through relevant social-media posts to find those can’t-miss destinations and experiences. Once you’ve got the entry-level stuff down, these five apps (plus one bonus resource) will take your game up a notch. 1. LocalEats Looking to elevate your dining experience from generic to hyper-local? An offshoot of a long-running series of guides called Where the Locals Eat, the LocalEats app curates the best restaurants in your vicinity—no chains allowed. For a plethora of options, search by cuisine, price range, and neighborhood, or enable GPS location services to discover recommended establishments nearby, like a vegetarian-friendly dumpling house in Little Rock or Ann Arbor's best Ethiopian joint. You can also narrow the field by opting to show the staff’s top picks only.Free, available on iPhone and Android; localeats.com. (Courtesy Withlocals) 2. Withlocals A “weird food” tour in Hong Kong, or an edible-garden tour in Kuala Lumpur? Wine-tasting with an Italian winemaker in Rome, or a vegetarian tapas crawl in Madrid? Withlocals links travelers with people on the ground in 22 countries and 50 cities to offer unique activities, food-focused and otherwise, including cooking classes, home dinners, and all kinds of tours.Free, available on iPhone and Android; withlocals.com. 3. Eatwith Another platform connecting locals and itinerants for food tours, classes, and private meals, Eatwith provides travelers with a taste of city life. Book a Sunday dinner in Reykjavík with a mechanical engineer and his distillery-manager wife, or settle in for four courses of Hungarian home cooking in Budapest; stateside, make deep-dish pizza with a Chicago-area native, take a seat at the table for a Venezuelan winter feast in Brooklyn, or explore Miami’s hidden side with a secret food tour.Free, available on iPhone and Android; eatwith.com. 4. ChefsFeed Who has a better handle on the food world than a culinary professional? ChefsFeed gets a network of kitchen stars (think: Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, and Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi) to give up the intel on their favorite dining destinations, from niche interests like New York’s best bets for sea urchin to macro-level primers like where to eat in Colorado's ski towns. Search by city, look for nearby hot spots, or peruse the experts’ picks for your location.Free, available on iPhone and Android; chefsfeed.com. 5. Drizly Say you’ve scoped out the perfect place for a meal...only to discover that it’s BYOB. Drizly can deliver a bottle or two to your door—a worthy alternative to wasting your limited free time running around in search of a liquor store. Active in nearly 100 cities nationwide, the online beverage distributor carries wine, booze, and beer, plus an array of bitters, mixers, and garnishes for the cocktail connoisseur. Throwing a hotel-room fiesta? You’ll find all the supplies you need here, from red Solo cups and plastic wine glasses to corkscrews and snacks. (Don’t forget the ping pong balls).Free, available on iPhone and Android; drizly.com. 6. Traveling Spoon It’s not an app, but given its deep roster of highly qualified global hosts, Traveling Spoon (travelingspoon.com) is a mandatory bookmark for any food-curious tourist heading overseas. Whether you're sitting down for a homemade meal, picking up a new culinary skill, or wandering through the local market with a guide who knows their stuff, all hosts and experiences are thoroughly vetted, so you'll be in good hands. Learn how to handle phyllo like a pro in a fifth-floor Athens apartment, join a Brazilian family for supper in São Paulo, or opt for a traditional thali-style meal in Mumbai.

Travel Tips

Federal Shutdown 2019: How Travelers Can Help

With the longest government shutdown in America’s history hitting the one-month mark today, many federal employees and contractors are struggling to make ends meet. Some 800,000 government workers have been furloughed or required to work without compensation since the shutdown began in late December, and though the President signed a bill ensuring they’ll receive back pay once Washington reopens for business, they're still contending with immediately pressing concerns like rent, bills, and how to put food on the table. (Contractors have no such safety net, but last week, a handful of Democratic senators introduced legislation that would secure back pay for low-wage contract earners as well). Here's how you can help. First Things First: What's the Damage? Transportation Security Administration airport screeners are considered essential and required to work, but the organization has seen a decrease in available personnel as the shutdown drags on, with unscheduled employee absences rising steadily from 6.8 percent on Jan. 14 to 10 percent on Jan. 20. The National Park Service is also feeling the burn: An estimated 16,000 employees—80 percent of its total workforce—is currently furloughed, according to the National Parks Conservation Association, and our protected lands are sustaining heavy damage without the proper oversight in place. (Courtesy World Central Kitchen) How Can Travelers Pitch In? Contrary to rumors making the social-media rounds, executive-branch employees like TSA workers aren’t allowed to accept cash tips, but there are other ways you can lend a hand. Hunger is a real issue, and federal employees are leaning hard on food banks, as well as churches and other community organizations. Consider giving time, money, and/or supplies to food pantries working directly with these impacted populations, and look into the on-site resources available to TSA, customs, and Federal Aviation Administration employees before you leave for the airport—you may be able to bring groceries and the like to donate. At the Tampa airport, for example, a pop-up food bank is offering provisions to employees working without pay; local groups in Texas are distributing food to workers right at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and in Seattle, there's a donation area on the airport's mezzanine level where non-perishable food and gift cards are being accepted. If your airport doesn’t have anything like that in place, you can still make a difference. Give your business to one of the many private companies providing assistance, whether it’s waiving late fees on bill payments or offering discounts on dining and events, or give your dollars to a group that’s doing the work on the ground. Through his humanitarian organization, World Central Kitchen, chef José Andrés set up a kitchen in D.C. to feed federal employees during the crisis, and he’s not the only celebrity helping out. Jon Bon Jovi’s New Jersey restaurant, Soul Kitchen, is a nonprofit that allows any guest—regardless of employment status—to pay a suggested donation or work a shift in return for a meal. (Both organizations accept tax-deductible donations.) Planning a trip? Look for an Airbnb host participating in the company’s A Night On Us program, which pays executive-branch employees for an extra night, up to $110, for hosting a three-night stay. You can also buy a beer for a federal worker or contractor, or give to one of nearly 2,000 GoFundMe campaigns for people affected by the shutdown.