20 Hacks For Maximising Every Bit Of Space When You’re Travelling With Hand Luggage Only

Whether you’ve got a spot in the overhead lockers, or need to fit everything in a bag that’ll slide under the seat in front, we’ve got you covered.
Make the most of your hand luggage allowance with these space-saving buys
Make the most of your hand luggage allowance with these space-saving buys

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In a bid to escape the cold weather and depressing vibes, I’m starting to think about booking my next trip abroad. And with #handluggage on TikTok boasting a whopping 37.6 million views, it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who’s keen to learn all the tips and tricks for fitting everything I need in my cabin bag.

And while some airlines still allow passengers to store a small suitcase in the overhead lockers free of charge, the days of this being commonplace are sadly behind us. In fact, if you’re using one of the budget airlines, you’ll most likely only be allowed to bring a bag for free if it can fit under the seat in front of you.

So, whether you’re trying to fit two weeks worth of clothes in a small cabin suitcase, or need everything you’ll need for your long-weekend city break to fit in a holdall that fits under your seat, here are the space-saving packing tips you need to know about...

For an action-packed city break, bring along this bestselling backpack
If you’re looking to pack everything you need in a bag that fits under your seat, then this chic backpack is a great choice. It’s got a 20L capacity, external laptop sleeve, quick access top pocket, and a pop-out water bottle holder.
And get this compression packing cube to fully maximise the space
The ideal duo, this compression cube is perfectly sized for the Cabin Max backpack. It’s made from lightweight rose pink fabric, and has been designed to compress 17 litres of clothing by 33% to make extra packing space.
Bring some travel wash so you can wear items more than once
If you're worried you may run out of clothes, then consider packing some travel wash before you pay to stow a bag, Simply dissolve one or two teaspoons of this travel wash gel into a basin of hot or cold water, clean your clothes, rinse off the soap, and hang them out to dry.
Use a special organiser to ensure your jewellery is transported tangle-free
With six ring rolls, three necklace hooks, four divided compartments, and an elastic pocket and a zip pocket, this compact case is the perfect size for transporting some of your favourite pieces, and will ensure everything stays untangled.
Squash as much clothing as possible into compression cubes
An upgrade from your classic packing cubes, this clever set of three compression cubes will squash your clothes right down, and ensure you’re making the most of all space in your case or bag.
If you’ve got a suitcase, maximise space with this compression shelf organiser
An absolutely genius bit of kit, this hanging shelf organiser will help you keep your clothes ordered, while also holding them in place behind the velcro closures. If you want to unpack instantly, simply hang it from a wardrobe rail, and you’ll have easy access to each shelf. It comes in multiple sizes, but the two smaller ones are both designed to fit a cabin case.
Or use these clever bags to tightly roll up your clothes with having to vacuum pack
But if compression is the priority, then go for these genius bags that’ll squash down by up to 80%. Simply spread out the bag on a flat surface and pack it with your items, slide the zip back and forth until the bag is fully sealed, and slowly roll from the zipper to the bottom to fully compress it.
Make sure your toiletries are already in a see-through plastic bag
Remember that even if you’re taking a suitcase to go in the overhead lockers, you’ll still have to decant your toiletries into a see-through bag before going through security. So, get ahead of the game by picking up some of your own.
And decant your lotions and potions into these portable pouches
Again — you won’t be able to take through any bottles that are bigger than 100ml, so be prepared by transferring your favourite products into these handy see-through pouches, and labelling them up so you’ll easily be able to identify everything.
Put the exact amount of medication you need into a portable case
Boxes for medication can be really clunky, so decant the exact amount of pills you’ll need for your trip away into this clever case. Just remember to also pack some painkillers if you’re expecting a few late nights!
Keep your favourite pairs of sunglasses safe with this handy organiser
Whether they’re for reading or sun protection, your glasses deserve maximum protection while you’re travelling. In this clever foldable case, you can safely store up to three pairs — without using up too much precious space in your bag.
Avoid cable chaos with a handy 3-in-1 charger
Too many cables will bring chaos to your carry-on bag, so go for a 3-in-1 gadget like this. With IP, Micro-USB, and Type-C ports, this is all you need to keep any devices charged. Best of all, its cable is fully retractable, so it’s incredibly compact to store.
This gorgeous underseat holdall doubles as a great gym or beach bag
With up to 20L of storage space, this gorgeous holdall is the perfect bag for long weekends. It’s got three different ways of being carried, has multiple slip pockets and handy inserts, and is available in four stunning colours. Made from durable water-resistant nylon, it’ll see you through many holidays and trips away to come.
Or if you’re looking for a more affordable option, try this one
But if you’re put off by the price tag, then go for this far cheaper holdall instead. It comes in a wide range of colours and patterns, has a handy shoulder strap, and also boasts 20L of storage space.
Or try this handy trick of using a small compression sleeping bag sack
After watching this TikTok, there was absolutely no way I couldn’t include a sleeping bag sack as an alternative to compression cubes. This medium sized has space for 17L of stuff, but will squeeze down to just 8.3L when fully compressed.
Get a space-saving water bottle that can be collapsed when not in use
Rather than trying to squeeze a clunky water bottle into your already full hand luggage, bring along a collapsible one like this that’ll be handy throughout your whole trip. It comes in six different colours, and can hold up to 590ml of water when full.
Or get a travel cup holder that attaches to the handles of your suitcase
Plus, if you’ve got a suitcase, then you should definitely nab yourself a handy double cup holder. Although it’s obviously not an essential buy, I just think it’s nice to have your hands-free when perusing duty-free.
If you’re after a cabin-sized case, go for this one that comes in loads of colours
Lucked out with an airline that lets you stow a small suitcase for free? In my opinion, there’s no better choice than this gorgeous Antler cabin case, that’s super lightweight and easy to wheel, comes with TSA-approved locks, and has a whopping 44L capacity. There are loads of colours to choose from, but ochre is my personal favourite.
Or for a soft shell option, try out this bestselling compression suitcase
But if you’re after a soft shell case, you can’t go wrong with this bestselling one from Eastpak. It’s got a 42 litre capacity, space-saving compression straps, and has a handy front pocket for keeping your personal documents and other essentials.
Ditch the stack of books in favour of a slimline Kindle
Although nothing quite beats the feel of a fresh paperback, a Kindle is far more convenient if you’re the kind of person who gets through a book a day on holiday. Plus, a single charge lasts weeks, so you won’t even need to make space for a charging cable.