Travelling with just hand luggage has many benefits. For one, it makes your airport experience quicker and easier. You don’t have to allow extra time to drop a bag off when you’re going, and there’s no need to hang around at baggage reclaim once you land. It’s a great way to save money too, since very few airlines now have a free baggage allowance. It’s incredibly frustrating to find a great flight deal and then see the cost almost double once you add luggage! And if that’s not reason enough to stick to hand luggage, it’s also better for the planet. Extra weight on a plane requires more fuel, which is obviously harmful for the environment.
While it’s easy to restrict yourself to hand luggage when you’re going on a weekend getaway, it can seem more daunting if you’re heading off on a longer trip. But it’s not impossible – you just have to be smart about it. These are our handy tips for how to holiday with just hand luggage.
Know your limits
Hand luggage restrictions vary from airline to airline. Some allow just one carry-on piece, while others let you take a small personal item – lake a handbag or laptop bag – as well. There’s also a lack of consistency when it comes to the size and weight of these bags. British Airways, for instance, lets you take one cabin bag that measures 56x45x25cm and an additional personal item with a maximum size of 40x30x15cm, each of which can weigh up to 23kilograms. With easyJet, though, you can only take one bag and it can’t exceed 56x45x25cm (including handles and wheels). However, there’s no weight limit – you just have to be able to lift it unassisted into the overhead locker. Before you fly, make sure you check the rules on the airline’s website. If you turn up with a bag that’s too big or too heavy, it’s likely to result in a hefty fine.
Choose the right bag
Once you know what size it has to be, you need to pick the bag that’s right for you. Wheelie suitcases are great on sealed roads, but if you’re somewhere with cobblestone streets they’re a bit of a nightmare. If you know you’ll have to walk a little way with your bag, you might prefer to take a backpack. While soft bags are easier to stuff into overhead lockers or under the seat in front of you, hard shell suitcases offer more protection. One downside, though, is that solid cases weigh more, so they eat into your baggage allowance. Either way, it’s a good idea to go for something with pockets on the outside, particularly if you’re only taking one bag on board. You can pop your travel documents in them so they’re always easily accessible when you need them.
Whatever kind of case you go for, make sure to pack an extra, lightweight bag inside. Not only can you use it when you’re away, it’ll also come in handy if you’re made to check in your hand luggage at the last minute. This sometimes happens when space on a plane is limited and overhead lockers are full. For example, easyJet allocate locker space on a first-come-first-served basis. Additional cases then go in the hold free of charge. If this happens to you, you can still take a small bag on board with your valuables and essential items that you need for the flight.
Be selective with your wardrobe
It can be hard to decide what to take away with you, and what to leave behind. The trick is to plan ahead and think carefully about what you’re going to wear each day. And get rid of those ‘just in case’ items! We can almost guarantee you won’t need them.
It’s a good idea to build a capsule wardrobe. Versatility is key, so choose items that go with multiple things so you can mix and match. If you have a shirt you only wear with one particular pair of trousers, for instance, leave it at home. This applies to shoes as well as clothes! Even if you’re going on holiday for several weeks, it’s unlikely you’ll need more than three pairs.
The aim is to get the maximum number of outfits from the fewest items possible. If you end up wearing the same jeans three times in a week, chances are nobody will bat an eyelid. And if you’re worried about things getting dirty, remember you can always do some washing while you’re away. Most Airbnbs have washing machines, and nearly all hotels offer a laundry service – or you can quickly wash a few things in the bathroom washbasin.
It’s the age old debate. Do you fold, or do you roll? It’s generally agreed rolling saves more space and, for a lot of items, results in fewer creases. However, it doesn’t work for everything. Bulky items, like jumpers, can actually take up more room when rolled. And rolling causes certain fabrics to bunch, resulting in more wrinkles. It’s best to use a combination of the two techniques, depending on what you’re taking with you.
If you want to take things to the next level, consider using packing cubes or vacuum storage bags. Besides compressing your clothes, packing cubes help you stay organised – and also let you separate dirty clothes from clean ones. Putting everything inside your case in vacuum storage bags is a bit excessive, but they can be useful for squishing one or two bigger items, like a jacket or ski trousers. When you’re only taking hand luggage, you can’t afford to waste any space, so make sure to stuff any gaps with small items like socks and underwear.
Bulk up for the flight
Restricting yourself to hand luggage is always easier for a summer holiday than a winter break. After all, boots and jumpers take up way more space than bikinis and flip flops. To maximise the space in your cabin bag, wear your chunkiest items on the plane. You might overheat for a little bit but you can de-layer once you’re settled in your seat. And if your coat has decent pockets, you can always pop a few of your small but heavy items in there if needed.
Don’t get caught out by the liquid ban
Here’s where taking a carry on only can be particularly tricky. There are a number of restrictions on what you can pack in your hand luggage. The ban that’s been in place since 2006 means you can only take liquids on board if they’re in containers no bigger than 100ml. And what’s more, all your liquids have to fit in one resealable plastic bag that measures approximately 20x20cm. As with your clothes, think carefully about what you actually need. Most hotels provide shampoo and shower gel, and you’ll almost certainly be able to buy sunscreen or insect repellent once you get to where you’re going. With the items you absolutely can’t live without, decant them into small, travel-size containers – ideally reusable ones that you can use time and time again.
If you’re travelling with someone else, share items where possible. If you’re sharing a room, you probably don’t both need to bring toothpaste. The liquids ban also extends to pastes and gels, so if you’re someone who wears make-up, try to restrict yourself to the bare minimum. Or invest in multi-purpose products or solid cosmetic alternatives.
There are certain things you might not initially think about when you’re packing your liquids, like daily disposable contacts. Don’t get caught out though. The lenses sit in a tiny amount of solution, so they’ll need to fit in your resealable plastic bag alongside everything else. Once you’ve sorted your liquids, pack the bag on the top of your hand luggage. This’ll make it easy to take out when going through security.
If you’re an avid reader, you probably take multiple books on holiday with you. Not only do these take up a lot of space in your hand luggage, they weight a tonne. It might be more sensible to buy an e-reader and download the books you want to read before you fly.